Re-Branding a Writers Conference One Step at a Time

West Coast Christian Writers logoWhen there’s a turnover in leadership, it’s not uncommon for a business to change its mission, its primary customer, its services and products – even its name.

During the last decade, I’ve coached many people who have expanded their brand or entirely reinvented it.

Since February 2014, I’ve served as part of a team that is re-branding a Christian writers conference.

Today, I’ll share the progress we’re making and invite you to adapt our strategies for your own business, should you be considering re-branding.

Background

After 20 years of directing the Christian Writers Seminar, a 1.5-day conference in Castro Valley, CA, pastor Jon Drury retired and moved to God’s County (Washington State, where I live). He handed the reins of the conference directorship to five eager volunteers: Susy Flory, Carrie Dameron, Cheri Gregory, Kathi Lipp, and me.

Since we knew the 2015 conference would be moving to a new venue, we decided that now would be the optimal time to make major changes to the conference. We wanted to build on the elements that made the Christian Writers Seminar successful: the safe environment for writers to learn more about the craft, to network with like-minded writers and to join critique groups that would provide nurture and support year-round.

Mission, Vision, Name

As we refined our mission and vision, we did so with the future in mind. We asked:

  • What do we hope this conference will look like in five years? Ten years?
  • What policies and procedures should we put in place now to help the people who will take over our board positions in the future?
  • Who is our ideal conference attendee?
    • Female or male?
    • Where do they live?
    • How much writing or publishing experience do they have?
    • How much can they afford to pay for a writing conference?
    • How far will they travel to get to our conference?

We renamed the organization West Coast Christian Writers to reflect our commitment to reaching writers from B.C., Canada to Southern California. We purchased http://westcoastchristianwriters.com/ for our website’s domain name and set up business pages on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ with our brand name.

After picking the brains of other writers conference directors to learn what does and doesn’t work, we revamped the conference curriculum. The 2015 West Coast Christian Writers Conference will feature a keynoter (Kathi Lipp) plus four 4-hour intensive tracks, each led by a gifted instructor and assisted by freelance writers.

This will give conferees the opportunity to dig deep into an area that most interests them, and to make quality connections with others in their track as well as with their expert instructor.

Our tracks include:

  1. Fiction Writing with Ginny Yttrup
  2. Non-Fiction Writing with Bill Giovannetti
  3. Fastrack to Publication with Marci Seither
  4. Speaking and Platform (speaker TBA)

Since the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most technologically-savvy regions of the world, we’ll use technology in creative ways throughout the conference. We’ll feature several TED-style talks –- short presentations intended to instruct and inspire.

The Visual Brand

After looking at numerous writers conference websites, we concluded that most of them are ugly, outdated, and difficult to navigate.

We wanted our website to look fresh, fun and inviting. We wanted to make it easy for people to register for the conference via their tablet, smartphone, or desktop computer. And we wanted the website to be able to grow with us.

For the “fun factor,” we opted for a hand-illustrated header that’s bright, bold, and completely different than we’ve seen on other writers conference websites. Our header boldly introduces our new brand and captures the essence of the Bay Area.

There’s a subliminal message in our website header – we hope that people will be reminded that the Bay Area offers a ton of fun stuff to do – and that they’ll decide to bring a friend or spouse with them to the conference and then spend an extra day or two (or three) playing tourist.

(Click header to view full size):

In addition to the header, we designed a more traditional, simplified logo for use on brochures, coffee mugs, t-shirts, fridge magnets – you name it. The logo is configured two ways: horizontal (landscape) and square.

West Coast Christian Writers logo - rectangular

The Website

As this new conference evolves, its website will also evolve. Because we changed the name of the conference, we launched a “starter” website so we could begin promoting our brand.

The Blogging Bistro team created this “one-page” website that includes only the essentials:

  1. Conference date
  2. Venue
  3. Theme
  4. Keynoter
  5. About Us
  6. Newsletter Signup
  7. Links to Social Networks
  8. Conference Registration Form

A one-page website like this one is an inexpensive way to get a “temporary” website online in a short amount of time. It’s also perfect for new brands that have a minimal amount of content to put on their website.

This website uses responsive design technology, meaning that it functions perfectly on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

(Click image to view full size):

As the details for the conference unfold, this “one-page” site will morph into a full-featured site with multiple pages that detail the conference schedule, instructors, contests, scholarships, lodging, restaurants, and more.

E-Mail Marketing

We debated whether to add a blog to our website. I’m a huge proponent of blogging, but after analyzing many writers’ conference websites and seeing lots of “dead” blogs, we decided that e-mail marketing would be the best use of our resources at this stage.

Building on the e-mail list we already have from previous conferences, we will gradually acquaint subscribers with our new brand and provide incentives to motivate people to register early for the 2015 conference.

To further enhance our visual brand identity, we designed a header for our e-newsletter. We feature the subscription form on the website and on the Facebook page.

WCCW Links

I hope you’ll consider attending the 2015 West Coast Christian Writers Conference – I feel confident it’s going to be a fantastic experience!

If you love to write and want to receive some fantastic tips, I invite you to sign up for our WRITE BRAVE newsletter.

While you’re at it, join our social networking community for writers:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/westcoastchristianwriters

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/wccwriters/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wccwriters

Google+: https://plus.google.com/113188979479531209685/about

Thinking of Re-Branding? Need a One-Page Website?

We’d love to help! The Blogging Bistro team specializes in brand identity development and in building custom, self-hosted WordPress websites.

We are committed to providing a high-degree of personalized service throughout the website development process, so we take on a limited number of new website projects each month. As a result, we are almost always booked four months in advance.

If you’re thinking of launching a new website in 2015, NOW is the time to reserve a spot on our production calendar. Contact Laura Christianson at info@bloggingbistro.com to schedule your free, no-obligation needs assessment.

  • Mindy

    This is genius! I love how your conference is implementing all the strategies you advise writers to take. You’re showing, not just telling. 🙂 And, of course, you know now I want to come to a conference…

  • Mindy

    This is genius! I love how your conference is implementing all the strategies you advise writers to take. You’re showing, not just telling. 🙂 And, of course, you know now I want to come to a conference…

  • Thanks, Mindy. I do hope you’ll plan to attend the 2015 WCCW conference!

  • Thanks, Mindy. I do hope you’ll plan to attend the 2015 WCCW conference!

  • Karen

    The simplified logos are stunning! Great job.

  • Karen

    The simplified logos are stunning! Great job.

  • Thanks, Karen. I’ll pass your comment along to our graphic designer.

  • Thanks, Karen. I’ll pass your comment along to our graphic designer.

  • LOVE what God is doing, Laura. It’s going to be a wonderful event for so many. Heading off to share it now.

  • LOVE what God is doing, Laura. It’s going to be a wonderful event for so many. Heading off to share it now.

  • I hope you’ll attend the conference, Joanne! I think it’s going to be excellent. We have a superb lineup of speakers. Thanks for sharing!

  • I hope you’ll attend the conference, Joanne! I think it’s going to be excellent. We have a superb lineup of speakers. Thanks for sharing!

  • Patrick Craig

    For your one page website, might I suggest a parallax design – I’ve been using the Jarvis and Arvada themes to build pages for clients. They are fully responsive and make fantastic use of graphics.

  • Patrick Craig

    For your one page website, might I suggest a parallax design – I’ve been using the Jarvis and Arvada themes to build pages for clients. They are fully responsive and make fantastic use of graphics.

  • Thanks, Patrick. I’ll check them out.

  • Thanks, Patrick. I’ll check them out.

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