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Branding and Writing Guide: your foundation for crisis communications

When I started a new contract earlier this year, little did we know how much this work would support my client through the COVID-19 crisis. We knew we had some gaps to fill in terms of how the organization communicated its brand story and how this would show up across our community.  Now that we’ve had a day to catch our breath after the last few weeks, I wanted to share some key insights and lessons learned.

My client is a 30-year old social enterprise that is busy doing meaningful work that supports the social wellness of community members from before they are born to their golden years.  It offers a range of programs and services that deal with issues that include food insecurity, social isolation, emotional health, housing, and advocacy.  The Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) runs two busy thrift stores in town and offers over 20 social programs and services. It was founded with the purpose of funding social programs and services in Whistler and today, it also diverts about a tonne of materials per day from landfill.

Capturing the HEART OF THE Brand

Like many non-profits, WCSS has been so busy doing the vital work it does for our community, that it lacked a solid foundation and needed integrated platforms for communications, advocacy and fundraising. The first priority was to pull together their leaders and managers to share their ideas on how we could capture their history, frame their story, share their mission and guide communications going forward.

The front line was engaged to refine and build on the draft ideas, sharing their insights on how customers and clients perceive the brand and how the community views the organization. A survey was shared with staff and volunteers to capture their feedback on a website refresh.

StepPING STONES for a Communications Strategy

The steps that followed were always part of the plan, but they immediately became important resources when faced with the COVID-19 crisis:

  • branding and writing guide was created to outline the visual and written guidelines on how to share content and tell the story of the social enterprise.
  • The story of the organization and key messages about its programs and services were refined.
  • Templates were developed to make it easier to respond to media requests and to share news about the enterprise.
  • Content strategies and calls to action were outlined for social media engagement.
  • A new donation platform and tool for client relationship management (CRM) was integrated with its website (launched a day before a major fundraiser!).
  • Recommended procedures were introduced to manage crisis communications.

While we navigate the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, we can build on this new foundation and refine as we go.  More than anything, we can learn to launch even if it’s not perfect! Just having the draft ideas ready was so important for the team to be responsive and effective communicators.

Insights and lessons learned

  • Internal communications with staff and stakeholders was initially outside of the scope of our work. In hindsight, this became a hugely important part of engagement during a crisis.
  • We could not have managed without a solid donor engagement and management tool. From the first moment they asked for donations, the volume of responses and the generosity that followed was unprecedented.  The donor database effectively grew from 0 to 500 in just a few weeks.
  • It was essential to lean on our network. To respond quickly and effectively, we asked for urgent support from our web and graphic designer, local media, other nonprofits, fundraising experts, social media managers, partners in the resort (local government, business, chamber of commerce) and the organization’s board of directors.
  • Regular check-ins became a priority. Communications does not happen in a bubble. Input from the front-line, clients and community partners has been invaluable. Being nimble, able to change course or build on ideas that have traction are key insights from the last few weeks.

Does your organization have a branding and writing foundation you can count on when you need it most? Are you feeling equipped and prepared to smoothly manage communications on a day-to-day basis, and in times of crisis?

Let’s talk and see what can support your communications needs. Contact me today.


Help your community

WCSS FundraiserWant to make a difference in Whistler during the COVID-19 crisis? If you can, please DONATE to WCSS today.  Or make a donation to  your local food bank at Food Banks Canada.

Save your spring cleaning items for the Whistler ReUseIt or ReBuildIt Centres when they reopen. The thrift stores in your community are counting on it!

 

 

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Are you working to reduce your business’s ecological footprint?

In a recent release of Vital Podcast 2019, Whistler-based waste management specialist Sue Maxwell shares that Canada, as ranked on the world stage, is considered a wasteful society.

Studies show that if everyone in the world lived like the average Canadian, we would need 4 – 5 Earths worth of land and its resources.

Take a test to find out how many Earths we would need if everyone lived just like you.

This shocking stat doesn’t even consider business operations and how they contribute to overuse and waste of natural resources. Business owners can learn a lot from grassroots initiatives that aim to reduce our personal footprint and tread a little lighter on the ground.

Working with community groups, industry stakeholders and experts in different sectors, businesses can have a big impact to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. More often than not, there are substantial savings on a business’s bottom line when eco actions are adopted on the ground or where systemic change is implemented in their industry.  This story in The Guardian: Modern Life is Rubbish, illustrates how some businesses are choosing more innovative packaging to reduce or eliminate waste, and it’s paying off.

If your business is ready to learn more about how it can impact climate change and reduce its environmental footprint, here’s how you can learn more… add this January 16, 2020 event to your calendar to get started:

Vital Cafe: Climate Crisis

In this Vital Cafe: Climate Crisis, a Vital Panel of local experts will fill you in on what’s up in Whistler with regards to action toward a lowered ecological footprint.

