Understanding brand as a digital PR manager comes with the territory. Generally, we’re invested in delivering the values and tone of a client to key audiences. After all, it’s how we make that PR magic happen - but how do we, as public relations managers, raise performance through fully understanding brand?
Our role, throughout all communication, is to maintain brand values that represent our company fully; presenting them for who they are, not always just for what they’ve done. Much like getting to know someone, it’s a personality that really counts. Logos, colour schemes, fonts - they’re all massively important in terms of brand identity, but we need to look deeper if we want to better understand a brand's DNA.
The first step to understanding the very essence of a brand is recognising what associations consumers make with it. Big players like Nike and Coke know this all too well. The top of ladder brands maintain high status because somehow, they’ve managed to incorporate their brands into our everyday lives. Using a combination of clever advertising and engaging PR campaigns, they’ve kept their brands alive over decades, gaining even more authority moving into the digital era.
These efforts are a perfect example of where branding and public relations go hand-in-hand. In fact, Coca-Cola owes much of its success to public relation campaigns such as the Summer of Sharing campaign, which swapped traditional branding for personalised names on their bottles. This creative user experience journey saw a huge increase in sales and millions of brand mentions on a global scale. There was a consistent theme of we’re ever-evolving, ever-present, and don’t you forget it!
Nike has also seen massive success through campaigns such as Just Do It which maintained a flow of brand values throughout every aspect of communication.
Much like a brand manager, we’re responsible for the image of our clients, and just as they would, we should be researching the market place and seeing where they fit. A value based marketing approach is a good first step to understanding where you belong as a brand.
If you want to tap into consumer’s emotions and appeal to their values and ethics, wearing your brand’s values on your sleeve is a must. With any luck you’ll represent a brand that’s established a personality that’s meaningful to its consumers. If you haven’t been so fortunate, this is where the work begins!
Life gets busy and the role a brand plays in everyone’s life might be significant one moment, and meaningless the next. Understanding individual wants and needs helps to enlighten you in such a complicated market, where consumers have instant access to everything they could ever need. It’s how your brand stands out in a saturated playing field that really matters and establishing a strong online presence is where a digital PR’s strength lies.
The complex world that is digital may deter brands from exploring new things, but not IKEA. The furniture company is no stranger to giving consumers exactly what they want. Easy, affordable products is the flat pack family’s way, and their recent campaign is an effective illustration of this.
Embracing the love their customers share for their products and shopping online, the ‘Where Life Happens’ campaign uses Google search advice to make everyday life easier through IKEA’s products. The retail therapy campaign renamed products to common household problems that were searched for in Sweden. Using products that relate to real-life problems to find a solution - genius! The quick-thinking digital move made landing pages instantly relatable.
My favourite product rename has to be the soft toy that’s called ‘my dad is allergic to furry animals’- giving a humorous solution to a very common allergy through a simple SEO technique.
Instagram needs no introduction, but it should be noted that when it comes to branding and a value based approach, it knows which buttons to press. Its brand values? User experience and accessibility. Even the brand's design moves are all based around the user. When they changed the camera icon for example, the brand cleverly introduced it to include the same symbol and rainbow colours, but also made it easier for users to find, in theme with the style of Apple icons.
Because of this, iPhone uses now scroll towards the icon without question. It’s the little touches like this that get noticed, and as PR managers we need to be aware of every transition a brand has taken. The fundamentals of what we do - the who, what, where and when, are all used to help build brand.
Snapchat recently made a bold move through a new update, changing user experience forever, but this has not been well received globally. The update has attracted some fierce negativity, but why? Bashed as ‘confusing and complicated’ and even slated by the likes of Kylie Jenner, it would seem the update was far too much for users to get their heads round. A great reminder that when people are invested in a brand, even the smallest changes can cause chaos. The simplest change to the Facebook newsfeed functions received strong criticism back in 2006.
Change will always trigger an emotional response, but for the brave who believe they know their audience best, they can predict when users are likely to adapt. Facebook’s newsfeed is now one of the most widely used products in the world, so taking chances is ok if you have reliable audience insights and are able to make products more useful.
Netflix dominates the market when it comes to maintaining and building brand identity. Design elements are simple, bold and robust; in line with a user friendly philosophy. The stack design seen instantly on their homepage is the very thing that allows users to easily scroll through their favourite shows. The logo also aligns with a theme of simplicity and adopts a universal branding language, suitable for anything from print to apps. Its tagline, ‘what’s next’ also suggests that it’s a strong story-telling brand.
