I was doing some pro bono brand planning work a couple of years ago in Bedford Stuyvesant on a project called LUG, which stands for Living Urban Green, and learned a valuable lesson. LUG is a well-intended program, or subprogram, under the auspices of Bailey’s Café, a local community group. Stephanie Siegel and Kymbali Craig are the founders of Baily’s Café.
The LUG meeting was held at Paul Robeson High School and attended by the two founders and number of high schools kids. I was there to help. At least that was my intention. The vision for LUG, as explained by the kids was much greater than the name suggested. Bedford Stuyvesant is a community that does not have a lot of recycling emphasis. LUG was intended to change that. The words “living urban green” are descriptive and have a nice call-to-action. Part of the mission of LUG, however, was to clean up another element of environmental pollution: cursing, disrespect of women, disrespect of others. I loved this program. The founders loved it and the kids got the mission.
My problem was with the name. Internally we could make LUG mean anything we wanted, but externally, in fund raising, the project would seem recycling focused. I was pushing for narrowing the focus to hit recycling hard or to alter the name to reflect the bigger mission. My high schools students listened politely, but wondered about this interloper. Who is this guy who disagrees with the founders? Ms. Siegel and Craig understood my POV but were watching the kids and got caught up in their body language. (I didn’t see it. These kids were good.)
My branding observation may have been right, but I didn’t work the room very well. My corporate was showing. Strategy is important but you can’t truly communicate (sell) if you don’t work the room. Moreover, you can’t connect well when people are protective or defensive. Lesson learned. Bad planner. Peace.