Important Lessons I Learned From a Rebrand

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Take it from me: rebrands are exciting — full of a fascinating mixture of promise and chaos — but they can also become total messes if not executed with precision and proactivity. The trouble is that this task happens so rarely in a company’s journey that few people take the time after the process is complete to reflect on the good, bad and ugly. That’s exactly what I’m doing now in my post-rebrand glow. Turns out, I missed some key opportunities along the way and want to help you avoid making the same mistakes, so, among other helpful takeaways, here’s why project management and communication must have a starring role. 

Ask the key questions 

There are few things that demand as much of a company as a rebrand. When you’re not planning the strategy, collaborating on new branding or reorganizing your internal structure, you’re putting out fires and soothing egos. There’s an awful lot to be done from all perspectives, spanning business, marketing, people, technology and beyond. While you and your team are busy focusing on urgent priorities, other items may fall through the cracks. 

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This is why you need a dedicated person to ask the right questions every step of the way, and the ones that matter most are: “Who?”, “When?” and “What’s the dependency?” There has to be someone posing these for every single part of a rebrand, as well as following up when sufficient answers aren’t given (and/or when the can is kicked down the road). 

For example: I realize now that what my company should have done was have one person responsible for poking and prodding the situation. If we had, we’d have realized problems much earlier and could have dealt with them before they became real obstacles. 

Empower communication 

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During a rebrand, excitement is high, but so is anxiety. For every eager person ready to evolve the brand and full of optimism that it’ll be an improvement, you will have a naysayer or at least someone with doubts. There’s a temptation to keep unpleasant or unsure communication to a minimum, but the natural urge to keep things artificially positive can read as inauthentic instead of inspiring. So, the reality is that you need to not only ask the above questions, but also play devil’s advocate, because there’s no better time to challenge the consensus and make changes than when a rebrand is still a lump of clay being shaped and molded. Once it’s hardened into a dry and final form, you’re kind of out of luck. 

So, start at the top and don’t just allow unpopular opinions to be shared, encourage them. The goal isn’t to have people dissenting just for the sake of dissenting, of course, but to promote a healthy dialogue about the pros and cons of every decision. Once you as the leader set the stage that it’s ok to state concerns, your troops will follow suit. 

Document changes as early as possible

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Our rebrand wasn’t just a new paint job and logo: we also changed the company name. As you can imagine, becoming a whole new entity meant covering everything — from our new W-9, to making the decision to either begin “doing business as” this entity or forming something completely new all the way, to business cards, new headshots and combing the Internet for references to old brands and begging sites to change them. 

Along the way, I often heard, “There’s a lot. There’s going to be a lot.” And of course that’s a correct observation, but not particularly helpful. As the old saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is to start with a bite. Our start was a spreadsheet that outlined everything I could think of to change, then I sat with every department leader and asked them to identify what we hadn’t yet documented. By the end of that exercise, our spreadsheet had around 300 rows. 

Within that massive document, technology transition garnered a few different rows, so we knew we needed to dive deeper there. We set up a cross-functional “tiger team” to contact vendors and set up technology plans, then categorized these tasks into “pre-work,” “day of migration” and “post-migration.” This approach birthed another 300-plus-line spreadsheet and eventually a corresponding Workfront project. 

Once the technology migration entered the picture, I knew we needed professional help. Enter our senior associate project manager, Markee Litva. She not only managed our technology migration to (dare I say?) perfection but also refused to be complacent; she asked the hard questions and then dug and dug until she got all the detailed answers she needed. Our only mistake was not bringing her in earlier. 

Great internal project management requires leaders who prioritize it. It also requires that you have someone asking the right questions every single step of the way, and that you empower direct and open communication. Only then can such an enormous beast of an initiative grow and transform into the truly beautiful and rewarding rebrand you hope it will be. It’s never easy to execute something like this, but it can be a heck of a lot easier if you avoid the mistakes we made and strive to make project management and communication true focal points. 

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