THERE are many many hundreds of NGOs, local and international, in Cambodia but there is one thing many have in common – the need to get their message across. The need to create their own recognisable identity, their own brand. To become professional communicators to much better promote their organisation and their work.
By doing this they can pull themselves out of what sometimes appears a morass of well intentioned but disparate NGOs, and find a more sustainable way to address potential sponsors and supporters through which they can grow, develop and become more independent.
Enter BrandOutLoud – a nonprofit organisation specialising in branding and communications for NGOs.
Established in 2007, the concept started when both founders, Judith Madigan and Mark van Luyk, saw the need of NGOs for professional communication during their volunteering and travelling year in Southeast Asia.
“At that time I was working with local staff members towards strengthening their capacity, while Mark provided the NGO with great, powerful imagery. Often, that material ended up somewhere in a ‘slide-show’ or worse in a drawer. Many NGOs didn’t have any idea how to effectively implement the imagery within their communication,” said co-founder Judith Madigan.
Following a pilot project in Indonesia in 2006, Madigan and Van Luyk worked together, combining their skills and backgrounds, on the photography and communication for a local NGO.
That work for the NGO, which was a major success both for them and the NGO involved, identified what many similar organisations needed – branding and communication skills.
So the two of them decided to take this concept to the next level and establish a non-profit organisation, resulting in BrandOutLoud.
Based in the Netherlands and with a core team of 12 specialists and volunteers, BrandOutLoud works on-site with NGOs and NPOs worldwide.
The aim is to empower NGOs by means of a strong sense of brand identity and powerful imagery to support that. Add to that the necessary basic communication skills and tools, the local NGOs are able to further develop themselves and their work independently.
The communication tools are deployed to address potential donors and current supporters, including sophisticated photography, graphic design, copy and an outstanding online presence.
Once its visual identity and concept is established, BrandOutLoud helps the aid organisation to implement the newly developed communications. With a professional structure in place, they are able to promote themselves in a positive and successful way.
In 2007 BrandOutLoud took on its first project in Cambodia: All Ears Cambodia. This was followed in 2010 with another project: CDMD (Cambodian Development Mission for Disability). All Ears Cambodia was a small local aid organisation providing medical services to people with ear and hearing problems and the partnership began when it approached BrandOutLoud to see if there was scope for promoting the organisation more professionally and effectively.
One of the results of the joint project was the exceptional photographic images which carried the general communication as well as several photo-documentaries.
A new website was also launched and All Ears’ organisation style and concept was underpinned by a full range of communication tools from an e-newsletter to signboards.
Since then the organisation has grown and gone through considerable development and is planning to establish an All Ears International charity.
In May 2010 BrandOutLoud started to work with CDMD, an independent Cambodian non-governmental organisation working towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for people with disabilities.
In collaboration with their funding partner CBM CEARO in Bangkok, BrandOutLoud developed their branding, design and communication. As a result this aid organisation is now promoting itself proudly with a new professional look and the right tools in place such as a website and strong imagery.
“BrandOutLoud supports NGOs/ NPOs (aid organisations) with the development of their own branding, design and communication. Our aim is to encourage them to use this new professional appearance and practical communications tools in order to promote their organisation and their work,” said Madigan.
“We strive to enable aid organisations – in a more sustainable way – to address potential sponsors and supporters, by which they can grow and become more independent. We believe powerful imagery is the key to successful communication: Visualise to persuade.
“This is what we do. Visualising the strengths, resilience and moreover the dignity of the people being supported – not as victims, but as leaders of their own change, as opposed to pitiful and shocking imagery and messages. In this we envision the necessity to shift from negative communication used only too often in the sector.
“In short, key team members spend 3-4 months on-site with the NGO/NPO. In close partnership we develop their brand (visual) identity, marketing and communication. We believe developing a professional set of communication tools such as business cards, brochures, posters, a website and similar items, is all about identity. Knowing who you are and what you stand for.
“Each local NGO has its own story, own voice. That is their brand. And this is the core of our work. Visualising their story about who they are and what they stand for.
“A great example was with our latest project in Cambodia with CDMD. During the evaluation the director commented on the development of their logo. Saying that all elements of themselves came together in the design, and BrandOutLoud had been a vehicle for doing that. That is the biggest compliment we can get because it is about them. It is their story. We are the vehicle.
“In the first year of BrandOutLoud we were more focused on the outcome – as in terms of visual branding, the professional communication tools. Only over the months working in close partnership, we saw the change within the local NGOs themselves, becoming more proud of who they are and what they stand for.
“This ownership and process of empowerment became as important as the original outcome. Tutorials, clinics and various brainstorm sessions play an important role. Nowadays, we also provide workshops and training towards learning marketing and communication and its tools to help the NGOs develop their own strategies,” said Madigan.
“As the problems regarding marketing and communication that NGOs are facing are universal, we are open for projects globally. Though we have found that because of our previous experience in the Asia region, word has spread and organisations are finding us more and more and it is that which actually keeps us coming back to Asia/Pacific.”