Four Step Process For Building A Brand

Building an effective community brand is tough work. But, it helps to have a proven process to guide you. Here is a four-step process that I advocate and teach. The model is conceptually easy, but the implementation requires a good deal of thought.

Four Step Model

WHO – The first step is to define your target audience. Who do you want to convince that your community is the ideal location choice for capital investment? There are two types of targets to consider. The first is your overall strategic target. In many cases this will be the CEO audience since CEOs tend to be the decision makers for location choices. The second type is Prime Prospects. These are subsets of your strategic target and are identified for special effort. For example, you may define the CEOs in a particular industry as a Prime Prospect target for your communication efforts.

WHAT – Once you know WHO you are going to talk to, you need to determine what you will say about your community. This is your Promise. Your promise needs to be relevant, competitive and authentic. You also have to think through the reasons to believe your promise. These tend to be the tangible features you can point to in your community that act as business success enablers. One of the more difficult challenges you will face is to be disciplined in sticking to communicating your Promise. You will get pressure from a lot of corners to communicate the latest news whether it has any connection to your Promise at all. Resist the pressure, it may be the right political thing to do, but it is absolutely the wrong branding choice.

WHEN – Your target audience is not always receptive to listening to your message. Sometimes they are preoccupied, or just too busy. You need to understand how your target audience truly makes a capital investment decision. This understanding will give you insight into what information to provide when in the decision process. Overwhelming a CEO with information early when it won’t be considered is a waste of your time and taxpayer dollars. Delivering the right type of information in just the right amount at exactly the right time dramatically increases the probability your target will actually listen to and hear your message.

WHERE – It is important to know where your target gets information for making a site selection decision. You want to create a communication plan that ensures your message is delivered in the manner your target wants to receive it. If peer recommendations are key, then you have to have a plan in place to deliver your community promise via other CEOs. If industry journals are key, then you need to find a way to have your community featured in them. The mix of tactics in your communication plan will be affected by how well you know your target audience’s sources of information and the size of your promotional budget.


I will be sharing more insights into the effective application of this model, including how product development affects the WHAT choices you make. But, here are a couple observations (pet peeves really) I’d like to highlight now.

  • WHO – A lot of marketers, and Agencies, will advocate using psychographic descriptions to define your strategic target. I prefer demographic descriptors because they are actionable. I don’t know how to find CEOs who are risk takers. But, I do know how to find CEOs who work in industries that involve risk. Be practical so your WHO definition can help you make communication channel choices.
  • WHAT – The problem I see most often in defining a community Promise is the lack of focus. Communities are complex entities and it is so hard to not talk about all the good things available. The result is an extrapolation of the Promise to a level that nobody understands it, but everybody believes their interpretation fits. Great branding is about making choices and focusing your Promise. Some influential people in your community will likely be disappointed. Making choices is hard, but necessary.
  • WHEN – Don’t “data dump”. There is enough time to share reams of data when your community has been asked to respond to an RFP. Answer probing questions with relevant data. Understand the business reason behind asking for the information. Answer the question, but be certain to address the business reason. Look for the real question behind the question asked.
  • WHERE – If your strategic audience does not rely on a particular communication channel for site selection information, then don’t include it in your media plan. I get highly frustrated when a marketer fails to truly understand the ability of a communication channel to deliver adequate reach and frequency within their WHO target. If your target doesn’t read the journal or participate in the social media channel, then don’t waste your limited funds to tell your community’s story in those specific tactical options. It is really that simple.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Can you define the WHO, WHAT, WHEN and WHERE for you community? Which of the four steps do you find the most challenging? Where do you see the biggest challenges in applying the four-step model?

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