June 22, 2012

Brand Speak for Dummies - Including Me

Let’s look at the jump, said my fellowship supervisor. 

I glanced around, bewildered. The other fellows calmly opened their newspapers so they could read the conclusion of the story that began on page 1. 

I didn’t go to a j-school – a university with a journalism college. My small, liberal arts school didn’t offer a single journalism class. How I landed at the Indianapolis Star for a post-graduation fellowship was a combination of my passion for writing – and fluke. 

Because I hadn’t taken any of these primer classes, the jargon was foreign. Through the next two months – and nearly 10 years of on-the-job training, I learned about slugs (the names of the stories), nut graphs (the key sentence or heart of the story), budgets (what is planned to run in the next day’s paper), and DTs (double-trucks, when a story and photo package runs across the centerfold of the newspaper). 

It was a steep learning curve.

I’m on that vertical incline again, as our diocese begins a significant branding project. At the end, we’ll have a brandmark (an identifiable graphic symbol or expression). We’ll use this across the diocese to symbolize connection among our many ministries and to be a visual representation of who we are as a diocese. 

While the brandmark is our ultimate “deliverable,” I’m most excited about the process. We will conduct research asking not only hard questions about who we are but how people perceive us. Already the early stages of the project have forced me to pull back from the nitty-gritty of daily work and look at the bigger picture, to find a way to articulate what it means to be a diocese. As we proceed, we’ll learn about what others think it means – and how our ministry at this level can support the work at both local levels, in the congregations and individuals, and in broader regional and national levels, through provinces and wider church. 

But before I could embrace the project, I had to wade through the jargon. I talked with our consultant, who fortunately is an Episcopalian, about my vocabulary deficit. I asked her to develop some definitions so that I could better understand her “brand speak.” 

So often a big part of the job of a communicator, whether in a diocese, congregation, or even The Episcopal Church, is to be a translator. I don’t intend to bandy about brand architecture or brand assets when I’m talking to the diocese. But I need to know what they mean so I can explain the process to the stakeholders. 

The bottom line: We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about what we don’t know. 
And just in case you don’t know about branding – but want to, watch for next week’s blogs. I’ll share with you the vocabulary and phrases so you can talk like the experts (or at least understand what they’re saying!)