It’s been just over six months that I moved from mainstream advertising to C&B, the Public Relations arm of The Publicity Network. As someone that has always been driven by human emotion, and the power of a great idea to harness and leverage it, I can say with my hand on my heart that it has been one of the happiest six-month journeys of my 15-year long career.
Not because the grind is any easier, or the pressure any lower, but because of the huge amount of satisfaction that successful PR Engagement and Outreach campaigns have given me.
In a manner of 6 months, our new vertical has seen us bring a group of Dubai Investments employees together to make ‘Sustainable Art’. We have brought alive a historical for Dubai TV in real life, as ‘Sultana Kusum’s Ambassadors’ met with the people of the UAE. We have a group of young filmmakers presently creating ‘#BornToChallenge’ themed short films for Infiniti’s new Q30. And, when a young man named Mahmoud needed a home for his life-saving surgery in Dubai, team CBPR and its clients not only provided him with a place to stay, but also experiences ranging from a chauffeur driven car for thirty days, food ranging from middle eastern cuisine to home made delicacies cooked by our team, his favourite football jerseys, and more importantly, an EDUCATION FUND, not just for him but for many like him, that have been affected by the region’s disturbance.
“What has this got to do with Brands?”, you may ask. My answer to you, is EVERYTHING, and EVERYTHING the RIGHT way.
We are living in a social world with a thousand distractions a second. The strongest brands today cannot build themselves on gigantic billboards, mega superbowl commercials and reams of print alone. I feel they must go back to that time-tested method of influencing a peer – Word of Mouth. Or, as is more suitable to today’s times – Word of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Blog, Snapchap, Vine and whatever else there is.
However, this is easier said then done. As more and more brands decide to lean on influencers – stakeholders who actively build the brand, it is the turning of stakeholders into ambassadors that should be the ultimate goal. A process that requires clarity and consistency throughout all interactions. Quoting William Arruda, “You can think of brand commitment as a continuum of engagement, where customers move across a spectrum from rational responses to deeply emotional ones.”
The steps to this conversion all lay within this new-age model of Public Relations called Brand Outreach. At C&B, we make use of our proprietary process we call Content Journalism – fusing Content Creation with Brand Journalism to create campaigns aimed at fulfilling a three-stepped brand communication goal – ENGAGE>ENAMOUR>ENTHUSE.
• Step 1: Get Engaged – Choose me
We create calls and activities where our brand’s customers feel that ‘THEY ARE CHOSEN’. This level makes them feel exhilarated, but it has the lowest level of brand commitment. If a competitor with a similar or higher value becomes available, there’s little that will keep customers engaged. We then have to take extra steps to help them move to a higher level of commitment.
• Step 2: Get Enamoured – Choose me again
This second level of commitment shows brand trust and deepens loyalty. Loyalty is critical in brand communication. It’s a pivotal milestone in moving engaged customers toward ambassadorship. There are two primary ways to cultivate loyalty: Authentic loyalty and Coerced loyalty. Coerced loyalty means offering customers loyalty programs, incentives, tactical schemes etc. and is a form that has existed since the 18th century. Meanwhile Authentic loyalty – directly tied to the brand promise and the communication’s ability to deliver on the brand promise consistently – is what we strive for. Through any form of engagement that ensures customers connect emotionally with that promise and become much more valuable to a brand. When they feel this level of commitment, they are more likely to become evangelists – and that’s the key to growing any business in today’s day and age.
• Step 3: Get Enthusiastic – Tell others to choose me
This is the holy grail of brand commitment. Enthusiasm is contagious. Merriam-Webster dictionary sums up contagion “as an influence that spreads rapidly”. When someone is willing to promote you to others – to be an AMBASSADOR for your brand – you have enlisted a customer to your brand’s mission. When you can enlist your customers in marketing your business, their authentic testimonials are far more powerful than a pitch from you, or from a slick salesperson. This phase of commitment has to do with stakeholder experience. It goes way beyond the tangible offering and the value-added features. It’s about how the brand makes customers feel.
And this is exactly what happened in the examples of campaigns we created that I shared with you earlier on. As they saw a Ghaf Tree come alive from their own hands, employees of Dubai Investments saw for themselves the beauty in championing sustainability. Each mall visitor that interacted with Sultana Kusum’s Ambassadors, felt part of the TV series even before it aired. Every C&B client that helped Mahmoud realise his young dream, actualised their own sense of philanthropy and ambition. And as filmmakers interpret #BornToChallenge on celluloid, they are creating manifestos with philosophies that every young urbanite who will eventually drive the Infiniti Q30 – will drive it for. And needless to say, they are all tweeting, liking, snapping and sharing.
The age of marketing isn’t dead. But with the cynicism that is growing in the minds of millennials and Gen X’ers alike, it may be time to abandon the word ‘Target’ and embrace the word ‘Ambassador’.
Keep reaching out, you’ll be surprised at the hands that grasp yours back.