While I promoted to internal audiences the new tools Clean Water had available I developed the organization’s online communications strategy.
The internal acceptance of these tools rapidly out paced internal capacity to maintain functionality using a tapestry of third-party applications and a flat HTML site.
With the support of Clean Water’s President I began work on a site redesign and migration project.
Planning for this process had just begun when I realized the logo and the unofficial brand and color guidelines Clean Water had been using since the early 1970s wouldn’t fit with the image the organization now said it wanted to project.
Approach – Securing Buy-In
I secured support from Development department staff members who agreed that a visual rebranding, including a logo redesign, would help Clean Water raise money. Convincing the Board of Directors and other long-time senior managers was not as easy.
My first step was to create a staff survey, which was open to any staff member, including canvassers who had the most direct contact with Clean Water’s supporters. The survey’s questions included:
- how does the logo make you feel?
- list five adjectives you would use now to describe Clean Water’s public image?
- how do you want supporters and potential supporters to see Clean Water?
- do you think Clean Water’s current image matches how you want the organization to be perceived?
I analyzed the survey results and the results were clear: the bulk of staff members felt the logo and visual branding didn’t match the image they wanted the organization to project.
There was also a clear split between long-time, older staff members and newer, younger staff members which indicated a tough road to buy-in for any changes.
To help overcome this I created a competitive research document illustrating the visual brands for organizations directly and secondarily related to the issues Clean Water worked on.
I pitched Board members using a mood board type approach asking them directly:
- How do these logos make you feel?
- Do you trust this organization?
- Does it seem modern and dynamic?
- Does it meet the other characteristics staff have identified as the image they want to Clean Water to project?
With the Board in agreement, my next step was to assess current and project future work flow needs.
Approach – Design, Development, Migration
State offices were eager to be able to control their own content. Allowing them to do so would shift the burden off me as the sole dedicated online communications staff member but it complicated the content production and approval process.
After several weeks of research, and after incorporating the need to share content between the Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action sites surfaced during interviews with Development department staff, I recommended Drupal as the platform for Clean Water’s new sites.
I wrote and circulated a RFP that included the rebranding, website design, and custom development of Drupal to accommodate the content work flow Clean Water’s newly hired Director of Communications wanted in place for the new site.
The vendor chosen by the Board and Senior Management brought to the table Free Range as an outside design partner committed to both the rebranding and the site design. Time constraints imposed by the Board meant that the visual rebranding had to happen in parallel to the site development process.
Building the Team
I put together a cross-functional, locality distributed team that included staff members of varying tenures, ages, and responsibility areas to ensure the rebranding accurately reflected all staff members’ concerns.
During this process I worked with the technical development firm to approve Drupal specific adjustments to the functional specifications, including content types, publication work flow, and content sharing work flow processes, I had written as part of the Request for Proposal.
Organizing the Site
With more direct input from state-based staff I deepened the Information Architecture I had originally created in standardizing the organization’s flat HTML site. I then created a migration process plan, surveying and classifying the existing flat HTML content.
I created a phased plan that would allow Clean Water to publish the redesigned site with up to a year’s worth of content for each major section of the site and would allow content managers to back-fill older content after site launch. I then recruited a separate team to aid with the physical editing and migration of content into the CMS.
The rebranding included a new logo, color palette, and brand guide. This rebranding approved by the team I assembled and guided is still in use by Clean Water today. With this in place I moved forward with our design partner to the website look and feel. The same team that worked on the rebranding also worked on the site design.
I guided this team through two rounds of wireframe analysis and feedback for Clean Water Action and two rounds for Clean Water Fund. Visual design included three initial homepage comps and three rounds of revisions to the final design.
Because mobile was not a factor in 2008, the team only had to consider desktop designs.
The ultimate deliverables for this project were the newly redesigned and migrated Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund sites. A more detailed list of deliverables includes:
- competitive analysis on logos and brand standards
- staff survey on organizational perceptions
- survey analysis and recommendations
- determination and writing of technical requirements for CMS implementation
- recruitment and management of two separate cross-functional teams simultaneously
- revised Information Architecture structure providing state offices more flexibility
- content classification and migration plan
- editing and physical migration of content
Post launch deliverables included the creation of reference training materials and the direct training of more than a dozen approved content creators located in Clean Water’s various state offices.