Public Relations is increasingly about communicating credibly with key audiences who affect business results, such as media analysts, policymakers and policy influencers, customers and shareholders. It is an important element in supporting the power and value of an organization’s brands to all stakeholders. All the elements of a corporate brand, from tone and personality, functional and emotional benefits, core message and end goal, to its reputation – if fully leveraged with internal and external audiences – can help raise performance and credibility.
Branding is far more than a visual symbol and memorable tag line; it anchors the mission and vision, operating principles and tactics of an organization. Skinner defined a brand as” a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” Branding has been referred to as a messaging instrument which helps the business reach its goals and encompasses the promotion of everything associated with the business.
The role of public relations in branding
It is proposed herein that the role of public relations role in brand management is twofold:
- As a creator of narrative, i.e. the conversation.
- As the purveyor of the medium to facilitate the conversation, i.e., Social media.
The narrative is a powerful communication method that has always been a public relations competency and public relations at its core is the art of storytelling. While it has been argued that the public relations role in branding is more commercialism than journalism, storytelling fits the traditional public relations role of creating connections with its publics through relationship and trust building. And given the conversation economy, the focus has become an organisation’s connections with its public rather than the organisation itself.
These factors together, in addition to any bias internal to the culture of the media entity itself, leave the media vulnerable to press releases and other prepackaged content put together by private agencies hoping to get the word out about their clients, especially if those clients are willing to underwrite advertising time and space.
People are not stupid. When a television segment on health is sponsored by the same entity that is featured in it, it causes the media producer that aired to lose credibility. If the media is compromised in terms of its trustworthiness, then Ries to Ries’ argument falls apart: no credibility out about their clients, especially if those clients are willing to underwrite advertising time and space.
The growth and popularity of social media has also changed the game for advertisers and marketers. Because social media is receiver-oriented and involves having two-way conversations, it is diametrically opposite of the traditional one-way, sender-oriented concept of advertising and marketing communications. This source or sender-oriented communication focuses attention on the sender’s publics. Specifically, sender-oriented communication theory assumes that message design is the key to communications success and that the communication of the message occurs because sender intends it as such.
It can be hard for most business owner to distinguish between branding and public relations since both are used to accomplish business goals. In addition, both share foundations such as research, writing, psychology and communication and often the same tools such as social and traditional media. However, it is important for business leaders to understand the uses, strengths and limitations of each discipline in order to avoid wasting time, money and resources.
Key elements of PR in Branding
Understanding the differences between public relations and branding starts with untangling the end goals. In a nutshell, Public Relations is about managing relationships while branding is centered on creating an identity.
The order of Public Relations and branding is a key difference between the two. Developing a brand must come before engaging in public relations, advertising, marketing or any other communications-related company activity.
Public relations and branding have different subsets. Employee, government, media and investor relations are under the public relations umbrella. By contrast, branding subsets include individual, generic and family branding, brand extensions and brand imagery and naming.
While both deal with an organisation’s reputation, Public Relations can help a small business owner protect and defend her company during times of crisis. Crisis communication, a subset of public relations, is designed to research, predict and combat situations which disrupt the normal flow of business such as an accident, lawsuit or persistent online or real-world rumours. For example, Coca-Cola, a global beverages company used effective public relations to quickly recover the loss of reputation it has suffered when the brand was heavily linked to obesity due to its soft drink. Through public relations, Coca-Cola was able to protect and even solidify its company’s brand in the eyes of consumers.
Because brand awareness is all about a consumer’s interest in recognising a product thanks to good PR, there are many companies that use public relations and branding to promote business. In turn, a good product PR campaign is all about top-of-mind awareness, or brand awareness. For instance, when a customer is asked to identify a product, the success of a good PR campaign is largely judged on a brand’s familiarity.
If you are reading this and you require assistance with Public Relations and Branding Strategy development, Talk to Us!
>>>The author is an Account Manager, Public Relations, Global Media Alliance. LinkedIn: Evans Obiri Appiah