Building Your Brand with Public Relations
Lynette Von Minden
Senior Public Relations Counsel
Here’s a little exercise for you. Name some of the world’s most popular brands.
OK, which ones immediately came to mind? Maybe Coke or Apple? McDonald’s? Walmart? Google?
While these companies may make building a branding look easy, it’s not. Brands are the basis of an organization’s emotional and psychological relationship with its customers. It’s likely that hundreds of people participated in many meetings and discussions about the look, feel and overall personality each of these companies should communicate. And coming to an agreement on a brand is only the beginning. Then you have to build it and nurture it, which takes time, consistency and dedication.
If you asked most people how companies build brands, they’d probably mention the ads they see in print and online, or the commercials they hear on the radio or see on TV. A few might also mention product packaging, merchandising displays or websites. While it’s true that all those elements of the marketing mix help build a brand, public relations also has a tremendous impact upon brand perceptions.
In the past, PR—like advertising—primarily consisted of one-way messages from an organization to its customers. In other words, PR professionals told people what they wanted them to hear without offering them a way to respond or provide input. Today, customers have the power to let us—and just about everyone else in the world—know how they feel about our brand, our products and our services each and every day.
As a result, PR has had to evolve. It’s no longer just about developing relationships with the media, but also with actual customers. It’s about listening, responding appropriately and delivering on brand promises that customers find emotionally relevant. It’s about developing a reputation and a personality with which your customers can identify. That’s why PR has become so integral to the brand-building process—not just for multi-billion-dollar corporations, but for even the smallest businesses. Consider the following PR strategies and tactics that can help any organization develop and nurture its brand:
- Become involved with relevant events and sponsorships.
- Craft social media messages that speak to your audience’s preferences, needs and desires.
- Train your company executives how to properly “work in” your company’s brand message during interviews and speaking engagements.
- Develop story pitches and bylined editorial pieces that support your brand message.
- Remember to back up your brand in both external and internal communications.
PR isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to building a brand. It’s just one tool of many in the marketing toolbox. However, when it’s done well, PR is quite possibly the most subtle, yet effective way to nurture and communicate a brand image. The key is to work a consistent brand message into all aspects of your communications mix—and back it up with your actions.