THESE DAYS, it seems the guidelines and regulations around meeting planning are changing faster than the price of gas! With so much uncertainty, it's tempting to fall into a reactive state. Commercial supporters are unsure of themselves, and everyone around us seems to offer advice about how to change to accommodate the newest trends.

In this environment, it's important to remember what a brand is all about — what your brand represents. A brand is so much more than a name. It tells a story. It paints a picture of who you are and what you stand for. It creates a feeling of connection between you, your customers, your vendors, your associates, and your commercial supporters. In times of change, your brand becomes the stable bridge linking your customers back to you.

The people who depend on you are feeling just as much trepidation about the changes in our industry as you are. Now is the time to get out there and remind people why they chose to work with you in the past — and why they'll want to stick with you in the future. If you start playing with your brand — changing your name, updating a logo, or putting out new brochures or a fancy Web site that represents a radical departure from times past — you create confusion in the minds of people who thought they “knew” you. You will do nothing to reassure your constituents, and you may lose sight of what you represent as a company, an association, or consultant.

Proactive Positioning

Your brand should be a solid foundation on which to build the rest of your communications. Let's take the fictional case of “CME Superstars Inc.” That company will want to maintain the core principles of its brand: It does CME meetings, and it is really good at it. Where it can make a new impact is in positioning to appeal to its current constituents' concerns.

For example, many commercial supporters are unsure of how the new regulations will affect their program participation. They may feel more secure if “CME Superstars Inc.” executes a promotional campaign to highlight its expertise and knowledge of the new regulations. This can help alleviate perceived pressure on the company's commercial supporters and remind them why they like to work with CME Superstars Inc.

CME Superstars might create promotional pieces that talk about its exemplary performance with the Accreditation Council for CME, or focus on its high marks from physician attendees for avoiding perceived conflicts of interest. But the company should stay true to its core principals, its story, and its brand. CME Superstars Inc. may be a consistent recipient of ACCME exemplary status, they may even put themselves out there as a guiding light in times of confusion, but those positioning statements won't change who they are at a fundamental level: CME Superstars Inc. will always be the company that does CME meetings and is really good at it. Everything about its brand — the logo, the look and feel, even the tone of a promotional piece — should echo that brand promise.

In times of change, we have the opportunity to remind our constituents who we are and what we represent. Hearing from a familiar partner in the world of CME can do wonders to reinforce ties during a period of uncertainty. Take the time to reach out to your key constituents: attendees, commercial supporters, vendors, and even promotional partners, and remind them of what makes your company unique. What makes your brand sizzle? Why is it that people can always depend on you, even when things seem uncertain? Take the time to remind them. Your brand is well worth the effort.

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, a global medical communications consulting agency, in Arlington, Mass. You can contact her at good