Twenty years later… We begin anew
November 11, 2017
Utilizing momentum from the 20th anniversary to commemorate a new milestone
Supportive Housing Coalition’s rebranding effort helped them explain how they help homeless people in Albuquerque
Recently, the Supportive Housing Coalition realized they were struggling because people didn’t understand what they do.
When they brought on a new executive director, Steve Ross, they started to think about the benefits of rebranding.
“When I started the position, I did my own informal surveying and talking to people. Most people had no idea what ‘Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico’ meant,” said Ross. “It just didn’t register. That was one thing I recognized coming into the position that seemed to be an issue. A lot of people don’t know what we do.”
People who had partnered with SHC understood what they did, but they wanted more instant recognition. They wanted people to understand what their purpose was immediately so they wouldn’t have to repeatedly explain it in detail.
Ross said, “As we were coming up on celebrating 20 years, there were some opportunities to take a look at how we might address that.”
Laurie Frappier, the Director of Development at SHC, said, “This would be a great time to really re-emerge, put our mission out there and have more people know who we are. How are we going to do that?”
What does the Supportive Housing Coalition do?
SHC started out 20 years ago, as an answer to the lack of affordable housing in Albuquerque.
For the first 15 years they were doing housing development. During that time, they stood front-and-center of everyone’s minds when it came to providing affordable housing to people experiencing homelessness because they were acquiring and building new properties. All of that activity made it easy for them to stay visible.
But the organization changed with the economy.
“The development activity came to standstill right around the time the recession hit and funding sources dried up,” explained Frappier.
They shifted their focus to becoming landlords and managing the properties. They also manage tenant-based rental-assistance housing vouchers through the city of Albuquerque and HUD. They work with over 150 landlords in Albuquerque.
“We’re housing people every day through the city of Albuquerque Heading Home initiative and with our six properties,” said Frappier. “We’re still doing our mission and we’re doing it very well with the resources that we have.”
However, because they are not building anything, they have to work harder to stay visible. “We need to let people know that we’re quietly doing this work and we need help to do it.”
To keep getting the support they need to do their work, they needed a new logo and a clearer story to go with it. Frappier said, “If we’re going to be front-and-center in people’s minds as the provider of permanent, supportive and affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, then we wanted a new look and feel to go along with our efforts at creating awareness.”
Ross said, “We wanted to begin the process of creating more awareness of who we are, what we do and the impact we make within the community and on the lives of homeless folks, which is part of our mission. In looking at that, we felt we really need to do some rebranding. That’s what then led us to EDJ werks.”
Working with Patrick and Lisa Brenner at EDJ werks made sense
The Supportive Housing Coalition already had a positive relationship with Patrick Brenner because his company EDJ ink facilitated their printing. Frappier said, “They’ve been very competitive. They always beat everybody’s prices. Patrick has been so unbelievably responsive to us.”
Just when SHC was thinking about rebranding, Frappier saw Brenner post some of the new logos that he had created for other companies.
“I wrote him on Facebook and asked, ‘You do branding?’ and he said, ‘Yes!’”
In addition to the printing company EDJ ink, he also owns a creative branding company: EDJ werks.
SHC set up a meeting with EDJ werks, who provided a proposal with a couple of sample designs. Maintaining momentum from the organization’s 20th anniversary was critical to the success of the rebranding campaign.
“Rebranding is not something to take lightly. You have to have a good reason to undertake such an effort. SHC’s 20th Anniversary provided this excellent opportunity: serendipity,” Brenner said.
“We liked what they had to say,” said Frappier. “We had to go through the whole process of board approval and making sure that everybody was okay with it. I think we all came to the same conclusion that our logo was very dated. Our website was not very appealing. We didn’t have a lot of traffic to it. We identified a lot of things that we could be doing better.”
“Both Laurie and I were impressed from the beginning when they came in and shared their ideas,” said Ross. “They actually came with what they call a sample idea. The sample idea we really liked, so that was a great beginning.”
“We love them,” said Frappier. “They’re very responsive. We problem solve together. It’s a really good relationship.”
The rebranding process started with gathering input from everyone on the team
The staff and board of SHC met in two different focus groups led by EDJ werks and provided input for the new logo and website.
“My partner and I have developed an interactive workshop that brings together the stakeholders of a rebranding effort, in this case, the employees and the Board of Directors,” said Brenner “It’s a lot of fun and we only require two hours of everyone’s time. Many firms take 1-3 days of the participants’ time to collect the necessary data from the stakeholders. This can be prohibitively expensive both in money and time EDJ werks has streamlined the process and made it a lot of fun.”
EDJ werks took that information and came up with four different design options. SHC gave them some input and EDJ werks made the changes. “I’m very happy with it,” said Frappier. “They listened to us, but they also guided us as far as industry standards and what’s new and compelling. They helped us to see what road we wanted to go down.”
They worked within the budget and timing constraints
SHC used grant monies to pay for the branding work, but the funds were released in stages, which presented a timeline challenge. Ross said, “We were working with budget constraints. We were limited on what we could spend. Rebranding campaigns can be fairly expensive. There are some other outfits in town that we could work with, but they work with a lot of commercial entities, so their pricing was pretty high. We already had a relationship with ED ink. They had an understanding of who we were and then they were willing to work with us within our budget constraints. They have been extremely cooperative with us, which is nice.”
Next Steps: Reaching out and generating needed support
Ross said, “Having the opportunity to use new logos, it is allowing us to do things that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. For example, we’re putting together some activities and events as part of our awareness campaign. The new logo and the collateral materials are going to be critical to complementing all of that. It’s giving us that opportunity to show something new, so we’re able to use that as another vehicle to reach out.”
“I have high hopes for our website,” said Frappier. “Our goal is to increase awareness in the community, increase our donations and get more excitement about what we’re doing.”