The following is the 18th in the series "Live Your Brand" in which branding expert Melanie Spring takes us along on her three-week road trip across the country to meet innovative entrepreneurs whose experiences offer lessons learned to businesses big and small.
Branding is all about telling a good story and nonprofits have an edge on this storytelling tool. Many nonprofits are created from a story of change, growth or pain and telling that story compels people to give their time and/or money to the cause. Love146 is no different.
The organization is on a mission to abolish slavery and end child trafficking and exploitation with love and resources. From survivor care to professional prevention education, Love146 helps survivors reenter the outside world and teaches children how to keep away from being trafficked.
Rob Morris, along with his co-founder, started Love146 after visiting Asia on a trip to learn more about child trafficking. They found themselves standing shoulder to shoulder with predators in a small room of a posh hotel basement looking at little girls through a pane of glass. All of the girls sat blankly watching cartoons in little red dresses with numbers pinned to their their chests for identification. There was no light in their eyes, no life left. Except one girl. Her number was 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring out at us with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. Although it was too early to step in and do anything, her passion and rage stayed with them after their visit. This girl’s fight is the foundation for Love146’s fight.
Building a brand of love around a movement to end pain and suffering has been part of their drive from day one and here’s how they’ve accomplished it one step at a time.
1. Create standards and live them. Children are the main focus of Love146’s mission, and the organization wants to be sure they are not treated unfairly just because of their age and stature. Although they could use wording and imagery that would evoke pain and pull at your heartstrings, they have developed strict policies for allowing children to keep their humanity. This also falls in line with their positive brand focus.
These standards include no photography from a high angle or with pity or condescension. Instead, they look the child in the face. Also, Love146 steers clear of terms like "lost innocence," "defenselessness," "hopelessness" and "helplessness." Taking this as seriously as they do allows you to take them seriously. Humanity is love, a statement that drives the mission of Love146.
2. Form partnerships with people that share the same brand values. To connect with people, Love146 has learned that listening is their greatest tool, and they’ve got it down pat.
Through asking the right questions and listening carefully, Love146 found out that the rescued children needed a place to go after they had been removed from slavery. So Love146 set up a safe haven called Round Home in the Philippines with trained, qualified caregivers to assist survivors with reintegration. Providing them with aftercare and even after-after care for the next three to 30 years, allows them to keep in touch with these girls and women as the continue to heal.
“Trafficking is different in each culture and we’re working on how best to engage the girls in the US,” says Love146 designer Marilyn de Guehery. “We don’t want to duplicate efforts, just reinforce them. Partnering with similar organizations helps us do that and stay true to our values.”
3. Find people who live your brand. Love146 is not just a safe haven for abducted children but a place that attracts employees with both passion and expertise. Finding those with knowledge of the facts and issues surrounding child trafficking and coupling them with people who have a fiery passion for ending the injustice has allowed Love146 to grow their presence in both the US and the UK. Self-identified abolitionists are drawn to this growing organization because as de Guehery explains, “seeing and working in this is what my life is about.”
This passion is what drives them, but they also have to keep a positive attitude. Staying upbeat is a big deal and Love146 only hires people who have a sense of humor. Their office is a goofy place where they play pranks on each other.
“We laugh a lot,” de Guehery states. “We have to keep kicking and make things happen. It’s fulfilling to be in a place where we can do that.”
Besides being an uplifting work environment, Love146 is a thinking office. They like to chew through ideas and ask themselves if they should change how they do things and consider all perspectives. They all come to the table as learners.
4. Use social media to educate and be a light. With Twitter, Love146 creates personal connections through @Love146 and @RobLove146. Their tweets of inspirational updates, common myths about trafficking and information about their supporters provides a great platform for engaging with the community.
Love146 started a separate Twitter handle called @Overheardat146 to post practical jokes, pranks and passionate yet provocative shirt designs. “You can’t bodysurf social media. You have to have a strategy but know that you have to ride the waves with the trends,” tells de Guehery.
Facebook focuses on updates to programs while also providing an outlet to build their "humanity" branding strategy including posts on about how “invisible” and “voiceless” aren’t appropriate words to use for children.