How to build an impact brand with great communications
September 1, 2022
As a tech for good company your impact is intentional and innate to your business model. It should be no different when it comes to your brand and communications. In fact, having a positive impact is a brand super-power. You have something that many companies would kill for: an authentic and aligned mission, and the evidence to back it up. As an early-stage venture, knowing how your impact can form a core part of your brand is essential. Here are three guiding principles to bear in mind, plus some bonus quick tips.
Think in stories
Understanding what ‘assets’ you have to draw on when it comes to communicating impact is a good first step. In the context of communications, it might be useful to see your impact data in a broader sense. So this can mean both in a quantitative sense, such as your number of users or tonnes of Co2 saved, but it can also incorporate qualitative assets such as user testimonials.
The impact data assets you have, and will continue to build on, are the raw material for your brand and communications. Data alone is rarely compelling. We only retain 10% of information through data and statistics, while we remember 70% of information through stories. So your impact data should be seen as a source of inspiration for stories and a resource to support the stories you want to tell.
You might like to try building a messaging house. Take a look at a simple example below. This is a framework to order your company's key messages. The bottom tier, which is ‘proof’ is a great place to drop any data to support your stories and messages which sit on the floors above. This helps to ensure that your messages and impact evidence are aligned, giving you a consistent, authentic and efficient approach to building your brand and communications.
The data dial
Once you have a good understanding of the impact data and stories at your disposal, the next step is to know where and when to share these.
A common pitfall for companies with lots of great data is to put it all up front and centre. This is natural as a passionate founder, but it’s important to avoid ‘information dump mode’. Instead, try envisaging a ‘data dial’. This is similar to a messaging house but is more specifically aimed at proving your impact than thinking about your key messages.
You can think about your dial as having three levels. You need to use all of these levels because they all support each other. It’s also important to adjust your dial, like gears, according to context and audience (which we explore below).
Level one might be your one killer stat, such as the scale of the problem, or the market opportunity.
Level two is more specific and granular such as your number of users and sound-bite testimonials.
Level three is information rich content that often requires lots of context like case studies and research outcomes.
It’s all about audience
It’s likely that as a tech for good startup you will have more than one audience. These might include customers, users, beneficiaries, investors, and journalists. Being clear on who needs (and wants) to know what can help ensure you communicate your impact effectively.
For example if you’re pitching a pilot to a local authority they’re likely to want a lot more impact data than someone checking out your company profile on Linkedin. For a quick sense check deploy a user-centred approach and think ‘what information matters to this person?’ and adjust your data dial accordingly.
Equally, different platforms and channels will call for different levels of information. Think about the difference between your website landing page and impact report. You might also want to think about the progression of information throughout one location. For example, your pitch deck will require a buildup of information, perhaps by starting with your memorable story, before progressing into hard facts and stats.
A general rule of thumb is: err on the side of less is more, but always clearly signpost to where people can find out more if they want to dive deeper.
Other quick tips
If your company tone of voice is light-hearted and jovial don’t suddenly become a politician in a suit when talking about your impact data. Remain consistent and find a way to talk about your impact in a way that is in line with the rest of your communications.
Consider an unexpected tone
Tech for good companies are often tackling big, thorny issues. But tackling a serious problem doesn’t mean you always have to be serious. While sensitivity is key, sometimes taking an unexpected tone can help you stand out from the crowd and capture people’s attention.
While it’s great that more companies are talking in terms of being sustainable or ethical, these broad terms have somewhat lost their meaning. While you don’t need to ditch these types of words altogether, try to cut through the noise by getting specific. Such as, instead of saying ‘we’re a sustainability startup’, say ‘we’re a startup tackling waste in the food industry’.
Jargon is a really common pitfall when it comes to tech for good and impact. This is understandable when we’re trying to explain a certain technology being applied to often complex problems. But jargon more often alienates than it does connect. Try testing different terminology with a few of your users or customers.
Being conscious of your jargon should also help with a view to diversity and inclusion. This makes both commercial and impact sense. When you’re talking about the impact you’re having on the environment or society, try to ensure those you’re benefiting can actually understand you.