Interview: Rebecca Walton

The head of brand at Unicef UK faces the daunting task of leading a team charged with revitalising the children's charity's image

Rebecca Walton
Rebecca Walton

Unicef put its UK brand under the spotlight earlier this year when it restructured its communications department.

The children's charity created a separate brand team, using new and existing staff, to try to revitalise its public image. Rebecca Walton, who previously worked in a brand role at Save the Children, was recruited to lead the team.

"Unicef is a really interesting brand and has been described as a sleeping giant," says Walton. "It has a huge heritage, works for a great cause and has great impact, but the organisation has realised that there is a challenge in the way the public perceives it. People recognise it, but it is not front of mind."

Walton says the charity needs to translate the history of the brand into something more current and improve its profile and relevance. She says it also needs to create more of an emotional impact.

"Unicef is seen as a rational brand - it's big, important and people respect it, but they don't have an emotional connection with it," says Walton. "But an emotional connection makes people respond, either by donating, becoming corporate partners or campaigning. It's strange because children are our cause and it should be easier to do this - but it's not. We need to show the unique impact that Unicef has."

Walton says her role covers three strands: her team must ensure that everyone working for Unicef understands and 'lives' the brand; she has to create all branding materials; and she is responsible for developing a more integrated marketing strategy.

"The brand needs to be at the centre of what we all do and we need to work in a more joined-up way," says Walton. "Fundraising, communications and corporate partnerships should not be segregated. They need to work together to deliver the same messages, so that we are saying the same thing whenever someone comes into contact with us."

This might seem a tall order, but Walton says the brand challenges facing charities are easier than those some commercial organisations must deal with, because charities already know what they stand for.

"That's the fantastic thing about working for a charity - that mission is already there," says Walton. "Some companies are forced to adopt missions in order to have something to believe in and sell to the public. They have learned the importance of having a mission from the third sector, while we have learned from them the value of investing in your brand."

Walton says the sector has realised the importance of having a brand, but that different charities have reached this point at different times.

"Organisations will know when it's right to start looking at their brands, although more are focusing on it now than ever before. It's evolving. Even now there is a movement away from command-and-control brand management to making it two-way. People are creating and owning brands through social media, and charities are reacting."

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