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Building a brand begins with PR

According to ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding’, “today, brands are built with publicity and maintained with advertising. The cart is now driving the horse.”

There was once a time when building a brand was as simple as creating a catchy slogan or an eye-grabbing advert, but the situation today could not be more different. The increasingly savvy consumer is seeking out ‘realness’, online platforms are proliferating and heightening the white noise, and competition to secure share of voice is fiercer than ever before. Billboards, newspapers and TV adverts are no longer where we find our news; they are being replaced by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other digital channels that have provided the world with a 24-hour, real-time, user-generated news-room.

In this context, traditional methods hold almost no sway. So what has set PR apart and made it the go-to method for building a brand?

I believe this shift is based on the lasting credibility of PR, and the long-term role it plays in creating a positive and memorable perception for brands. While advertising now feels skin deep, PR goes further into the client and consumer psyche to create all-encompassing strategies that are not only multi-channel, but also multi-dimensional. Spanning print and online media, as well as on-ground events and activations, PR caters to the growing diversity of the global audience by crossing all touchpoints and meeting the consumer in the right place, at the right time, and with the right content.

Our work is not about slogans but about ‘lovemarks’ — a concept developed by the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi to describe brands that command both respect and love, and redefine the relationships people have with products, services and entities.

How to build a brand with PR

  1. Understand the audience: PR helps brands to not only identify and prioritise their target audience, but also understand exactly what that audience wants to hear. With the online conversation growing every day, it is essential for PR professionals to listen to it. We must never underestimate the consumer because they know what they want and are happy to tell us what that is. To build brands that speak to them, we need to tune into their comments and proactively ask them to share their needs, thoughts and desires.
  1. Get to the heart of client goals: It is important to remember that a successful brand is measured not just by the audience response, but also by the business results that generates. When building a brand, PR professionals need to live the brand by getting to the fully aligning themselves with their client’s objectives. All brand development should come back to what clients want to achieve.
  1. Tell the story: PR is essentially storytelling, so we need to make sure that our brand stories are compelling, genuine and human. Content is still king because it demonstrates thought leadership, encourages engagement and is our primary tool for building authentic relationships between brands and consumers. It should contain values and key messages that connect and go toward creating a valuable bond, which is the essence of building a strong brand.
  1. Identify the correct communication method: Once you have developed a deep understanding of your target audience, you should also have a good idea of where to meet them. From blogs and social media to print media and TV, the PR professional has a wealth of choices when it comes to communication channels. In the social media sphere alone, Facebook stands out as a community creator, Instagram offers an excellent platform for promoting products, and Twitter is a place to share opinions — each channel has a distinct character that should be used to your brand’s advantage when sharing content.
  1. Go beyond PR: PR was once dedicated to securing print media coverage, but the scope of our profession has changed immeasurably. We are now involved with social media communication, digital activations, experiential outreach, on-ground events, business strategy and thought leadership, to name just a few areas. When building a brand, we must remember to use every method in our PR tool box, which grows year by year as our work becomes increasingly ambitious.

Today, PR plays a pivotal and leading role in establishing a brand, and we would do well to remember Richard Branson’s words: “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are those that have a purpose beyond profit.” Find that purpose for your client and you’ll be on to a winner.

Khaled Abu Hishme is Account Director at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA. |