The Association for Project Management launched their new brand and celebrated APM’s 50th anniversary last year. This got me thinking about the parallels between organisational branding and how we can ‘brand’ projects and present them to our stakeholders. There are many similarities between corporate branding and the ‘branding’ of projects.
Successful brands foster engagement, loyalty and spend. When it comes to projects, these attributes are appealing; stakeholder engagement, loyalty and expenditure of time and effort in support of the change, are all keys to project success. In this article, I draw on common considerations and branding techniques that we can apply to projects.
First impressions count and they often have a lasting impact. In both organisational branding and projects, quickly communicating a clear and inherent sense of quality, credibility and value is central to generating and maintaining a positive image. In crowded marketplaces, consumers make snap decisions about which products to purchase. To successfully attract the attention of these potential customers, brands need to convey their core message with both speed and clarity. This approach to communication rings true for projects too.
To build awareness and generate interest in a project, you should focus on the core messages - this is usually a clear end vision and the tangible benefits. In addition to a clear core message, the communication style also needs to be understandable. Research has found that the easier an idea is for our brains to process, the more likely we are to believe and like it. Avoiding unnecessary complexity and crafting communications for a lower level of reading ability will make it easier for your audience to understand your project. For perspective, the UK Government suggests writing all their website communications for the reading age of a nine year-old.
When buying new products, we often consider whether they are compatible with our existing technology ecosystems, style of our furniture, aesthetic preferences and ethical standards. Effectively, we assess the level of cohesion between the new product and what we have already. When it comes to learning about a new project, stakeholders (sometimes subconsciously) assess cohesion too – how it links to objectives, other changes taking place, their day-to-day work and future plans.
Stakeholders will be more likely to support projects that are cohesive with these perspectives. This is known as ‘cognitive harmony’ – when something new aligns with our existing beliefs, values and priorities. When ‘branding’ a project so that there’s buy in, it’s important to demonstrate how the project or change is integrated into efforts and direction of teams, departments and the wider organisation. When the brand of the project is something that has cohesion with a stakeholder’s environment, they’re more likely to support it.
Feeling connected to a brand builds loyalty and drives repeat business. In the same way that people can feel connected to a brand, you should aim to connect stakeholders to your project.
Building a connection centres on having an in-depth understanding of your stakeholders, specifically their knowledge, beliefs, desires, concerns, attitudes and perceptions of the project. Effective stakeholder engagement is key to achieving this. Placing people at the heart of your project provides an opportunity to engage and motivate by emphasising specific benefits, addressing concerns, adapting your approach and providing relevant opportunities. Think of stakeholder engagement as continuous market research for your project!
When you run projects, do you consider how it will be perceived by stakeholders? Developing a powerful brand for your project is an effective way to engage stakeholders, demonstrate value and encourage people to support the change.
You may also be interested in:
- Engaging stakeholders on projects - How to harness people power
- How to achieve more connected communication by clearing mental ‘clutter’
- Five top tips to boost the effectiveness of your communication strategy
Festinger, L. (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Franklin, M. (2021) Agile Change Management London: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning & Implementation – 2nd Edition. London: Kogan Page.
Government Digital Service (2022) Content Design: planning, writing and managing content. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design/writing-for-gov-uk (accessed: 19 December 2022)
Morin, C. and Renvoise, P. (2018) The Persuasion Code. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Scarlett, H. 2016. Neuroscience for Organizational Change: An Evidence-based Practical Guide to Managing Change. London: Kogan Page.