There are three major categories of communication within a Communication Plan—mandatory, informational, and marketing. Marketing communication is designed to sell stakeholders on the value and benefits of your project. Most projects have no requirements for this type of communication and it's more appropriate in some than others.
Branding is a more sophisticated form of marketing communication. The purpose of branding a project is to establish an identity that conjures up a positive image. This is exactly what the marketing people try to do when they brand a product. For instance, The Coca-Cola Company hopes that you feel good about their products and that you will choose their products from a crowded store shelf because you like the image and emotion associated with it. Maybe it works. If you throw a party and you provide a cooler full of Cokes and Sprites, you probably feel pretty good about the image you're portraying. If you stock a cooler full of "Joe's" cola, you might feel a little embarrassed.
Branding a project has the same connotation. Your purpose is to associate a positive image and emotion when a person hears of your project. Ask yourself some questions regarding the impact your project will have on the organization.
- Does it impact a large number of people or maybe the entire company?
- Will it require a culture change or a change in the way people do their job?
- Will your project make people nervous? For instance, will it result in efficiencies so that less people are required to do the same function?
These are the types of projects that would be candidates for branding. Examples of branding activities include:
- Establishing a positive project name. For instance, a project called MarketForce, probably gives more of a positive image than one called Marketing Process Improvement Initiative. You can build a positive image with an easy-to-remember acronym as well.
- Establishing an image/logo. The project should have an image or logo associated with it. The image must be positive and it should be included on all communication coming from the team.
- Buying trinkets. Put your project name or logo on pins, tee shirts, pencils, Frisbees, etc. Reward people with a token that contains the project logo when they do something good. Senior professionals don't always care about trinkets. However, many of your users like them.
- Holding face-to-face meetings. Spend the time to see as many people as possible in person-to-person meetings or small group meetings, especially at the beginning of the project. No one wants to hear all the information about an important project on e-mail. It cheapens the project.
Of course, branding takes time, so you also need to have a project with a long time horizon. A steady stream of positive communication, combined with the positive feeling of the project branding, will help the project be successful and should help overcome any negative perceptions about the project.