Happy Returns: The story of how an extraordinary organisation brought its message home.
Setting The Scene: A Long Way From Home
It all began, like many great stories do, with one person resolving to make a difference. Barbara O’Connell’s determination to help her brother Peter find a supportive living environment after his brain injury, resulted in her setting up Acquired Brain Injury Ireland in 2000.
Since then, ABI Ireland had grown into a hard working and successful organisation responding on a nationwide basis to people living with an acquired brain injury by providing them with a range of pioneering, flexible and tailor-made services.
When Barbara invited Gerard to help her and her team at ABI Ireland, the organisation was already growing year on year and was supporting hundreds of people with an ABI. But something was holding them back. The team was struggling to communicate the extraordinary depth and breadth of experience that ABI Ireland brings to tackling the challenges clients and their families faced. They needed to find a way to present the story of what they do in a way that is both compelling and true in order to reach and influence their target audiences.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
In order to help tell the story, Gerard first listened to the stories of clients and their families and those that care for them in various services around the country. During his visits and his review of case stories, he heard heart-breaking experiences of confusion, loneliness and frustration, as well as uplifting accounts of reconnection, peace of mind and lives reborn.
Here, he knew was the beating heart of the ABI Ireland brand but how to translate these shared experiences into words that would resonate with all the audiences ABI Ireland needed to reach?
Finding The Right Words
Through the stories Gerard heard and the research he conducted, he tried to imagine what it might be like to experience a brain injury and the often-devastating events and feelings that may follow. From the accounts he heard, a powerful metaphor came to mind; “I am in exile, a castaway, and have become a stranger to myself and those I love”.
Gerard suggested that this terrible sense of being a stranger in a strange land, coupled with the extraordinary work ABI Ireland does in reaching out to their clients at the moment when they are in the greatest distress so as to create a place for them to begin their journey home, should underpin all their messages.
Clients and their families, and those who care for them, confirmed that this new positioning matched perfectly their shared experiences, and Barbara and her team were delighted to sign-off on the new brand.
Gerard then developed the Key Message Framework and follow-on documents to guide all the written and verbal language needed to support the new brand.
Under the new brand direction, ABI Ireland would communicate primarily through the real-life stories they told, keeping their messages social rather than corporate. All resources and communications would reflect the reality of those who live with an acquired brain injury and the role that ABI Ireland plays in their lives.
Spreading The Good News
The first step Gerard recommended was to change the brand mark to reflect the work that ABI Ireland does in a more engaging and immediate way.
The result (designed by Create) is a bold and distinctive identity that, adopted for the first time at a recent ABI Ireland-hosted European Conference on Brain Injury and Sport, communicated much more immediately and effectively the vital and dynamic nature of their work, in the form of new connections made and in the making. Clients, families and colleagues loved the new identity, and were impatient to see more.
Now in the process of completely revamping their website and updating all their communication materials to reflect this new positioning, Barbara and her team are making sure the power of their story is communicated in everything they say and do.
“Because they spent time with us and our clients, Islandbridge really get what we are about as an organisation.
Thanks to them, we now have a distinctive brand that communicates with compassion and authority the vital role we play in the lives of our clients”
Barbara O’Connell, CEO And Founder
Project Leadership: Barbara O’Connell & Karen O’Boyle of ABI Ireland
Brand Direction: Gerard Tannam of Islandbridge
Visual Identity: Owen Barry of Create