Involving your freelance client at the earliest stage of strategy & idea development can really help to increase their engagement from the beginning and cultivate a shared sense of project ownership. It can also help you to gain a deeper understanding of your client’s key themes and challenges.
By following a structure such as the Navigatebydesign outlines below, along with useful tools like immersion sessions, brainstorming sessions and virtual word clouds, you too can have the confidence to run your own brand strategy session.
Find out how to make your brand strategy session run smoothly and remain energized throughout!
Tip 1: Schedule Immersion Sessions
The first step it to agree with your client a 'facilitator' for the session who will essentially prepare, host and brief back.
In this example, the facilitator is the freelance designer working on the creative. The designer should aim to learn as much they can about their client’s business and even their different departments.
The designer does this through a pre-scheduled ‘immersion session’. So, what exactly is an immersion session? This essentially means that the designer spends time within each different department within the client organisation, finding out exactly what they do and the challenges they face, so everyone feels heard from the outset.
This allows the designer to do their ‘investigative’ work before even starting a brand strategy session.
TIP 2: Create your ‘How Might We’ questions.
By using the initial immersion sessions from Tip 1 above as a foundation, the designer can then prepare their targeted ‘How Might We’ (HME) questions. These can then be discussed as part of the overall client brand strategy session.
The HME questions should be sent to all participants in advance of the brand strategy session so they can think about it on an individual level first. The goal is to create questions that provoke meaningful and relevant ideas around some of the challenges the organisation faces.
The way the HME question is framed is important:
- How: the beginning of a creative journey which allows each participant to influence the outcome through their involvement.
- Might: encourages open-mindedness and varied possibilities. It puts the focus on ‘creativity’ at this stage.
- We: creates a sense of inclusiveness and shared ideation.
Below are three examples of HME questions that navigatebydesign use when discussing solutions to some of our client’s key challenges:
- How might we build awareness about our new broader services whilst still raising awareness about our core service.
- How might we use a ‘Call to Action’ to engage the audience and drive more traffic to our website.
- How might we evoke a premium brand offering by learning from other cross industry luxury brands.
Tip 3: Prepare ‘best practice’ examples.
As part of the brand strategy session, you can present 3-4 ‘best practice’ branding examples. These best practice branding examples can help to prompt discussion within the group, about their specific branding likes and dislikes.
Clients may not always be able to express what they do like but they can usually express what they don’t like and discussing other branding examples is a great way to draw out from your client any strong views.
These examples can be within the industry and in totally different industries. I’ve included below a downloadable freebie with 8 categories you can use with your clients to critically evaluate other industry brands:
TIP 4: Summarize what brainstorming is.
Group brainstorming usually forms part of an overall brand strategy session. For some clients this will be viewed as a fun workshop, taking a little time out from their other tasks.
- It’s not a pressurised environment and it may not always conclude with a defined ‘result’.
- It is a place to start the conversation, just like coffee in a cafeteria sometimes
the ideas need to ‘percolate’ over time!
It’s important to explain the four main ground rules for group brainstorming as for many this will be a totally new experience for them, so don’t assume you are covering old ground:
1. Go for quantity (get out all the ideas, it’s like casting wide net at this point)
2. Withhold criticism (there are no bad ideas at this stage)
3. Welcome any ‘out-there’ ideas (this helps to keep it light)
4. Building on other people’s ideas is welcome (by adding yes…and)
Remind the participants that they can email any ideas or thoughts to the designer after the session, as there are those who will prefer to engage via email or the chat box.
TIP 5: Use Digital Tools
Make use of Digital tools such as Mentimeter (www.mentimeter.com)
Mentimeter can be a great digital substitute for the more conventional ‘post-it’ notes. It’s a novel and fun way to ask participants to share their ideas from the earlier HME questions established in TIP 2. Their answers will then be visually represented within a live and remote word cloud.
With Mentimeter, nobody has to ‘go first’ as everyone adds their ideas independently and anonymously on the word cloud. It’s free, there is no sign up required for the participants so its quick as easy to access and user friendly.
TIP 6: Create a shared summary document and brief back
Creating a share summary document of the ideas can be a useful place for everyone to add any further ideas as they develop after the meeting. Ideas can then be eliminated and others clustered and combined where appropriate.
The session is then written up into a ‘brief back’ report by the designer for their client. At this stage you can also encourage any client feedback.
Below is an example of feedback Navigatebydesign received from our client following a successful brand strategy session: ‘There has been a notable increase in enthusiasm and excitement from the broader team who were now actively enquiring about the creative.’
This feedback shows that these sessions really do help improve a shared sense of ownership and engagement for the overall brand strategy.
Hosting your own client branding session may seem like a big task! But by preparing properly and following the tips I provide you can have a great structure for running your own client brand strategy session, with confidence and expertise.