If you’ve ever been involved in the development of a brand, you’ve probably learned that “brand” is about more than a mark. Our brand is our personality; it represents what makes us stand out from others. How we talk about our work is crucial to how we are perceived by and engage an audience. A strong, identifiable brand moves an audience to act.
So where do we, as editors, fit in when supporting a brand? A sound and comprehensive brand strategy covers all kinds of talk—from color paths and logos to visual content and voice. Ideally, these elements work together to summarize the why behind an organization just as much as the what and how. More than anything, an editor’s role is to ensure clarity and consistency in answering these questions.
As a copyeditor in the charitable giving division at Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the US, my work focuses on donor engagement. My role is to ensure that we produce quality and compelling content about our impact—the kind of content that inspires people to give and give again.
CRS has been around for 76 years. We are a known quantity to whom hundreds of thousands donate regularly and generously. Last year, CRS decided to revamp the way we tell our story, a heroic task led by our marketing and communications division. They spent many months establishing guidelines for how we communicate our purpose to the world. Those guidelines, rooted in our agency’s principles, became the foundation of a new brand—and a reference for how we as editors support that brand.
We do this most often through messaging. An example is upholding human dignity, a central tenet of CRS’ work. Because we respect the people we serve, we choose to use terms like vulnerable and marginalized instead of poor. We avoid patronizing perspectives of people who live differently, so we choose not to use us and them language. The stories we share are real-life examples, not generalizations—our program participants have names. We are concise. We avoid jargon. We know our audience.
Ultimately, brand is existential. It’s about what exists in our audience’s mind long after they’ve seen the photos, read the stories, and clicked the donate button. As a copyeditor, I support the perception we are aiming for by ensuring that our brand is delivered with precise messaging—tone, voice, and even visual language—that leaves a lasting impression.
How will we know if and when it’s working? That’s likely a topic for another article. In the meantime, I move through our content, word for word, with our new brand in mind.
Branding Together was originally published in Tracking Changes (Winter 2021 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.
Header photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash.