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!



Entrepreneurs: how to know your startup will be founded on purpose

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a range of new entrepreneurs over the course of the last five years, and each year it gets more and more exciting. What is becoming clear for me is that the conversation around starting a business inspired by a higher purpose is no longer a foreign concept. If anything, the ideas we discuss and the lessons we teach get the entrepreneurs fired up and even more determined to get their business ideas launched.

When Seeds Consulting was conceived over a decade ago, there wasn’t a lot of talk about conscious or purpose-driven business. Social ventures were perceived as only  businesses in far-away places around the world dealing with third world problems. Replacing a typical profit-driven business model with one that put purpose before profits was a tough business case to sell around the board table.

Now, there’s ample evidence that shows that “doing well by doing good” makes perfect business sense, and is in fact, an approach that will create solid businesses that have the ability to stand the test of time.

What is a purpose-driven business?

The definition I always share comes from the book Conscious Capitalism: Purpose refers to the difference you’re trying to make in the world.

Purpose plays a big role into building strong brands and marketing them in a meaningful way.  From Seth Godin’s latest read, This is Marketing, he proposes that “Modern marketing is doing work that MATTERS for people WHO CARE”.  In Terry O’Reilly’s book This I know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influencehe shares that the purpose of a company is likely found at that moment where the founder slammed his/her hand down on the table and declared …”there has to be a better way! In that moment is the best distillation of your why“.

Modern marketing is doing work that MATTERS for people WHO CARE
Seth Godin

Getting the the core

So how would you know if you’re building a purpose-driven business? In my experience, it comes from standing up, and boldly sharing your purpose through a brand story to see how it resonates with people. A short and compelling brand story starts with the background on why you were so fired up you ‘slammed your fist on the table’, followed by what you’re doing about it now and sharing your bold vision for the future.  With a recent cohort of entrepreneurs, when they stepped up to share their brand stories in the classroom, there were tears and there were moments when we all got choked up just talking about the inspiration behind their ventures.

These days, people are far more interested in why you are in the business you’re in and less motivated by the how and the what you’re offering. The more confidently you can share your original motivation for starting a business – that core purpose that gets you out of bed and motivated each day as an entrepreneur – the more more likely you’ll grow a business that matters for people who really do care about it.


If you have a idea for a business that you keep on the back burner simmering, learning from others and their motivations is a sure way to get your ideas in motion.

Start up pitch eventIn Whistler this week, a cohort of entrepreneurs will be pitching their business ideas for a chance to win start up seed funding. The businesses are related to authentic Indigenous tourism experiences and are rooted in a purpose that’s way beyond the bottom line.

Event Details:

Take a look at these resources to learn more about using business as a force for good:

Helping business become a force for good

Harness the difference you want to make in the world

Want to create a marketing buzz? Link profits to purpose.

Creative Commons

How to Act on Marketing Lessons Learned from a European Vacation


Some down time along with change in scenery is a fabulous way to recharge and get the creative juices flowing. As a business owner or marketer on vacation, do you look for those trends, unique ideas and experiences that might cross over to your market? Have you taken some of these ideas and put them into practice? After a spring vacation in Europe, here are some ideas and lessons learned, fresh perspective that can only come from some time away from it all.


Service standards are quite different in European restaurants. They often pride themselves on exceptionally professional service that isn’t pushy or invasive. They keep a low profile but just seem to show up at the right time to let you know they are there to serve.

Lesson learned: Thoughtful, timely customer service is appreciated. Having a professional approach to each customer interaction goes a long way to creating a memorable experience. In the marketing world, this approach could be effectively delivered with the help of marketing automation tools that are strategically timed at different phases to move prospects into action.


Wherever we went, our hosts were proud to feature local ingredients, give the insider’s scoop or make a special connection that took our vacation to the next level. They understand the importance of sharing their insider’s tips and they took care to highlight unique aspects of the region to give visitors plenty of experiences and reasons to return.

Lessons: What aspects of your product or service are home grown or only found in a specific place in the world? Can this cachet can be inserted into the brand story? If you do partner with makers from abroad, have you shared insight on why you chose to work with them and how you work together to deliver a one-of-a-kind product?


At the nicer restaurants, glasses of house-made limoncello and honey grappa appeared at our table after a big meal. These little shots of deliciousness also helped us digest and fondly remember the tasty nuances of the local cuisine.

Lessons: Being generous goes a long way. To help word-of-mouth promotion or customer loyalty, are there any small extras that might surprise & delight your customers? Without straying away from the core of your brand, where could you add a little touch to say thank you? A recent purchase I made for a photo album came with a pretty card from Artifact Uprising to express their gratitude and remind me of their satisfaction guarantee: a brand extension that strengthens their promise.


Cobblestones and pedestrian-only streets forced us to chill, take in the ambiance and enjoy the scenery just a little bit longer. Meals were was savoured since servers bring courses at the right moment and never offer the bill unless the customer asks for it. Before making a purchase, we mulled things over and enjoyed the friendly, no pressure service.

Lessons: Don’t rush the sales cycle or customer service delivery unnecessarily. For many products and services, business owners underestimate the cost and time for the customer acquisition process. When customers have a chance to figure out their wants and needs or make a few comparisons, they’ll be more satisfied with their purchase. If a business is consistent with customer service and follow up, this will help to build a more loyal following and vocal brand advocates.


Boutique hotels and apartments were spotless, decor was authentic, service was delivered by local staff who were proud of their heritage and keen to assist us. Instead of cluttered stores, retailers used effective merchandising to ensure a select group of products stood out. Clerks are trained to genuinely help customers meet their needs so they can avoid having to rummage through the racks.

Lessons: Does your brand stand behind your products or services with a guarantee? Do your employees exude pride when interacting with customers? Is there pride coming through in your voice through marketing campaigns and branding? Don’t be shy, give your targets plenty of reasons why your company is head and shoulders above the rest.

Still planning to hit the road this summer for some time away? Keep your eyes open and see where the trends, ideas and experiences might help to refresh a tired approach to marketing. Need some assistance to breathe new life into your company marketing plan? Contact Seeds Consulting and let’s cultivate new ideas to grow your business. While you’re at it, sign up for our newsletter to receive a free template for a marketing plan on a page.