Branding—A Personal Point of View

Branding be like a mysterious journey…so often, we equate branding with logos, colors, typefaces and taglines. But, branding is really about what makes a company or organization special, what differentiates it from all others. It drives the customer to make a decision to purchase…or a person to donate to a cause…or parents to choose a school for their child.

Since launching Sounding Board Marketing and Communications eight years ago, I decided that I wanted my company’s brand to be centered around its mission, values and philosophy:

Mission: Sounding Board Marketing & Communication’s mission is to increase public confidence in public education and improve opportunities for education non-profit organizations to suc
ceed through proactive communication and marketing.

Values: Sounding Board Marketing & Communications believes in collaboration, respect, professionalism, honesty
and integrity, and delivering high quality results to every client.

Philosophy: The name “Sounding Board” has two meanings: the client is the expert for their organization; and the consultant is the sounding board upon which the client can have their ideas and expertise translated into messages that will resonate with their audiences. Sounding Board Marketing & Communications spends time listening to its clients, then brings forward ideas to address the client’s needs, collaborates with the client throughout the project, and develops and implements results-oriented, effective and successful strategies that bring measurable results and outcomes.

Over the past few months, I had an opportunity to test Sounding Board’s brand, and I learned quite a few things. One of the most important things I learned is that while Sounding Board’s brand encompasses its mission, values and philosophy, these elements by themselves do not define my company’s brand. Ironically, I tell my clients this all of the time—but, as an emerging business owner several years ago, I leaned on these to define my brand while I let my business take shape. I took my time to find out what differentiates my business from others. I listened to my clients’ feedback on my services, and began focusing on what I do best for them. I studied my competitors—and reaffirmed that the work and outcomes I deliver to my clients are not only outstanding, but also an incredible deal.

In 2009, I was transitioning from an employee to a consultant. Eight years later, my consulting practice has guided school districts, county offices of education and non-profits to incredible outcomes that have increased enrollment, public trust, passed bond measures, increased membership numbers and more.

So what is Sounding Board’s brand?

Impeccable, clear, and timely customer service: Clients receive the best of care, timely responses, and clear communication of deliverables throughout the course of any contract. I never want any client to ask, “When will this be done?” I always ensure that clients know what, how and when deliverables will be completed, and strive to meet or beat your deadlines.

High quality, creative, powerful and captivating messaging and marketing: Your schools, your district, your program or organization are unique. I capture the best assets of your organization and I partner with some of the best and cost-effective graphic designers, website developers and videographers to deliver creative print and online media and videos that rival those of more expensive firms. Cost-effective doesn’t have to look or sound cheap.

Authentic guidance…with the right dose of humbleness: My clients seek my expertise—and I deliver that expertise with a thoughtful leadership approach. It’s why I named my business “Sounding Board”—I respect your knowledge, expertise and experience with your organization. I know I haven’t lived in your specific organization, and I will always take a thoughtful approach in developing strategies, public relations and promotional approaches that take your input, feedback, and organizational culture into consideration.

Results-driven: You hired me for a reason and with specific outcomes in mind. Whether you’re seeking to boost enrollment, increase engagement, reputation management or more, I will strive to achieve the results that you are envisioning for your organization.

Best and most ethical practices: As a professional who has earned an Accreditation in Public Relations, I am demonstrating my mastery of strategic communications practice and my commitment to lifelong learning and ethical standards. Attaining this valuable distinction is a professional achievement exhibited through successful completion of a peer-evaluation readiness process, successful completion of a rigorous exam and ongoing commitment to the development of other practitioners.

Nimble and Indispensable: Being a small business, I take on enough clients to keep Sounding Board sustainable…but also keep myself nimble and indispensable to avail myself to anything my clients need.

We are in an era of choice and challenges…it doesn’t mean that school districts, county offices of education and established or emerging non-profits should flounder. There are incredible opportunities to shine a bright light on how your organizations are the schools and organizations of choice for your stakeholders. It’s why Napa Valley Unified School District, Redwood City School District, Align Capital Region, Associated General Contractors of California and others have chosen Sounding Board to resonate their messages.

Thanks for supporting Sounding Board over the past eight years—I look forward to working with you in the future.

To Your Success,


About Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan increases public confidence in public education and improves opportunities for non-profit organizations to succeed through proactive communication and marketing. She provides strategic marketing and communication services that exceed her clients’ unique goals and delivers results that motivate audiences to act, change, and/or otherwise change behaviors for a greater good.

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