Not read part one? Catch up here

A rebrand isn’t something you knock off on your own in an afternoon with a notebook and a packet of felt tips. It needs time, and a talented team.

I carved out time for members of my team to work on the project, and made sure to draw in people with experience and expertise beyond design: project managers, editors, technical experts, and company leadership.

Half the battle is translating their vision for the company, and the values they want to put across, into words and images.

I took the lead, setting the vision, running the workshops and managing the process with internal stakeholders.

My very talented colleague Kai delivered the artwork, creating individual design elements and working up concepts for testing, with ideas and advice from Jacob and Alex.

The first workshop was a classic kick off, and about ideas, tone of voice, personality. We thought a lot about our audience, too – what do they want from us? This process got people putting into words what they felt in their guts and gave us something concrete to work from. (The challenge at this stage is keeping it conceptual – avoid talking colours, logos or design at this stage.)

There was a parallel process on content and marketing strategy – what do we want to say, to whom, and when do we need to be saying it? This series of blog posts is a result of that, for example, because one of the principles we latched on to was honesty.

Finally, having resisted the temptation of my happy place for so long, we got down to design. In this workshop we covered the journey we’d been on as an organisation and how that had affected our approach to design in the past. I wanted to find out what people liked and disliked about the brand in visual terms, and which words should pop into their heads when they think about the brand. I got them to bring examples of websites and brands they really liked as prompts for discussion.

There was a lot of back-and-forth, some vigorous disagreements, and occasional mind-melting debates over specific words and their meanings, but we got there.

All this work helped us pin down PracticeWeb’s new identity, which we then boiled down to a few key statements, as follows.

Leveling up

We want to say to existing clients, don’t worry, we’re the same people you’ve worked with for years, with the same values and passion for helping accountants, and we’ll still be doing a lot of the great thing we used to do before.

But we also want them, and prospective new clients, to understand that we’ve grown more ambitious, and have bigger, better, smarter ideas.

Why should people want to work with us? Because we don’t just make them a website – anyone can do that – but instead get to the heart of our clients’ needs, and the needs of their clients, to drive the growth of the firms we work with.

(At this point in the process, I started finding myself underlining the word ‘growth’, so hold that thought.)

How do we work? We use insight (from our long experience, from research, and from clients themselves) to help accountants position themselves in the market with a strategy that meets the communications needs of the people they want to work with. This is about focusing on personas and the ‘buyer journey’ – where are people in the decision-making process, and how can we drive them to choose the accountancy firms we work with?

This represents a massive change from where we had been in the past. We were supplying ever better content and seeing it dropped into underwhelming websites where it failed to achieve its potential. Websites should be communications tools for achieving specific objectives – not glittering baubles to be looked at once on launch day and then forgotten.

What do we do? For all the ambition, we kept this simple: we produce high-quality content, websites and digital marketing.

Who do we work with? This is at the heart of the change, really: we used to work with everyone, but now we want to narrow the focus, concentrating on people we can make really, really happy. People who want ambitious ideas and high quality, rather than people who are after cheap, quick and basic.

How do we sound? When people are representing PracticeWeb at conferences, on the phone, on social media, or in writing, is there a consistency to the voice? And is it a voice people want to hear?

The answer is that we want to sound credible, confident, honest and personal. What that means in practice is that when we talk to clients or potential clients they get specific, intelligent advice, backed up by evidence and process, that they can act on to make a difference to the performance of their business.

It also means, in some cases, challenging people more than we might have done in the past: if this is what you client wants, and that is what you want to achieve, then you need to do this.

How do we look? Our old colour pallete was, frankly, small and muted, which meant everything we did ended up looking washed out, dreary and uninspiring – the complete opposite of how we feel, and certainly not the image we wanted to have. I knew we need to be bolder, brighter, and stand out.

In part three I’ll be talking about how we took all the information from workshops and developed it into a real brand.

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