A Beautiful Noise: Five Tips for Better Brand PR Messaging

by guest blogger George Drucker

When it comes to brand public relations campaigns, consistent and compelling messaging can mean the difference between a successful PR campaign and an “also-ran.”

You have to make noise to be heard above the clutter. But that noise, in essence, your messaging, must be carefully, thoughtfully and creatively crafted so the end result is distinctive and unique to the brand.
So, how does a brand public relations team accomplish this? Here are five tips to consider:

Audit the brand for its best, most saleable points. Look at those aspects of its history or identity that help tell the brand’s story, and then get it into the most powerful words. Create “proof points” that demonstrate why your brand messages are true and authentic.

Be inclusive. I’ve had success hosting an ideation session to vet the best and most effective (i.e., memorable) brand messages. Consider every possible point of difference for every audience that’s relevant to the brand. Pay special attention to those areas where you can “plant the flag,” or offer an ownable selling proposition.

Filter. You then need to winnow down the great from the good from the bad, while still meeting the needs of every potential target. Ultimately cull down to the three or four points that best paint a clear, compelling and consistent picture of the brand.

Screen for the “4 C’s” to ensure that messages are effective. Vet each message point for the following: Is each clear and concise? Is the wording and imagery distinctive? Do the messages collectively convey a picture of and for the brand? Are the messages compelling? Can the points be used consistently across all platforms and with all audiences?

(Don’t) get comfortable. Throw out old brand associations and start fresh. Look at other communications across a wide spectrum – old media, digital media, memes, and blogs etc. and use great imagery and clever verbiage to help get the juices flowing.

Take the time to do it right and get the most out of your brand PR messaging.

How To Be A Winner in the PR Awards Game

By guest blogger George Drucker

It’s awards season. No, not Oscars, Emmys, or YouTube. It’s the time of year where you or your PR agency, whether doing brand public relations, B2B PR, consumer PR or the like, can demonstrate your creativity, media skills, digital savvy and communications expertise in a truly competitive setting.
Winning industry awards, particularly those with few categories and high recognition, is not just a great ego boost for you and your team, but a solid way to distinguish yourself and build a professional reputation. Don’t we advise clients to focus on their “key differentiators”? Industry recognition is by definition a key differentiator.

But don’t do it for yourself. Do it for your clients as well. It allows the client to bask in the glory of recognition, and it may enable them to merchandise PR strategies within their organization. It can create a self-fulfilling sense of pride from the communications division to the C-suite.

We’ve had the good fortune to serve on many judging panels for the top PR Awards from the Silver Anvils to the SABREs, and there are many learnings from being on that side of the table. A few tips to help ensure that you get noticed or, better yet, win!

Set a time and expense budget. This one’s in the “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” category. It’s a waste to enter if you can’t devote the time, or if things are cobbled together at the last minute. Entries are often expensive as well, so you may choose to enter one, meticulously prepared campaign in a category that makes sense.

Definable, measurable, relevant research is essential. Gather the best information and data you can find to support and inform all elements of your campaign or activity, from strategies to goals to tactics and conclusions. And don’t make it nebulous. Make sure it’s relevant and precise.

Be strategic. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s vital to get it right. Make sure you distinguish between a strategy, an objective and a tactic. They are distinct and serve different purposes, so make it clear to the judges you “get it.”

Show creativity. It doesn’t matter what the campaign or activity is, whether a public affairs issue, a crisis action, or consumer campaign. Inventive thinking really matters. Sometimes it’s a simple twist on the traditional or a new execution for an “old” idea. It’s how you can get heard above the noise and make the effort remembered and recognized. Yet, a creative idea without strategic direction is creativity lost.

Choose categories wisely. Be careful and clear in selecting the right category (or categories) for your entry. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Be very mindful of the published criteria for submissions. Judging dozens of written entries can be overwhelming and time-consuming, and sometimes the judges are looking for a reason to eliminate one to simplify the task. The wrong category will also raise a red flag about your thinking and attention to rules.
Now go home and polish your acceptance speech.

6 Ways To Use Public Relations To Build Brands

“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.

Use data

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.

Tell stories

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.

Look inside

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?

Third-party endorsement

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.

Executive leadership

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.

Download a tipsheet to learn about five effective PR strategies for brand storytelling.

Public Relations Is A Powerful Storytelling Tool

Brand storytelling and PR – what’s really new here? The truth is, marketers have been telling brand stories through paid media, branded events, and, lately, brand journalism, also known as owned media. Make no mistake, a well-crafted 30-second television spot can tell a resonant story. But the heart of brand storytelling lies with public relations.

I first heard the term from my friend Robbie Vorhaus, at least a decade ago. Robbie was ahead of his time. It took a few more years for storytelling to become a buzzword, and for public relations to realize that it’s what we do.  To paraphrase Seth Godin, “Marketing PR isn’t about the stuff you sell; it’s about the stories you tell.” Here’s why.

PR breaks news. A new product or, even better, a new category, means a fresh story. Traditional public relations tactics are therefore inherently valuable in helping to break and shape those stories. While true category creators are rare, any business or brand that disrupts the status quo has a huge opportunity to define its category and own the narrative over the long term.  Think about Amazon, Starbucks, Red Bull, and Facebook. Different categories, but each was a creator, and each was able to craft a unique brand narrative through traditional and social media. In most cases, it happened without benefit of advertising or direct marketing.

PR digs deep.  A well-crafted public relations campaign can typically go much deeper than paid media. Advertising space and time comes at a cost, so explanations about brand origins, background, or how things work take a back seat to a sales message. The backstory is particularly valuable in healthcare and technology PR sectors, where products often require a degree of education. Storytelling naturally lends itself to earned media, including long-form journalism and blogging. As a bonus, it’s often more credible.

Brand trust is at a premium. Corporate scandals, executive misbehavior, privacy breaches – these and more have been amplified by the relentless news cycle, and they’ve threatened public trust in major brands. Moreover, millennials, the largest demographic in the U.S., are known to be skeptical of traditional marketing and advertising. It adds up to a picture where brand stories told by others – customers, stakeholders, partners, and journalists, – have greater resonance than those told by the companies themselves.

PR blends creative packaging with a journalistic sensibility.  We specialize in grabbing the attention of journalists and influencers with a story pitch that plays up what is relevant and compelling about the narrative;  in other words, we package the story. Yet, to rise to the top, it needs to conform to a journalist’s needs; the classic “who, what, when, where, and why” that seizes an editor’s attention and makes it legitimate.

PR connects the dots. A skilled practitioner knows how to make connections between brand messages and attributes and other, larger stories. And its outcome is ultimately about building a bridge between a brand and its audience.

Download your tipsheet to learn about five powerful PR strategies for brand storytelling.