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THE VALUE OF BRAND IN THE HELPING PROFESSIONS
Editor’s note: Ann McCampbell is a freelance graphic designer in Boulder, Colorado. She has had her own freelance business since 2004 and has been in the design field since 1992. She works with a multitude of clientele, from small one- and two-person operations to large high tech corporations.
When my good friend, Dr. Richard Rogers, contacted me in the fall of 2011 to help him design the Rogers Therapy logo and set up his web site, I was thrilled to have the chance to help him out and to have the opportunity to design a brand for a psychotherapist. In my observation, it seems that some in the helping professions may be either reluctant to market themselves or are not fully utilizing the power of selfpromotion. Either way, there is a particular need for branding and marketing communication in this field, both as a benefit to the practice and to potential clients.
The value of brand in the helping professions
First of all, what is a brand? Contrary to popular belief, a brand is not simply a logo, a business card , and a letterhead. Your brand is embodied in every aspect of your business and everything you do within it: your business philosophy, how you talk to your clients, how you answer the phone, what your office looks like, what people can expect when they work with you, etc. Ideally, the logo, business card, and letterhead visually reflect the important aspects of who you are, but the brand is a much larger entity.
Visual representations of your brand: the logo
When I met with Dr. Rogers to begin collaborating on his brand development, I had asked him to bring to the meeting any examples of what he felt were good design – web sites, brochures, or even just images that reflected what he wanted to say to his clients. He came to the meeting well prepared, and then some, with not only images and examples of what he liked, but also with ideas of how each symbolized and reflected some aspect of the practice that he wanted to communicate to his potential clientele. One of the images he showed me was of a man, joyfully leaping on a sunny beach. To him, this represented the potential for his clients to be free to be themselves and to enjoy their lives to the fullest.
This image ultimately was the inspiration for the Rogers Therapy logo:
Typical of the logo development process, there were quite a few steps in between, and other logo options to be considered, but ultimately, the Rogers Therapy brand ended up reflecting one of its core philosophies. As it should, it serves as the first impression the outside world has of who Rogers Therapy is and what it stands for.
Second to the logo in a practice’s visual brand toolbox are all of its business communications in whatever medium is appropriate – web site, brochures, pamphlets, emails, etc. Marketing communications provide you with the opportunity to establish a connection to, and begin the conversation with, your potential clients. They also provide a valuable service to you clients, allowing them to get to know you. If you have specialties, for example, you can target the conversation to that part of the audience that is seeking help in that area. This is a chance to begin establishing your credibility in the eyes of someone who has never heard of you before. This is also where you can showcase your expertise and your empathy with the client’s point of view, thereby establishing that first bond of trust.
Overall brand strategy
As a graphic designer who has worked with marketing consultants across the business world, the message that has been drilled into my DNA from day one is that “less is more”. The current philosophy is that potential customers are overloaded with information, so the objective is to “hook” your audience with something short, catchy and impossible to ignore, and then let them drill down in your web site for more information once they have been properly intrigued.
To some extent this is true as well for those in the human services, but only to a degree. Your audience is equally as overwhelmed with the chaos and cacophony of modern life. But your audience does not need the “hook”. The one thing that is different about your potential client base is that they are looking for as much information on you as they can find so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to contact you for help. It’s a much more personal choice than choosing which laundry detergent to buy.
So, while most businesses have to shout to be noticed above all of the other shouters, people in the helping professions need only to show up on a Google search. Potential clients, if they see you, will click on you. And since most professionals, especially counselors and therapists, don’t have much of a web presence, the more information you have on your site, the better chances you have of attracting new clients.
This does not mean, however, that you should have a one-page web site with everything about you all on one long, scrollable page. Many businesses make the mistake of wanting to tell their audience everything all at once. An information dump like this is almost as daunting as no information at all. How you structure your information can say as much about you as the information itself. If your site is organized into logical, manageable bites, it will be much easier to navigate and “digest.” And speaks well to your working style.
When Dr. Rogers and I began to think about how the Rogers Therapy web site should be architected, the structure of the business drove the structure of the site. Dr. Rogers has quite a few specialties, so we decided to have a “Specialties” tab in the main navigation field with sub-pages under that category that featured one specialty per page. The specialties all appear on a popup sub-menu when the user mouses over the Specialties tab on any page in the web site. That way, if a visitor to the site is looking for something specific, they are never more than one click away from finding what they are looking for.