How does one successfully bring a brand to life? You engage its stakeholders from the beginning. This may mean redefining what you consider “the beginning.” For effective employee engagement, “the beginning” of bringing your brand to life should not be the launch day, months after embarking on your re-branding process. Yes, the launch day is an important day, and it’s also when you really have the fun and games, but it should be a continuation of the brand journey for your stakeholders—not the beginning of it. As you can see here, one of our clients’ stakeholders is enjoying a brand game on launch day in order to demonstrate what they have already learned about the brand over the last few months.

The key word here is “months.” Almost all of this particular client’s stakeholders knew that their association had a new vision that would lead to an update to the brand in order to move it forward into the future. They knew a new name and positioning were on the horizon because they had been a part of its research and confirmation. In other words, these stakeholders didn’t need to be convinced about the new brand because they were a part of building it.

This is employee engagement at its finest—and most fun. When stakeholders know they’ve had a critical role in bringing the brand to life—and that they will be supported with resources and knowledge to help them cascade it into the field—they are truly inspired to support it.

How did this particular client, the American Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES), manage to engage their stakeholders from the beginning? Well, let’s start there.

In 2018, the association embarked on a new vision: to drive optimal outcomes for people with diabetes through the integration of clinical management, education, prevention and support. Its stakeholders’ contributions were vital to moving this vision forward.

The association listened when its members told them that while self-management education is at the heart of what they do, it isn’t all that they do. ADCES listened when its members said clinical management is a key part of the role, as is integrating all elements of care for the person with diabetes. And ADCES listened, when, in early 2019, they embarked on an extensive research process to determine whether the current title of the specialty was still appropriate or if there was a need for a new title that reflected the increased relevance of their members’ role.

ADCES then ensured a solid foundation for fact-based decision making by working with us to conduct robust research. This included online research with over 2,200 members, non-members and consumers. The research was inclusive and far-reaching, and no matter the step—interviews, repositioning research, brand health and value drivers research or renaming research—stakeholders were either involved or informed of what was happening.

When research told us that the specialty title should be changed in order to better represent the holistic care that ADCES’ members provide, the members knew about the change—it was they who had questioned the current title and they who affirmed the new one.

Why did ADCES involve its stakeholders so heavily throughout the research, retitling, renaming and repositioning process? It was part of an over all stakeholder engagement strategy we created together.

This strategy consisted of four distinct stages. 

In the first stage, “defining it,” ADCES stakeholders needed to understand the case for change and the value of redefining the brand. They needed to realize they had a voice in the definition of the brand. To accomplish this sense of inclusion, as mentioned previously, they were involved in surveys, interviews and internal conversations.

The next stage of the strategy, “hearing it,” allowed the stakeholders to be aware of what the refreshed brand was and what it was trying to achieve. Through various communications, including brand books and brand journey letters, as well as launch day events, which included the brand game, stakeholders were informed of the end-to-end journey—and were able to have fun with it too.

A year and a new name and brand positioning later, ADCES continues to create value for its members, people with diabetes and the entire care team—why? Because it involved them in the entire renaming, retitling and repositioning process—and because it continues to engage them post-launch.

The final two stages of the stakeholder engagement strategy are as important as the first two. After all, it’s during the “believing it” stage that stakeholders truly buy into the brand and are committed to delivering it. It’s at this point in the journey that they realize they have the skills, knowledge and resources they need to support it. So we helped ADCES create various resources for their stakeholders, which included leadership guides, employer toolkits and online assets.

The final stakeholder engagement stage, “living it,” is when action and advocacy happen. At this point in the journey, stakeholders believe in what the brand is doing and are passionate ambassadors. In some ways, this stage never ends.

The ADCES example is a valuable lesson for any association or company: When an organization brings its stakeholders’ valuable input to life, the stakeholders return the favor by bringing the new brand to life. It’s a win-win that allows the brand to gain more visibility and credibility as it continues its path to growth. Which means, no matter the results of that brand game played on launch day, everyone’s a winner in the overall brand journey.

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