Then, we’ll break into a facilitated and rotating round table discussion to ensure participants have the chance to engage in conversations with community members with all kinds of lived experience.

Vital Panel

In 2020, we are excited to launch Vital Cafés that include a panel of local experts and folks with lived experience, as well as, the round table discussions started in January 2019.

  • Diana Mulvey Boone, Board Member AWARE
  • Max Kniewasser, Resort Municipality of Whistler Climate Change Coordinator
  • Sue Maxwell, Waste Management Specialist
  • Arthur De Jong, Whistler Blackcomb employee and embracer of action
  • Kristina Swerhun, Whistler Naturalists, Glacier Monitoring
  • Irie Smith, High school student, Whistler Waldorf and zero waste advocate
  • Michael D’Artois, Board Member Mature Action Committee and community advocate

Vital Signs

Vital Signs aims to inspire civic engagement, to provide focus for public debate, and to help a range of actors take action and direct resources where they will have the greatest impact. [Read More]

Locally Relevant Solutions Through a Global Looking Glass

In 2017, Community Foundations of Canada started to align our national data sets with Agenda 2030, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG framework allows Whistler to measure local data against common global indicators.

Indigenous Tourism Start up Program Launches in Whistler

SEA TO SKY PARTNERS CULTIVATE INDIGENOUS TOURISM IDEAS

Coming summer 2019, the Indigenous Tourism Start up Program (ITSP) is managed through the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) in partnership with the Whistler Centre for Sustainability (WCS).  The ITSP builds off of the Squamish Lil’wat St’at’imc Business Start-up Program (2018) and the Social Venture Challenge that the Centre created in 2015 and ran for three years. These initiatives successfully helped kick start new social enterprises in the region, with forty-one enterprises having completed the programs to date.

This year the program will support new business start-ups for members from Indigenous communities in the Fraser Valley to Lillooet region, including, but not limited to: Squamish, Lil̓wat, Lower St’at’imc (N’Quatqua, Samahquam, Skatin, Xa’xtsa), Upper St’at’imc (T’it’q’et, Ts’kw’aylaxw, Xaxli’p, Tsal’alh. Se’k’welwas and Xwisten), Musqueam, Tsleil –Waututh, Sto:Lo, Tswawwassen, Kwantlen, Katzie, Kwikweltlm, and Shishalh Nations.

BUSINESS START UP COURSE AND PITCH EVENT

This program will focus on the development of an Indigenous tourism business concept and a business plan to support its launch. Using the Business Model Canvas as a template for identifying a clear value proposition, customer market, cash flow and revenue streams, participants will test their business concept and learn the tools to develop a full business plan. The program will include four two-day interactive and cohort-based classroom sessions, one-on-one mentorship, guest speakers, online learning, and mentor support. The full program takes place from September to November 2019, with a final juried pitch event in November.  Diana Mulvey from Seeds Consulting will lead two classroom sessions to guide learning on customer relationships, branding and marketing.

Thanks to funding from the BC Rural Dividend Program and Community Futures Howe Sound, all program costs, including accommodation and a travel allowance, are covered for the participants within the region identified. Participants from communities beyond the identified region will be reimbursed to a maximum travel allowance, and will also have costs of accommodation covered.

PROJECT GOALS

  • To encourage, support and inspire Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs in the development of their new business
  • To support a stronger culture of Indigenous-based entrepreneurship
  • To build confidence and capacity in areas pertaining to business planning, financial literacy, marketing, branding, relationship building, and more
  • To increase jobs and employment, and strengthen community-driven economic development

The deadline to apply is August 1, 2019.

DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION DETAILS

 

Indigenous Tourism Start Up Program

Photo credit: Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre / Logan Swayze

B Corporation Community

Helping business become a force for good

By Michelle Ratcliffe

Make business easy – tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber showcasing a Whistler Business innovating in their sector.

It’s commonplace for the bottom line to define business success, but there is a growing global network of over 2,000 Certified B Corporations leading a movement to redefine success. These B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. 

Whistler’s Seeds Consulting is part of this global movement and Principal, Diana Mulvey believes that a healthy profit can be achieved parallel to progress for the planet and people. 

Mulvey has built a business that takes action on social and environmental issues. Working with companies that aim to do good for humanity and for the planet, her business helps growing enterprises define the difference they are trying to make in the world and market themselves, creating an inspiring identity that stands out. 

She believes that while already sitting at an impressive height, Whistler businesses have the opportunity to elevate their impact on the world.

“Whistler’s business community could be known not only as the best IN the world, but the best FOR the world,” said Mulvey. “I’m helping mobilize business owners to be a force for good and tackle social and environmental challenges in their industry.”

