By Erin Price
In July, 2017, Rev. Sean asked if I would lead a committee to revamp our church website. I agreed almost immediately. I mean, have you used the church website lately? There are some great pictures of our smiling faces, but it’s clunky, and hard to use.
But when I began to think about a better website for Foothills, big questions arose. How do we best communicate our mission and all the work we do in the community? Who exactly are we trying to reach, people who don’t know us, or members and friends who might need specific ‘insider’ information? And then the biggest question, how does our website fit with all our other materials? We have so many people — church staff and volunteers — creating posters, signs, pamphlets, and flyers, that we don’t have a cohesive set of materials. So what should our website look like?
Then I remembered something Erin Hottenstein and I had talked about a decade ago, as we were developing the Stewardship committee: Branding.
What the heck is branding, you might ask?
Officially, effective branding allows an organization to capture its personality in its visual and written materials.
Our brand isn’t just a logo, but includes all the materials we use to communicate. The goal of branding is to stimulate recognition and evoke an emotional response by embodying the characteristics of an organization in its written materials. It’s a tall order. Think of the Nike logo and their marketing around athleticism. Or Harley Davidson and its ethos of masculinity and strength.
So, I went back to Sean and suggested we do a bigger revamp of all our church materials, including the website, to enable us to communicate to all of our various constituencies, members, friends, newcomers, and our community at large, in a more cohesive and effective manner.
Sean agreed that there was value in thinking of our website as part of a bigger whole, and we put together a committee. Gale Whitman joined right away. Then we recruited Ann Molison and Brendan Mahoney.
Together, our committee did a lot of research into the branding process and read some good books on what steps to take. (In case you’re interested in learning more, the best of the bunch were: Branding for Nonprofits: Developing Identity with Integrity, by DK Holland, and Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller.
We began by building on the excellent Mission Statement work done in the past few years, which answers the questions: “Who are we and whom do we serve?”
Next, we defined the elements that communicate to our audiences. We gathered a big stack of materials, each reflecting a different facet of our programs and services. Things like the website, pamphlets publicizing our programs, the banners along Drake which express support for marginalized groups, event posters, our weekly email updates, ministerial communications, and the Order of Service we us on Sundays.
And then we began the real work of creating a plan for managing those communications. We spent about a year — yes, a year — working through what we wanted our brand to reflect. We met with many congregants and talked with church leaders to create set of documents, which boiled down who we, as a congregation, are.
At this point, we debated whether the real design work was something that we could do in-house, or whether we’d need to call in the pros. Branding is a specialized field, which requires education, training, and artistry, to do well. After much deliberation, and more research, we determined that we did not have the capacity to design a new logo or create a branding guide ourselves.
This is not to discount our previous logo, developed by church member Steve Sedam. It’s beautiful, and has served us well for many years. The new logo draws inspiration from Steve’s design. As much as we love that logo, we recognized that if we were going to go to the effort to create a new package of materials, we should have the designers spruce up our logo, too.
When we were ready for the experts to step in, we interviewed a number of local design firms to find the right match, finally selecting One Tribe Creative. Over the last few months, we have worked with One Tribe as they’ve developed the new logo. We went through four rounds of major revision, followed by countless back-and-forths to get it just right. (You might be surprised how many conversations you can have about different fonts, just how big that font should be, the value of serif versus san serif, and whether or not everything is centered correctly!)
We love the fact that the new logo takes the historical chalice image and injects it with vibrant colors, and a dynamic, energetic graphic, that captures the spirit of Foothills. The tagline, ‘Love Unites Us All’ distills our mission, to unleash courageous love, so that we can communicate it more broadly wherever our logo appears.
One Tribe also created a guide for how to use the logo so that our materials will have a consistent look and feel. This should make the lives of our staff and volunteers, who are often tasked with developing pamphlets, posters, and signs for our many events, much easier. Finally, One Tribe has worked hard to develop a snazzy, super-functional new website, too, which will roll out soon.
We are very proud of the work we’ve done. The process took a lot longer than we originally thought it would, but we’re pleased with the result.