“Branding” Your Family
This idea of a family brand foundation is something I’ve been mulling over for the past year, so I hope that if you try it you will share your experience and its effectiveness with me!
Full disclosure: I come from a background of graphic design so I’m very familiar with creating and helping organizations realize their brand foundations but I have no background in family counselling — and only my experience with my own growing family is evidence to the test of this.
After having a baby, there are a lot of things that change, of course, but one of the biggest changes may be in the way you and your partner act (or want to act) as a family. What kind of values do you want to instill in your offspring? What character traits do you hope they grow into? ‘Leading by action’ is a wonderful way to set the right impression no matter the age of your child(ren) but sometimes it can be tough to get everyone on the same page or tough to see why certain actions may not fit with your values in the grand scheme of things. I think a Family “Brand” Foundation might be just the thing to get the whole family on board.
If you get a chance to try it, please let me know what you think.
You may see the word “brand” and automatically think “But I don’t want a logo for my family.” Well, let’s get this straight right off the bat. A brand is not a logo.
Why is having a brand relevant to raising my family?
In the correct use of the term, a brand is really the essence or the promise of an organization — what are the intangible things that make them what they are? For example, when you think Mercedes you might think “luxury” whereas when you think of Kia you might think of “economical”.
So as a family, what kinds of intangible words or feelings do you want to describe you? Honest? Neat? Adventurous?
What is a Brand Foundation?
Simply put, a brand foundation is a one-page internal document that outlines an organization’s Core Purpose, Mission, Vision, Values, and Character. It helps everyone in the company — from the CEO to even the maintenance staff — embody the essence of the organization and when this happens it works like a domino effect where eventually the brand is outwardly represented in everything that comes from the organization. From the products and services they provide to the experiences they are inevitably a part of in the lives of consumers. Every single touchpoint should be a representation of the organization’s brand, which comes from a well-articulated the brand foundation.
As a family, I know I would have more peace of mind knowing that I’ve sent our kids off to school already having had a discussion about our family values so that in difficult situations in the playground, they will have this foundation in the backs of their minds to draw from.
How do I create my Family Foundation?
This is something that really has to come to fruition with the voices of a unified group. With major organizations it’s common to work with a core team of decision-makers who have the final say in the creation of the doc, but all employees have to have a chance to weigh-in to the creation of this very important core document.
As moms, we often act as the CEO of the family, making day-to-day executive decisions on the fly because we know what’s good for us and we have everyone’s best interest in mind — usually above and beyond our own. But think of it this way: this Family Foundation will act to articulate the principles of your family — something to live and breathe by. So though you are very important to your family, it should have the approval and the voice of every member of the family in it. It’s gotta represent and resonate with everyone in your family. This makes it easier for everyone to believe in and act out the essence — making it go from words to reality.
Use this key structure to make your own foundation. Keep reading to see how I recommend you do it. And if you scroll all the way down you’ll see an example Family Foundation to give you an idea of what yours will look like.
Family Core: Why we exist; what makes us a family?
Come up with a statement about what makes you a family. Really distill it down to a definition of what makes you come together. (1 short sentence)
Family Vision: Where we are going and how we will know when we get there?
Set a marker 10 or 20 years down the road. Where do you see yourselves? Revisit this marker in 5 years and see if you’ve made it yet. Feel free to adjust as a family as time passes. (1 short aspirational sentence)
Family Mission: What do you do everyday, as individuals and as a family, to achieve your Family Vision?
Think about the concrete things that you do. Doesn’t have to be specific, but it does have to reflect real things that you do or that you can do everyday of your lives. (1-2 sentences)
Family Values: What do we believe in?
Come up with a list of declarations. Each bullet can be a representation of your beliefs. Are you religious? Is there a belief system that you live by? Try to begin each declaration with a verb ie: We believe… We help… We support… (list 5-7 short declarations)
Family Character Traits: How do we act? What’s our voice?
If your family were a character, what words would describe it? Is your family Fun, Sporty, and Messy? Or is your family Quiet, Compassionate, and Charitable? (list 5-7 descriptive character traits)
- I recommend that you make it a fun workshop over dinner one day or get it started in an email and pass it back and forth for a week to see what you and the family come up with.
- In the beginning try not to refine too much. Use the first little while to just let the ideas flow and get your thoughts on paper. Use the age-old improv rule “Yes, and…” As in, there are no wrong answers so don’t shut any ideas down. Everyone has a say at the table (even your gurgling 11-month old!) and if you think you hear an idea that sounds ridiculous don’t say no. Instead say, “Yes,” write it down and then follow-up with another idea “…and ___!” As a family, make the lists long and exhaust all ideas.
- At this point it might be good to take a break. Let everyone mull it over for a day or a week and come back to it with clear heads.
- Now you can start to trim back the lists. Cut out things that are repetitive. Reword and fuse together ideas to make it come together. (Sometimes it may be your son or daughter or partner who might be better at the editing and that’s okay as long as everyone’s ideas are represented on the page. Play to the strengths of the individuals in your family and make sure everyone feels included.)
- Finally, you’ll whittle it down to a really concise one-page foundational document that everyone is on board with. (This might take a couple tries and that’s okay too!)
Note: The Family Foundation is not set in stone, but it might be pretty close. You don’t want to be changing it every day, but you definitely want to evolve it over time because growing families are allowed to have an evolving mission and values too.
Benefits of the Family Foundation
Once you’re finished, share it with your family members so that everyone has access to it and tack it up on your fridge or somewhere that everyone can see it as a daily reminder of what makes you a family.
It’s not only a great exercise to bring everyone together, a Family Foundation can be a great reminder of how to act in tough situations; it can be a litmus test to see if the charity you donated to is a good representation of your family values; it can even help strengthen your relationship with your partner if you can both agree to a decision based on the words and thoughts in your Family Foundation. You can even assign your kids the role of “Foundation Guard” every month so that they have a role in making sure that everyone plays by the rules of your Family Foundation.
Don’t feel like your Family Foundation is something that needs to be broadcast throughout social media. Your family’s version can be completely private — it is unique to you after all and you may not want to give away the recipe to your special sauce! The purpose of this exercise is to bring your family together under the same set of core values and principles. So really, you’ll each be walking-talking versions of your Family Foundation.
Download a Sample
Just so you have an example and some help to create your own version, I’ve created a sample Family Foundation to show you how it should look once finished. Download it here and if you’re sharing it please be sure to link back to this original blog post so that people can learn how to do it for themselves.
And as always, let me know how it goes and what you think!