Planting Seeds with Purpose

As any gardener knows, even with seeds in hand, your work still requires a little digging before you can plant and nurture growth.  Seeds Consulting’s strategy starts with digging deep to find a client’s highest mandate.

“I’ve been helping clients uncover their higher purpose and get clear on why they are in that business,” explained Mulvey who says she shares the philosophy of author and corporate culture thought leader Simon Sinek, who teaches organizations how to inspire people by starting with “Why.”

“I Share Simon Sinek’s belief that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” said Mulvey.

Once the “why” is clear, she can set sights sky high and map out the route to lift her client’s entrepreneurial ambitions to great heights. Clarity on a clients purpose empowers them to create an identity that rises above the noise, attracting the right customers and building brand loyalty.

Events Inspiring Action

Mulvey is a key fixture in the entrepreneurial community in Whistler – an inspiring group of innovative minds.

Her respected perspectives have led to collaborations with likeminded organizations and created events aimed at inspiring entrepreneurs to do good for their community.

“I’ve spoken at and introduced events in Whistler that encourage entrepreneurs to learn about and take on environmental and social problems,” she said.

In the last year alone, her hands-on help has seen her teach workshops for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s Social Venture Challenge, present on “how putting employees first boosts your brand” and at the Whistler Open Forum Speaker Series and collaborate with the Business Development Bank of Canada to bring a screening of “The Millennial Dream” documentary to Whistler accompanied by empowering discussion around different kinds of success in the new economy.

Confronting the Status Quo

In addition to speaking up with new ideas entrepreneurial events, Seeds Consulting connects with and empowers with their market online. The thought leadership exemplified by Mulvey on the Seeds Consulting blog offers an inspiring a dialogue for change, contributing valuable knowledge and resources to her community.

“I’m and avid blogger,” said Mulvey. “I use this platform to share ideas, confront the status quo, introduce best practices and build the business case to tackle social and environmental problems.”

Mulvey’s leadership is being felt throughout the resort where the number of businesses who are embedding social causes into their strategy is snowballing and her impact was recognized earlier this month, with Seeds Consulting honoured as a Finalist for “Sustainability in Action Business” at the 2017 Whistler Excellence Awards. Mulvey is helping shape a thriving local economy, from inspiring startup social ventures in their infancy to helping established organizations redefine an inspired brand identity. 

“Companies that are better for workers, better for communities, and better for the environment will lead the way and raise the bar for business success beyond the bottom line”

“Companies that are better for workers, better for communities, and better for the environment will lead the way and raise the bar for business success beyond the bottom line,” said Mulvey.  “I believe Whistler business owners have an opportunity to take on social and environmental problems and be recognized around the globe as being the best for the world.”

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Doing Good Through Business

Social entrepreneurs create impact beyond the bottom line

Sharing economy, food security, social impact, community building, climate resilience – these are topics that I’ve seen trending in my network and into daily conversations. I learned from a visionary, risk-taking entrepreneur that when he heard people talk about a trend at least three times, he had to act on it. Are you an aspiring entrepreneur based in the Sea to Sky who is looking for a way to seize a trend and turn it into a business opportunity? Then attend the 2016 Social Venture Challenge kick off event in Whistler: Doing Good Through Business on Friday, March 18.

The essence of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s Social Venture Challenge is to get business ideas off the ground, particularly those that provide solutions to social and environmental challenges unique to the Sea to Sky corridor. The Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation describes what sets these ventures apart: “Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.”

Why are a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to create social ventures? There is plenty of evidence toward the shift in attitudes toward traditional, pure-capitalism based reasons for starting businesses. In the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, the most comprehensive snapshot of how Millennials engage with Corporate Social Responsibility efforts in the U.S., revealed more than nine-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average). The research also showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

Investments for start-ups and supporting growing businesses to scale up is also shifting. With a huge spike in the amount of crowdfunding capital in North America, along with new hybrid capital organizations and social impact bonds, this trend is likely to change the playing field in favour of social ventures over the three to five years, according to social finance experts writing for the Harvard Business Review.

Social Venture Challenge 2016

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. This Friday’s session will feature talk from Vancity’s Community Foundation, the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild, Clean Start and Gibson-based Persephone Brewing Co., a Certified B-Corporation. The full day includes an Ideas Jam, Angel Den case study (where I’ll be part of a panel to help social ventures grow), plus lunch + beer tasting, and more. Tickets are still available but going fast.

Following the full-day session, budding social entrepreneurs can submit a one-page application by March 31 to participate in the 2016 Social Venture Challenge. The shortlisted entrepreneurs will learn how to flush out business ideas, get mentorship from experts in their field and receive coaching on how to pitch their venture idea to potential investors.

The final pitch in the Social Venture Challenge will be organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants will pitch their burgeoning business ideas to a panel of judges who will be award the winning social venture with $5,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact me to get started. I love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.