“Brand public relations” – is it an oxymoron? Some say that PR builds reputation, while marketing actually boosts brands. But in reality, the two work in concert….kind of like brick and mortar. There are many ways to use classic PR strategies to add depth, color, and cohesion to the building blocks of brand identity. Here are some of the best.
Yes, “big data” is a buzzword that’s overused in our business, but what some companies don’t realize is that even small amounts of data can be useful for a PR outreach to media and influencers like analysts. An e-commerce client of ours recently noticed that millennials represent their largest and fastest-growing customer segment. That simple fact, backed by the right data and company history, qualifies them to build content and create speaking platforms around what they’ve learned about marketing to millennials. It’s one of several differentiators we can use to help them stand out.
Storytelling is another overused term, but at its core, it means packaging information into meaningful and entertaining narratives to forge stronger emotional bonds with customers. And the best stories aren’t just splashy entrepreneurial chronicles, like Steve Jobs’ life or Richard Branson’s latest exploits. The most persuasive might be closer to home; they can be customer testimonials, community happenings, or employee exploits.
Employees, in fact, can be both a rich source of stories and a powerful channel through which to tell them. One of our clients is a company that has landed on a few “Best Places To Work” lists, but they wanted to gain more visibility for their commitment to workplace wellness. When we placed a local newspaper story about an employee who lost 50 pounds and regained her health with the help of the fitness and wellness resources available to her at work, it added depth and credibility to the client’s reputation. Who wouldn’t want to work there?
To be strong, a brand promise must be credible. The essence of good PR is having someone else talk about your brand rather than the company itself. The third-party endorsement – either implied or explicit – is often very effective, sometimes more so than paid media. It helps when the publicity results include “proof points” that reinforce a brand proposition or identity. A customer testimonial is an obvious example, but third-party endorsement can also come with content sharing and social media community-building.
Staking out a position on a topical or important issue and offering insights or ideas can yield far-reaching brand benefits. When Starbucks’ Howard Schultz weighs in on marriage equality, or Sheryl Sandberg urges us to “lean in,” it’s more powerful than a corporate reputation campaign. It’s an example of thought leadership around a key issue relevant to many customers that has nothing to do with coffee or social networking. Yet, I’d argue that it has a strong impact on the brands attached.
“Education” can mean campaigns that look to change behavior for reasons of public interest, like anti-smoking programs or the wireless industry’s #itcanwait campaign against texting and driving. One of our clients, McGraw Hill Federal Credit Union, has embraced a campaign around financial wellness. It sponsors a series of Financial Learning Seminars, underwrites research about the cost of financial stress in the workplace; and raises funds for financial wellness causes.