The roles that marketing, advertising and public relations play in building a brand image are often intertwined and overlap with each other. So much so, that many people often fail to distinguish between these dimensions or do not realize the different purposes they achieve. However, if you are looking to build a brand image, you need to understand that between launching an advertising blitzkrieg and making high profile media announcements, you also need a sustained push towards creating thought leadership for your brand. Philip Kotler, often referred to as the father of marketing, once famously said that ‘I feel advertising is overdone and public relations is underdone’. As a communication strategist, I can’t agree more with him. While advertising remains the leading way to create a splash for your products, boost demand and generate a strong brand recall, public relations is a subtler art of telling your brand story and endearing it to people. Given the fact that it is a non-paid media exercise unlike advertising, it brings with it an added element of credibility, authenticity and reliability.
Here are some ways in which PR helps build your brand image:
Establishing you as a thought leader
Public relations is about communicating credibly and effectively with your audiences whose opinions and behaviors can impact your business in the long term. This target audience is not limited to consumers; it also includes the media and policymakers. If you lead an organization working in the field of electric mobility, cultivating an image of a thought leader in that field and connecting with your audience is very important to bolster credibility of your brand. PR makes it happen. Marking regular presence in news stories and features on the subject of electric mobility, generating and circulating new ideas, penning articles, appearing in television debates and speaking on policy matters are essential means through which the image of a thought leader is cultivated. This media outreach needs not be limited to traditional media only; rather in the present day world such an outreach must expand to having a prominent voice on social media as well. On the readers and viewers, these ‘non-paid’ appearances have a subtler yet deep-rooted impact. Over sustained period of time, they start recognizing you as a prominent voice in your field – a thought leader who voices innovative and forward thinking ideas.
Building a narrative
While advertising makes your products familiar, Public Relations exercises help tell the audience the story of your brand – the origin of the idea, its impact on the society and the vision of its founders. In doing so, PR exploits the unique angles in your story and help take them to a larger audience creating an awe inspiring image of your brand. Let’s explain this using an example. Consider a brand that is doing well in the market and has already created a niche for itself based on a healthy advertising campaign. Now, consider an interesting back story behind this brand – a first generation entrepreneur who dropped out of college to start a business venture, an individual who was motivated by a social cause to start the brand or a successful NRI who returned to India to turn entrepreneur! PR essentially helps tell the audience the story behind the brand and helps nurture an inspiring narrative to boost the brand image.
Identify the right channels of communication
When you have to communicate to your multiple target audience, it becomes essential to identify the right channels to do so. This is another vital job that PR does for you. It first identifies the target audience, analyzes their attributes and then identifies the right channels through which communication to them can be directed and amplified. For example, a brand that talks to women must zoom in on magazines, blogs and websites addressing women’s issues. Similarly, a brand whose target audience is youth can ignore the importance of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter at their own peril. PR helps you arrive at these decisions judiciously.
Communicating in Crisis
Crisis communication has emerged as a critical part of PR, particularly at a time when news spreads across communication channels like wildfire. Any delay or error in addressing a negative piece of news can dent your brand reputation seriously. When utilized effectively, PR not only helps manage public perception in times of crisis, it also helps limit the damage caused by a negative episode on your brand’s image in the long term.