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Branding and public relations (PR) are more than just rumors to build a successful business. These are essential components of a strong communication strategy, and are most effective when their messages are aligned to create a consistent impression of your business.
Before examining the relationship between branding and PR, it is important to distinguish between the two. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines a brand as “a set of physical features of a product or service, including its surrounding beliefs and expectations.” If your branding is strong, just hearing the name of a brand or seeing the company logo awakens a combination of these features.
Nike is a good example of strong branding. The company’s Swoosh logo is simple, unique and recognizable where almost any consumer – sports enthusiast or not – will recognize it without further explanation.
PR has a different function. CIM defines public relations as “establishing and protecting the reputation of a company or brand”. PR also enhances mutual understanding between the business or organization and the audience it communicates with.
The definition begins to outline the connection between branding and PR. The Nike example helps to further illustrate the relationship. Simply put, Nike uses public relations to communicate its brand values.
The company’s 2018 campaign has a message about NFL quarterback Colin Kepernick and promises and convictions. Despite not displaying any clothing or sports equipment, the campaign raised the value of the Nike brand by about $ 6 million.
Related: 4 Branding Lessons from Nike’s Colin Copernicus ad
Branding and PR work for your business
Some entrepreneurs and startup founders will have Nike budgets and resources. However, they can still benefit by combining branding and PR unless these two components complement each other.
Increase brand awareness
For any new or early stage business, one of the most important tasks of PR is to increase brand awareness. The goal is to create a recognizable image in the minds of potential customers and build a positive relationship with your brand values. To accomplish that task effectively, you need strong brand standards to communicate with your PR team.
This may sound obvious, but successful PR requires more than statements from company leaders. Strong publicity establishes your brand values by telling your story and showing those values to your audience.
Take product longevity, for example. A well-established business can share long-term consumer and product stories. UK-based scuba-diving-equipment maker AP Diving did so in 2019 as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. The company has launched a search to find the oldest, yet functional equipment that customers bought from the brand. They launched a competition that inspired customers to buzz through their garage and discover long-forgotten equipment.
But new businesses need to take a different approach. When it is too early to prove the longevity of your product or service, consider offering a unique warranty and replacement service. This is also a great way to build trust. Assuming your proposal is truly unique, your PR team can use it to create media coverage for the brand.
In addition to raising brand awareness, another key function of PR is to build a brand’s credibility and encourage customers to have confidence in the brand.
In 2004, cosmetics company Dove began to make a difference in a crowded consumer goods market. Everyone needs basic things like shampoo, body lotion and deodorant, but very few people think long and hard before buying their favorite brand.
In order to stand out in a crowded marketplace, Dove launched her “Real Beauty” campaign, using ordinary women in her ads as opposed to professional models. The campaign has made it easier for consumers to connect with brands and identify themselves in advertising.
Also, the advertising campaign has become a news story, creating public relations coverage for the brand. Suddenly, Dove stood on the shelves of the supermarket. The campaign and the PR activity associated with it have boosted consumer confidence and Dove’s credibility by talking about company values rather than product features.
The examples above show that PR and branding are most effective when they work hand in hand. To make it easier, your business needs to start by setting brand values. What is your vision? Why do you do what you do without profit? Public relations can then create powerful stories to enliven your values and help your audience connect with your business.
Related: 7 Trust-Building Tips To Use In Your Business
Challenges and opportunities
Truth is at the root of public relations success. When consumers notice a disconnection between what a brand does and what the company’s public relations team tells the story, there are almost always negative consequences.
Dove faced a backlash when the company took the promotion one step further and introduced limited-edition bottles representing different body sizes. Going back to Nike’s example, the Colin Kepernik campaign also led to a backlash, with some customers burning their sneakers. However, the campaign helped the brand connect with younger, urban audiences, and the positive results outweighed the negative feedback.
For the benefit of your business, you need to combine branding and PR. PR develops its message from the value of branding. Unique brand value and campaigns can become the subject of PR themselves. Well thought out and cleverly crafted PR activities are one of the most cost effective marketing strategies. Their cost effectiveness makes them ideal for small businesses and startups.
Related: Impact of PR on Small Business
By placing brand values at the center of PR messages, any business can increase its credibility and sales performance.