Authentic brands don't emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does...
― Howard Schultz
― Howard Schultz
A public relations department in an organization or its outsourced PR agency can be an effective catalyst in building its brand. The right strategies when implemented can help in influencing the brand perception of the target market in a positive way.
While the right steps will help enhance the reputation, failed strategies can even hurt your brand's image adversely. Hence, it becomes all the more important that you are completely aware about certain PR strategies that will encourage your target market to have a positive brand image. Here are a few vital tips in this regard.
The Role of PR in Elevating Brand Value
Pitch the Right Stories
Gone are the days when mere advertising on its own was able to promote a brand's product and services. People will not be impressed if you are an engineering conglomerate with many years of presence who has provided innovative solutions.
What will matter the most is how your product or service connects with the people at a human level. For this, you must generate stories for print and online publications with a human interest angle.
For example, the engineering company can proclaim how its eco-friendly products can help reduce your power consumption as well as reduce the environmental side effects. People will connect with your story and remember your product for the same.
However, you must know your target audience well and should strategically pitch your stories in the right publications and websites to gain maximum mileage.
Like the saying, "too many cooks spoil the broth", in the same way, allowing many people to communicate with the press on the company's behalf can lead to ambiguity and disconnect in the communication.
Also, it is essential that the spokesperson is well-versed with the situation, has a command over the language, and can give strategic impromptu answers when it comes to grilling by the press. More importantly, he should be able to uphold the brand image of the company by speaking the right things where they matter the most.
For example, the Malaysia Airlines has been widely criticized for its disorganized communication during the initial days of the MH370 Malaysia Airlines crisis.
It is of utmost priority to maintain uniformity in the message sent out by the company. Many companies lose their focus and try to elaborate too many "selling USPs", which dilute the messaging and leave the target market confused.
This may especially be observed in companies that have several product lines. You must know what your brand stands for, come up with its USPs, and communicate about the same through your marketing and corporate communication initiatives.
For instance, your about company section in the press release and your about us section on your website should hint at the same information. You can update your information from time to time in order to maintain the same lines of communication.
If you are not giving back to the community in any way, then it will prove disastrous for your public relations and portray you as a selfish company.
It is not necessary that you undertake too many activities. Aim for a single activity; for example, education of orphans. You can then have an entire plan about sponsoring an orphanage by becoming its permanent patron and undertaking various activities and events for the benefit of children.
This will help establish an identity of a brand that really cares and wants to give back to the society. However, remember that this is not a one-time effort and will have to be taken up from time to time.
You must also tap into the right PR vehicles to make most of the opportunity. Work with your PR agency to develop a campaign that will help reach out to your target market. You must ensure that there is infotainment in the news such that it has both information and entertainment for people to connect with it and relate with the brand.
Also, undertaking surveys from time to time or quoting positive results from third party research will help build your brand. For example, if a survey finds your product to be the most preferred by customers in the detergent's category, you must ensure that you go full-length to promote this fact.
Third party endorsements work better than self-promotion undertaken by companies for building brands as it reflects firsthand information about user experience and observation.
Do Not Ignore Your Employees
Many companies commit the mistake of not utilizing their employees in the brand creation process. Especially, with the growing importance of social media, it becomes even more important that you do not miss out on capitalizing on your employees in the brand building process.
You must provide several facilities to employees and encourage them to strike a perfect work-life balance. Your company should not be touted as one of the worst places to work at. If so, imagine the kind of harm it will inflict on the reputation of your brand.
The last thing you would want is to have your employees ranting negative comments on the social network, which will go viral in seconds. Also, training them about the values and brand image of the company is highly essential. On the other hand, if you are one of the most preferred employers, it will help immensely in the creation of your brand.
Handle the Crisis Well
A company may face any kind of crisis; it can be anything from the stock price dropping significantly, worker strikes, contaminated products, faulty parts, resignation or death or a key decision maker, impact of an economic downturn, etc.
Whatever the crisis maybe, it will take a smart PR strategy to bail your brand out of the situation. History has been witness that when such crisis strikes, strategically co-ordinated PR often helps in making the situation better.
Remember how Taco Bell responded to a customer lawsuit? The lawsuit claimed that their tacos had less beef than what they advertised. They handled this by coming up with a saucy PR campaign, which included a video statement by the CEO, a smart print ad campaign, and, of course, a countersuit.
However, one mistake and your brand's image will get affected drastically. Hence, it is highly advisable to hire professional social media managers for managing your social media accounts.
Once, Nestle responded to comments on their official Facebook page―tried to police it, which did not go down well with their customers. The company landed themselves in a terrifying PR situation within a few minutes, all thanks to the power of social media. This is definitely a big no-no.
On the other hand, when a Reddit user posted an image about JCPenney's teapot that resembled Hitler and The Telegraph tweeted about it, they remained calm and responded with lighthearted messaging on Twitter. They not only averted a social media PR scandal, but used it to their advantage that resulted in excellent sales.
Ensure that you highlight your brand's core values through your communication all the time. Make an impact by meeting your goals as promised by your company. If you are making profit, ensure you return a part of it to the customers by offering various freebies, coupons, gifts, discount schemes, etc.
What is more important than anything else in building a brand is that you are authentic, reliable, responsible, and innovative in your approach.