In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the opportunity for community building while you work on a branding initiative for your town, organization or business. Creating a visual identity (logo) can be done by an outside professional. But the brand (what people say about you when you aren’t in the room) is discovered and developed by the people who are living/working within the “community” to be branded, perhaps with some assistance. In my opinion, it can’t be done from the outside. The conversations that you have with the many people who can help support and build your brand are invaluable.

One perspective is never a well-rounded view of a community. The history, quirks, assets and aspirations of your community require conversation after conversation. While you are engaging folks in those talks, both one-on-one and in small groups, you should be listening intently for consistent recognition of assets, points of pride, persistent issues and problems, themes and partnerships that had not previously been considered.

These conversations, when facilitated skillfully, help members of a community know each other better. Participants can consider experiences, much different than their own, that have shaped the opinions and interests of others. For some, they offer an opportunity “to be heard.” For others, a chance to contribute to the success of a community they love. Long-timers enjoy sharing the good and bad of the past. Newcomers develop context derived from learning history.  Community leaders may learn of issues— good and bad—which have been left unaddressed. All those conversations can build understanding and common cause.

Plan to spend time and have patience—the process is not tidy or fast, but it is fundamental to the deep understanding of any community—town, organization or business. Look for people who represent the diversity of your entire community. Allow for conflicting opinions, as long as the discussion remains respectful. Through these conversations, you can build a network of community partners that will help move the community forward.

Brands should be authentic. An honest, albeit polished representation of the community that resonates with residents and business owners and convinces the outside world that you are open for business. Those conversations are just the exciting first step in developing your brand.