For Mother’s Day, I flew down to visit my son in San  Francisco.  He shares an apartment with his buddy in North Beach and given my Italian heritage, it’s a place that feels like coming home.  It’s an authentic neighborhood, with café shops and Italian bakeries, where I heard Italian spoken among the local residents. At every corner, the Italian flag, tri-colors of green, white and red, are  prominently striped on the utility poles, letting me know in a simple way that I was in a special place.

In  the  piazza next to St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral , I watched elderly Italian men gesturing with their hands as they watched the community wake up, this Sunday morning.   A small group of elderly Chinese residents practiced Tai Chi.  It was real and I felt a part of the community.  I stopped with my cappuccino in hand and lingered, wanting to participate in the vitality of the neighborhood.

A little later, I continued my walk down to Fisherman’s wharf, only about 8 blocks away.  I was overwhelmed with tourists—and I felt no connection.  People with cameras, accompanied by bored children, browsed the shops and waited in line for the ferry to take them to Sausalito or Alcatraz.  Unlike my early morning adventure in North Beach, these people were tourists… sampling the sights but not stopping long enough to experience the sense of place- an historic fishing market. In fact, there was nothingto truly make them pause, dig deeper and enjoy and relish the waterfront legacy and story.

And I thought about how often as organizations we attract “tourists” to our website , who may engage briefly with us, drawn to our “brightness”, but then they move on, without connecting   to our core story.    We lose an opportunity to engage with them because we do not present ourselves in a simple and authentic way that resonates with a pure purpose .  Rather like Fisherman’s Wharf, we draw them with a multitude of sensations, sights, smells, bright lights and noises, that give us a brief look, but then we are on to the next shiny thing.    Simply stated, we inundate our stakeholders with too much information, overwhelming them with words, program descriptions, dull imagery that are not clean and simple, but rather complex and confusing.

So today, let’s try to be simple and clean with our branding and messaging.  Let’s try to be authenitic and real and create a sense of place and story like that of North Beach.  Let’s create engagement and connection following these two principles:

1.       Shareahistory that creates curiosity, interest and the desire to learn more

2.     Ensure every touchpoint with the organization, from an interaction with a staff member, to a press release about the company, creates a singular and differentiating message and sense of place about WHO you are and WHERE you came from.

And of course as we mention frequently in our blogs:

1.       Eliminate unnecessary words from  your  website and collateral

2.       Create a manifesto that states the truth about your purpose

3.       Clean up collateral, with consistency of brand that makes it simple to connect