February 11, 2021
David G. Brashears
How Public Relations is Evolving Brand Value in 2021
Over the past year, the world has changed for everyone. That’s the least surprising statement you could read in any article, but the fact is that the changes that emerged in 2020 have been developing over the past decade. Messaging, perception, and discipline for brand strategy have been pushed to the forefront by a consumer base that is more segregated and fluid in its media engagement than ever before. Last year was just the inevitable tipping point that drove many brands to reevaluate their practices across the board.
It doesn’t matter what you call it–public relations, earned media, publicity, etc.–creating an effective plan for engaging your target audience by leveraging third-party authorities is still the most under-valued tool to effect real brand loyalty and market growth. Public Relations continues to be the most cost-effective way to grow success for several critical brand values.
So, what are the things that have an effective Public Relations strategy brings to a brand? Here are the key areas that you can expect a positive impact from your well-executed PR campaign.
- Increase Awareness – This is the gold standard for any brand campaign. You want to grow awareness of your brand in the market. Having an engaging story that can be promoted by a third-party media, or influencer, the partner is still the best way to grow awareness while fostering solid market positioning.
- Brand Image and Reputation – Is it better to grab a megaphone and hop on top of a building and shout across the rooftops how great your brand is, or to invest in trusted partners to share your brand story with their already engaged followers? It sounds like a dumb question, but this is the magic of PR that many companies still haven’t grasped. It’s going to cost you exponentially more to build your brand image and reputation through your own advertising than it would share your story through established voices.
- Brand Loyalty – Brand loyalty is the benchmark for building a cult brand–the core strategy behind everything we do here at Creative Energy. Building brand loyalty requires a great deal of sincerity and humility behind your brand position. Good PR allows you to do this organically, without self-promoting which can negatively impact your brand position.
- Promotes Goodwill – Nothing comes off as opportunistic and disingenuous as self-promoting the good work your brand is doing in the industry, community, or workplace. Let your PR professional help pair your story with the right media partners and allow them to share your news. It’s much more effective to share a third-party perspective on your company’s work on your social media than to just post how great you are yourself.
- Builds Trust and Credibility – One thing that is painfully evident to companies who have endured feedback from some of their brand consumers is that transparency and consistency in your brand messaging is no longer a strategic option, it’s now a mandate. You need to be able to navigate your own brand story where your advertising, workplace environment, product quality, service, and community advocacy are in perfect synchronicity–or pay the price in the courts of public opinion.
The world is still in the middle of one of the most historic shifts in social, economic, and political change in a generation. Having a well-informed and talented PR partnership can help with regular “reality checks” to make sure your brand is continuing in the right direction while remaining agile to respond to consumer feedback. This is the new evolving role of your PR team. Just like the investment in an accounting firm, or a legal team, are there to ensure that your company’s assets and liabilities are managed in order to remain stable, competitive, and healthy, your PR team should be providing you with critical consultation on your public communications to ensure consistency, positive perception, and brand awareness.
Building Messaging in a Poly-Contextual Society
Creating effective PR strategies has moved recently from a standard algebra function to a serious piece of calculus. That’s because there is no zeitgeist anymore. Consumers have fragmented, and your brand story has to find new paths to engage a new targeting model that doesn’t behave along with traditional demographic guidelines.
It’s no longer effective to define a few basic demographics in order to build a list of target media outlets for your brand to build PR relationships with and create effective storying. As a matter of fact, in the modern consumer economy, you can expose your brand to unnecessary negative criticism by targeting an audience simply based on demographic data like gender, race, and/or income. Consumers have a Ph.D. in marketing and advertising these days, and they can smell an opportunistic message with no real genuine investment a mile away. This is a lesson that many well-meaning brands and agencies learned the hard way in the past year. Everything you say, and who you choose to say it to, are now just as important as how creative your ads might be. It better aligns with your brand culture at a deep level or it’s just a landmine you’re laying in your own front yard.
Building good PR for a poly-contextual society means doing the hard work of fragmenting core pieces and parts of your brand goals and messaging and then seeking the best story components and third-party partners to help you express them. The message planning needs to be day-to-day, not a set-it-and-forget-it campaign that you run for a month or more. Being proactive and reactive at the same time is the only way to build a true relationship with a sophisticated modern consumer.
Are you Practicing PESO?
A few years ago there was a new model starting to emerge within the marcom (marketing communications) industry. It created a lot of opportunities (and a bit more work) for PR firms that believed in its benefits. Called PESO (Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned), this new strategy helped to separate and define some key brand growth paths that PR could impact very effectively.
Without going into all the details of the model, which can be reviewed through the article linked above, the main point is to better understand how all marketing generates true brand belief and loyalty. Brand humanity comes from harmony among all the aspects of your marketing working together. The core credibility, trust, thought leadership, and authority that every brand seeks to cultivate comes from wise investment and collaboration by all four of these spheres of influence.
An effective public relations professional should be a valued partner to help properly grow all these opportunities. From helping draft responses to social media feedback to helping find the right community charities and programs for a brand to partner with, your PR firm should help to ensure that communication is on point and does no harm to the overall brand goals.
It’s a new era for marketing and advertising, and that is only scary if you’re not prepared. Creative Energy has been building an effective brand strategy around these core principles for decades, and our long relationships with large global brands is a testament to our competence. If you are ready to create a PR strategy that goes beyond the occasional press release, then we’re here to help you. Contact us today, and let’s build a playbook that can make a real difference for your brand and bottom line.