Why Public Image Works

July 30, 2012

(Part 1 of a two-part series)

You have a pretty ambitious mission. Your organization might be trying to save precious natural treasures, present the best quality performances or mobilize youth in urban areas to invigorate their communities – or some other important and unique way of making a difference in New Jersey. You are probably trying to do all of this with too few resources and even less time.

So, how on Earth can you find the time to really get the word out? Finding the time to communicate effectively can seem elusive – just one more thing to add to your ever-growing list. In this day and age when it seems harder to get attention, it can be overwhelming. And that’s exactly why you need to pay attention to it.

The good news is that good communication pays off – and actually makes your job easier. It can be more than a mere collection of marketing tactics and gimmicks. A strong Public Image conveys real vision and values – helping people connect and really engage with your mission. And taking the time to fully engage with your own Public Image as an organization helps you connect more deeply too.

It takes a little time at the beginning and some practice, but creating a strong Public Image is more of a mind-shift than an overhaul. With a little investment and regular practice with some basics, it can become a regular part of the way you achieve your ambitious goals. Here’s a snapshot introduction to Social Impact Studio’s Dodge-sponsored series Public Image Works! to help you with those basics right away. And if you haven’t taken the series already, you still can by applying for Spring 2013 – keep an eye out for announcements this fall.


Public Image Works is an intensive, months-long series designed to help positive-change organizations “communicate good.” It combines the best of marketing practices and organizing principles for empowered and effective outreach that stays true to organizational mission and values. The idea ties together 4 key areas: Action Plan, Distinguished Identity, Vibrant Promotions (including Social Media), and Relationship Power Mapping.

Social Impact Studios "We Communicate Good"


A good Public Image connects directly to an organization’s Strategic Action Plan. What are the goals? What are you trying to accomplish and within what timeframe? A solid understanding of a plan helps you communicate better – and having a reminder of your purpose helps you achieve your goals. Action Planning and Communication Strategy go hand-in-hand, so think of them in tandem and make sure you take the time to connect the dots between them.


Your Identity is more than just your logo or your website. It’s a collection of characteristics that tell your story when you aren’t there to tell it in person. Here are some elements to keep in mind when you think of what makes up your “brand” Identity:

  • Your own Internal Understanding of Vision, Mission & Values. Also, what makes you unique and what type of “personality” you want to express. Is your whole group on the same page about what you do, why and how you do it? From Board to staff to volunteers, this understanding is the first element of a strong Identity. Take some time to think about this separate from your Audience’s needs. It provides the foundation from which to springboard to that outside connection.
  • Who is your Audience? Think of your Audiences as people who help you achieve your goals. Take time to think about what motivates them – what they care about and what drives them to act.
  • Your Visual Identity is made up of all visuals including your logo, colors, fonts, photo style and publications design.
  • Your Message Identity is a collection of consistent verbal and written language. Do you find yourself writing new “boilerplate” language about your organization every time you write a grant proposal or press release? If you are constantly changing the story, then your audiences may be hearing too many different variations to keep it all clear. Having solid Message Identity helps you customize language for different audiences without having to re-create it every time.
  • Today’s world of communication is complex. With faster internet connections, smart phones and more expectations for interaction, Experiential Identity is an important part of your Public Image. Being intentional about audio/visual, event experiences and even how you table can send a strong message about who your organization is, your focus and opportunities for people to engage.

Tomorrow, come back to the Dodge blog to learn about Vibrant Promotions (including Social Media), and Relationship Power Mapping.

About Social Impact Studios (formerly Design for Social Impact)
Since 1996, Social Impact Studios has combined artistry & activism to call attention to important social issues. By collaborating with others who serve the public good, we build creative awareness efforts that get noticed and achieve idealistic goals. We believe that thoughtful, beautiful and meaningful communication is the most beneficial way to engage and motivate people. From concept to creation, we design action plans, visuals, messaging and moving grassroots experiences that do just that!