For this TNI Podcast, we interviewed Diane Wolferding of The Community Council of St. Charles County and the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project. Diane works actively with the Cinderella Project to collect, sell and give away new and gently used prom dresses each Spring. The Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project experienced great success in their first year and continues to experience continued growth and success due in part to their online branding and social media strategy. Diane shares branding tips and how the organization obtained success in such a short amount of time.
Watch the full podcast:
Liz: Hi, and welcome to the TNI podcast series. Where we interview web, social media, and interactive marketing professionals. Today we’re talking with Dianne Wolferding. Dianne is involved with both community council of St. Charles County in Missouri, and the Metro St. Louis Cinderella project, an organization that collects, sales and gives away gently used prom dresses every spring. Diane actively assists in bringing high profile recognition to the Cinderella Project, getting attention from local and regional news organizations, and, even, Seventeen magazine. Today she will tell her story and share her online brand and experience on this TNI podcast. Thanks so much for joining us Diane.
Diane: Thank you for having me.
Liz: We’re very excited to learn about everything you’ve been doing with Cinderella project. If you can just sort of start off by giving us a two minute history of how you’ve worked with the Cinderella Project and where it’s come since it started.
Diane: I’d be happy to. A couple of years ago, the community council of St. Charles County, which is our main non-profit organization, we were receiving phone calls from high schools, teachers, and counselors, calling us asking us if we knew anywhere high school girls could get prom dresses for little or nothing. There wasn’t anyone doing this in our area that we were aware of. So, some of the ladies within the office, started making some phone calls to friends of theirs, and started cleaning out closets. Within a couple of weeks, just through phone calls and e-mails, we had collected about a thousand dresses. This was a very grass roots project, we did it here in our offices, had the girls come in and try on dresses, and it was just very, very successful. We decided that this could really serve a need in our area, and at that point, we had to brand what we were doing. We liked the name Cinderella Project because it really explains what we’re doing, we’re giving girls that thought they would not be able to attend that big day in their high school lives the opportunity to go. Over the past two years that we’ve actually been branded as the Cinderella project we’ve had a huge calling for dresses, people wanting to donate, different organizations wanting to get involved with us. It’s very, very successful. We’ve served hundreds of girls that have come and received a free dress. We also give them hair do’s and makeovers, and all the little special things that any other girl would expect to have on the day of their prom.
Liz: If I’m not mistaken, one of the reasons that you’ve been so successful, is that you’ve continued to update the image and keep it fresh an innovative. When you are updating the image, what are some of the main branding objectives that you try to accomplish as you’re mapping out the new brand and new websites, new social networks, how does all that play in?
Diane: Our main target audience is girls from about the age of 16 to 20. These are girls that we’re trying to appeal to. Of course, social media is a very important part of what we do to get our word out. We wanted a youthful look to our website. We’re a non-profit organization and community council, so a lot of what we do is very serious, and has a lot of information, and we needed a website that would be easy for girls to find, easy for them to get on to find out whether or not they wanted to donate dresses, or find out where our boutique was going to be located, or even to volunteer. So, the look and the image had to be appealing to a young girl. Then we also wanted it to have a high end look, though. We didn’t want it to be like a second hand store type of image, we wanted something that looked professional and easy to find. Picking out our web domain was probably one of the biggest accomplishments, getting cinderellastl.com.
Liz: Was that a difficult URL to find? Were there a lot of other Cinderella based URLs?
Diane: There were a lot of Cinderella Projects, because there are people in other parts of the country that had that name, but we wanted to maintain the St. Louis area image, and we did go ahead and get .com and .org, .org from a 501c3 stand point, was beneficial for us, but for a girl who might be looking to donate a dress, or find out when one of our boutiques was going to be open, the .com was the way to go. Something that was easy to retain. Then the fight that we also wanted to keep our original name, which was Prom Dresses With a Purpose, but we kept that on our tag line, we used it a lot when we’re spreading the word or marketing this project, between Prom Dresses With a Purpose and the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project, we just always try to have that front and center on everything we do.
Liz: What was your biggest branding challenge that you faced while you were doing this project, or while you continually work on this project?
Diane: We chose creating awareness. This is something that a lot of girls have heard of. The idea of donating a prom dress, just keeping it front and center so they know where to find us. If they just go out and look for community council, that’s not a name their going to retain. Once they work with us we hope they know who we are as an over leading organization, but for someone, maybe a mother, or a daughter that’s wanting a prom dress, or girls in weddings that have gazillions of bridesmaids dresses, something that was easy to remember, that made sense, that was front and center in their mind that they could find us easily enough.
Liz: How did you use your website, or how did you use your Facebook page or your Twitter account, how did you use that to overcome that challenge? You’ve got taglines, you’ve got imagery, what were the top things that helped you overcome that challenge in your opinion.
Diane: I think a lot of it was getting it out in front. We have, really, three audiences, the girls and the mothers who donate dress in front of us, we have the girls that want to go to prom that can’t afford to go to prom and their parents, and then we have volunteers that want to come on board to help with project. So we had those three different categories of women that we’re trying to appeal to. So, of course, Facebook’s a great thing because we just had that third party recognition. Everyone talking about it, talking about how they’re clearing their closets out, or how they’ve come and volunteered and what a great project it is, we have girls that are posting photos of themselves in a dress that they got at our boutique. Facebook’s been a really, really important part of what we’re doing. A lot of our partners donate to us and send their employees over to volunteer; they’re spreading the word about it also. Then, we always pull it back to our website to get all of our information. It’s basically a whole line and everything they need to know on the website.
Liz: Well, Diane, we really appreciate you sharing your work with the project today and taking the time to talk with us and we wish you all the best of luck with the Cinderella Project in the future, and we hope that you experience great success using online tools and social media.
Diane: We love it. Thanks so much.
Liz: Thank you, Diane:
Diane: OK. Bye-bye.
Liz: Again, that was Diane Wolferding with the Community Council of St. Charles County and the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project. You can learn more about the Cinderella Project at www.cinderellaprojectstl.com or by visiting their Facebook fan page. I’m Liz, and thanks for joining us for another TNI podcast.