When it comes to working with the media to create a strong brand, it’s essential to ask yourself “What is our brand?” While many people are more likely to equate branding with advertising or other aspects of marketing, branding is in fact a crucial consideration for any successful public relations (PR) program.
At Campbell Consulting, our definition of PR is “the process of developing key messages, managing clients’ reputations, and contributing to content development and storytelling with the intention of generating media coverage.” In order for a PR effort to start off on the right foot, your organization needs to clearly define the company brand.
A brand isn’t a logo or a unique product offering. A brand encompasses your story, mission, and company values. It is a comprehensive identity that can be clearly and concisely explained in words and reinforced with imagery. Your brand is the inherent characteristics of your organization with which your customers connect. The ability to communicate what your company is and what it stands for is an important foundation for successful marketing and PR.
Once you have clearly defined your brand and crafted your key messages, you need to package the material in ways that provide people a vehicle for learning about your company; a place to go for information. A well-designed website is one such location, and it’s an important asset to have in place prior to any PR efforts.
Once you are ready with your brand messages and have a place where people can learn about your brand online, you can use PR to help direct them to that information. This is how you can work with the media to reinforce your messages and create a strong brand.
Who’s on your A-list?
While you were carefully crafting your brand messaging, your target audiences should have been a key consideration. Knowing who you want to connect with no doubt helped you identify an A-list of your most relevant media sources. Targeting, researching, and capturing the right contacts is essential. Look for publications with missions that align with your brand, review audience metrics, and examine editorial calendars for relevant subject matter. Connecting with the media is a relationship-development process; the more you have in common, the easier it will be. Do the research necessary to make sure you are targeting the right sources.
Consistency is key
As you package your company announcements and prepare emails, make sure your brand is consistently represented in all interactions. This can include everything from the use of letterhead to the casual or more formal tone of your correspondence. Is there a tagline, inspirational quote, or company summary that accompanies any communication you have with the media? While your reason for contacting the media will change based on the idea you are sharing, presenting your brand consistently in all your communications will make an impression and help keep you top of mind with the media when the right opportunities arise.
As you brainstorm article ideas or prepare fact sheets and other collateral to share with the media, make sure everything reinforces your brand and aligns with the content needs of the source.
Sharing ideas that inform, educate, or entertain will capture media attention. Remember the information needs to be timely, innovative, or helpful.
Make it personal
Whether via phone calls or face-to-face interactions, the people representing your company should be stellar brand ambassadors. They should know the key talking points and positively represent your business in all they do. Interactions with the press can make or break PR success. The media loves reliable resources, and reporters are people too; like the rest of us, they want to work with people they like and respect. These key contacts will form a true opinion about your brand based on the people who represent it.
From your PR consultant or in-house marketing team to your quotable spokespeople, be mindful of all the team members who have contact with the media. Are they good with people? Professional? Respectful? Helpful? Personal interactions present a golden opportunity to strengthen your brand and solidify your key contacts as thought leaders and reliable resources.
Be smart and selective
Not every media opportunity is the right fit. A reporter may be looking for a quote on a topic that is not an area of expertise or may be something controversial. If making a statement on this subject doesn’t feel like the right fit, then express gratitude for the opportunity but politely pass. Sometimes, getting coverage from an unexpected publication or on an out-of-the-norm topic for your company can be a move that makes sense to increase exposure. Other times, it may feel off-brand. You don’t want to participate in opportunities that will confuse your audience or cloud your overall message. Think through each opportunity and choose wisely. Let “stay true to your brand” be your guiding principle.
PR provides the opportunity to amplify your brand messaging, but PR success requires a solid foundation. This means you need to understand your audience and company voice and carefully craft every brand message. Then you need to convey those messages confidently and consistently.
Your PR efforts tap into the media to help you share your brand story. When media outlets choose to run an article or quote a source, they are reinforcing your status as a thought leader or subject matter expert. Media mentions are tantamount to third-party endorsements confirming you are a leader in your field. This creates credibility and is key to strengthening your brand.
When you do receive the desired media attention, thank the outlet and share the result. This gives you material of interest across all your marketing channels. Communicate directly with your customers and use your website, blog, and social media to get extra mileage out of the exposure. Tag the media outlet on social media when you share. The outlet may respond; at the very least, the exposure for them will make them more likely to contact you again in the future. Sharing will create a ripple effect of awareness.
Everything you do in PR must support your brand, and that commitment to the brand will support your company’s success.
Judy Campbell is president for Campbell Consulting. She founded the agency in 1996 to provide companies with strategic communications counsel encompassing PR, digital communications, content creation, media training, and social media. The company is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the country’s best brands and thought leaders in cannabis, craft beer, hospitality, food and beverage, blockchain, and software. The agency was nominated for the 2019 BOB (Best of Breed) Awards.