8 Tips for Rebranding an Association or Conference

ILEA ISES rebranding association|Jodi Collen ILEA

Rebranding is simply a part of life for many associations and organizations, as the need to evolve with changing times and stay current becomes even more important. Yet the larger the membership and the more local chapters your association has, the more difficult it can be. Jodi Collen, CSEP, international immediate past-president of the International Live Events Association (ILEA) has been actively involved with rebranding her association, formerly the International Special Events Society (ISES), over the last year. She shares her tips for making the process more efficient. 

1. Work with attorneys who have experience with patents and trademarks.

“Finding a name that is ‘trademarkable’ is hard. For us, the name wasn’t so much the issue, but authorization for a shortened acronym someone else in the industry wasn’t already using. Our attorneys told us we could absolutely not move forward with using the new name in communications until we had the authorization papers in our hands from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”

2. Plan ahead as much as you can.

“We were fortunate that we had started the trademark process through USPTO on our new name [ILEA] quite a while ago because we had been doing business as that in the Middle East for a year and a half or so. They told us it takes, at minimum, a year, and up to three years to get something through.”

3. Communicate often with members throughout the process.

“The name change was incredibly emotional for our members, so we wanted to give them as much info as we could so they would feel like progress was being made. I sent direct communication to our entire membership saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing; here’s what we’re not doing; here’s what you can expect next; and this is when we’ll communicate with you again.’”

4. Make the big announcement.

“We filmed a five-minute video that talked about why we changed, what we were changing to and all the details they needed to know on a big-picture level. We sent out notifications to all our members and the media that we’d be making this announcement at noon May 2 on YouTube, and invited them to tune in.”

5. Keep energy positive.

“We’re focused on building energy around how much opportunity there is with the new name, which we feel gives us more longevity. We didn’t talk about the extremist group in the video at all. People asked us, ‘Why aren’t you talking about the elephant in the room?’ I said, ‘Do I really have to say it?’ At our annual conference in August, [we did] a big celebration of the name change.”

6. Accept that you’ll encounter some problems.

“Changing our social media was probably the most complicated. Somebody a long time ago started a private group on Facebook called ISES, but nobody is listed as an admin, so we can’t get it closed. We’ve tried reaching out to Facebook, been in chat rooms, tried everything. It’s daunting.”

7. Learn to love lists.

“When you start asking, ‘Where are all the places we need to change?’ it’s like a rabbit hole. You can’t ever get a complete list of all the stuff that needs to be done. You can’t just find and replace.”

8. Keep your core team small.

“Having a nimble, small operating team was valuable to us. Big committees slow down and complicate processes a lot. We kept our team to about three people doing the vast majority of day-to-day work.”

Photo credit: Lisa Hause Photography