A company’s crusade for a desirable brand image is entertaining but, too often, unmet. We spend fortunes nailing graphic design, social media, trade events, and employee engagement into fragile structures glued together with tightly messaged values. Yet the house can crumble under a single process accident, product malfunction, or employee misstep. And then the brand project begins anew.
So, why can’t a solid brand be assembled internally when needed? Why can’t a corporate image be manufactured from the commitment of leadership and the expertise of employees? Why won’t it seamlessly evolve through time-honored reputations, skillfully created internal content, and expert visual and digital campaigns? Isn’t your brand, after all, the extension of a legacy you’ve owned for years?
The simple answer: your brand isn’t really yours. It belongs to a universe of external forces – both nefarious and supportive – that act to judge, measure, elevate, and subvert it every minute of every day.
The only element of your brand that’s really yours is its core promise – that of a positive service experience, of consistent product quality, of ethical corporate behavior, social responsibility, environmental compliance, workplace integrity, and so on. But outside of alien interference and climate change, your true brand reality rests precariously on the daily actions of your stakeholders.
While you have few chances to actually build real brand equity, the internal opportunities to tear it down are constant and plentiful.
Earned, not crafted, a successful brand also doesn’t come from your successes, no matter how loudly announced. It comes from outside impressions relayed by trusted sources and magnified by a vast and relentless world of digital media. And because these impressions are external, you can shout stories about your firm until blue in the face, with little to no impact on your image.
That’s why strategic PR is the most useful and effective tool for ensuring a compelling, sustainable brand identity.
Effective PR campaigns center on your stakeholders and create advocates and ambassadors among important partners, media professionals, technical gurus, and industry leaders. These campaigns look at your brand from outside in, measure your market position and consumer reputation against your competitors, and deploy tactics that engage and inspire the outside world – where your brand resides.
Crafting your company’s brand platform is still critical. As a company, you should agree on your cultural values and public messages. You need to understand your consumers and competitors. And you must have a sound grasp of your markets. But instead of trying to tell stories about your achievements, consider ways to author informative facts and provide expert inside knowledge that turns credible outsiders into company minstrels.
Like works of art buried and long sought by the public, create unique web assets, animations, and videos that highlight technical product or service excellence and then allow them to be discovered and assessed. Instead of tirelessly pushing content that promotes capabilities, craft content that provokes curiosity, welcomes debate, and offers an expert resource for future study.
A comprehensive PR strategy shouldn’t be focused on telling your stories; it should engage and support others to do so.
Such strategies approach the health of your brand identity in simple ways:
PR starts with research that clearly identifies your company’s most valued consumer targets and prioritizes the ways they get information.
PR crafts your most valued thought leadership – from technical innovation and business excellence to environmental and social achievement – into comprehensively factual written, visual, and digital resources.
PR attracts your industry’s best storytellers to these resources – from trade media, business press, community leaders, and strategic partners to bloggers, analysts, and politicians – by targeting press releases, placing speakers and interviews, and generating earned media.
PR relies on others – qualified and credible – to tell your story and allow you and your firm to absorb the benefits of an independent industry conversation, about your company and your brand.
Ultimately, much in the way that the oral traditions of ancient storytellers drove the (often surreal) reputations of mythical figures and human heroes alike, if you harness solid PR to author your brand you’ll be left to modestly deflect exaggerated brand virtues. And this is not a bad problem to have.
Is strategic PR a fundamental component of your brand management? Do you look at your company from the outside in and view its reputation from the perspectives of those who shape it? And are you telling your own stories to skeptical or disengaged audiences instead of attracting ambassadors to convey your message by constantly creating multiple formats for the raw data, accurate facts, key messages, and case studies that lend to a truly compelling story?