The importance of PR in corporate and product branding
Few would argue that branding is not important: in essence a brand is the relationship between an organisation and its primary audiences that generates loyalty. But are brands driven most by advertising or PR? According to Brand Taxi's John Grace, good PR is one of the major components of a successful brand strategy.
In a recent interview, Greg Miller of the Miller Demartine Group recently tapped Grace's twenty years of experience as a senior-level consultant on the art and science of brand management. According to Grace, PR and corporate communications people often underrate the intimate tie between brand and relationship; probably because nobody ever asks them to think more deeply about it. Brands are built by communications and behaviours: how the receptionist answers the telephone, or the lobby design, or the company's advertising, or what its public relations and other internal and external communications say about it.
PR gaining importance According to Grace, advertising now has less of an effect on branding than it used to. He adds: "If anything, public relations has gained importance as the role of advertising has diminished. Public relations is far more efficient in terms of getting messages out to any audience than advertising. Its cost is lower and, more importantly, the value of a message is much higher, because effective public relations results in a third-party endorsement from the media. That carries a level of credibility that is significantly greater than an advertisement that says 'trust me, this is great'."
Complete transparency Grace also believes that the increasing use of the internet is a good thing for branding. He says: "Ultimately the web will result in complete transparency. You won't be able to say anything that everyone won't hear about, debate and challenge. You'll be honest, or you'll be out of business. So the rapidity of the spread of information is going to shake out a lot of corporations that are not doing the right thing, either from a moral or ethical sense from honest business practices to high levels of product quality. But that simply makes PR even more important - more than it's ever been - in the portrayal of a brand." Any faulty or untrue messages will live on forever, and will be accessible to everyone instantly.
PR and value creation According to Grace, PR people must understand the connection between successful PR and value creation. He says: "Admittedly, that's very difficult to measure, but successful PR does have a connection to value growth, whether it's share price, profits, revenues, or some other measure important to the company. Second, public relations professionals need to continually drive home the role that PR can play in differentiation. We think of the power of advertising to differentiate, but because PR is so pervasive, it can differentiate a company or organisation and make it stand apart from all others. It is the importance of this function that should give PR people an opportunity to sit at the policy table."
The two most important things Grace believes that the two most important things a PR person - whether in-house or at an agency - can do to become more active in communicating the brand are:
- To truly understand the brand strategy for the corporate or consumer brand that you're involved in so that PR is connected. When that occurs, the synergies are amazing and, in fact, it becomes easier and easier to get incredibly good placements that are appropriate for the brand; and
- Given the importance of corporate governance and transparency, challenge inconsistencies in how the company's commitment to corporate governance and transparency fails to find its way into the tone and manner of public relations activities.