The brand masters actually have a hub available to partners and stakeholders which reveals its key focuses such as be bold to stand out, and build trust through being straight forward. The ever-changing brand is transparent in the way it wants to connect people, which is a highly desirable trait.
Known for its authentic brand voice, Netflix drives users to their streaming system through humorous social media posts and engaging content. The popular culture they’ve created was no accident. The term ‘Netflix and chill’ was coined because they provide a genuinely valuable service for their users. From a PR perspective, they make use of the culture they’ve created through all communication and utilise all online platforms.
Netflix actually conducted research into the effects it has on relationships that revealed 58% of respondents aged 18-29 felt they bonded with their partner over the streaming service. Is Netflix really the key to a happy relationship? It’s certainly an idea that appeals to the general public and the press. Every PR’s dream is having meaningful data that relates to the brand, and is based on user experience.
It’s the dedication Netflix shows to understanding the user that makes them such a powerful brand. Personalised profiles allow users to watch shows based on the recommendations from their previous viewings, proving time and time again that they create value for binge watchers beyond the usual requirements. A brand that provides more than just a product, and more of an experience, is one worth fighting for.
Our job as PR managers is to be inspired and if a brand’s not taking it as seriously as the likes of Netflix, then we must do the inspiring! Market research that resonates into productive and creative ideas underpin most successful campaigns.
Through following brand guidelines carefully, and looking at values closely we're able to become brand ambassadors in a PR sense. This may be more difficult if a brand's identity is blurry, but it’s our duty to tell a story about who that brand is, and there are some PR tactics that can definitely help…
The landscape for traditional PR methods has changed in a digital age, and we must keep up with trends to maintain brand loyalty and perfect our craft. Interestingly, what motivates audiences to appreciate a product hasn’t really changed. It’s how we relay brand messages and we tell our story that's always evolving.
Making room for influencers in your PR strategies is vastly becoming more important. Swapping traditional forms of PR, for collaborations with trusted public icons to represent brand identity, is important to reach an audience that's found predominantly online. Recommendations create trust for a product and providing the influencer represents your messaging and tone, this is a sought-after tactic. Be confident in your chosen influencer's voice and engagement, as they may be able to easily tap into your audience’s emotions.
Influencers were once seen as a way of gaining brand awareness, but now it's much more about gaining conversions and measuring progress. New Instagram tools such as tagging in stories and shoppable tags allow brands to gain real engagement and results from a targeted audience. Wider collaborations through this type of relationship that provide link building are also great for online presence, but it must be noted that Instagram regulations are always changing. Changes such as Instagram’s new rules surrounding disclosures when it comes to working with brands are the type of changes we must be aware of in order to ensure our brand is truthful and transparent.
Influencer marketing really works for travel brands where expert opinion and advice resonates with audiences. It’s a natural approach for likes of Expedia who seek to be the leaders within their market. Their Viewfinder campaign collates recommendations from influential travellers, sharing where to go, and of course where explorers can snap the best selfies! It’s this approach that can really demonstrate the value of digital PR through citations and engagement.
Airbnb has also opted for using influencers many times, collaborating with them to create travel guides that include insider tips. One of their collaborative posts, which included a detailed travel guide on where to eat and sleep in Turks and Caicos, received over 175,000 likes.
This is a strong example of the benefit these types of posts can have, where audiences have the ability to explore and experience a destination through an influencer. Content is always ‘king’.
Brands are far more open to scrutiny in the digital world. News is instant and audiences are quick to comment if trust with a brand has been broken and a product is not performing its promised functions. If a brand isn’t delivering, then crisis management might mean that you could be replying to a mean tweet, and if that’s the case, then so be it! Just take a look at the likes of Virgin who often take a humorous approach on Twitter to common problems that are always in line with brand values. A great example of where traditional PR is catching up…
This is especially important in a climate where ads are no longer thought of as go-to when it comes to marketing methods. People want in-depth, original ideas that are useful to them. Here at Zazzle Media, for example, an interactive piece is bound to do well if it has the following…
If you want to produce amazing content in line with brand, we have a style guide to help you along the way!
Sending out masses of press releases just isn’t having the same effect it once did. Nothing is more appealing to a journalist than a strong hook that belongs to no one else but them and appeals to their niche. Journalists will also want to believe in a brand's identity and this is the perfect way to show them who you are and what you’re made of. Once you see the press mentions and citations coming in, it’s easy to see the value that digital PR can have for a brand, and it’s much easier to measure success.
Here’s some branding strategy basics PRs can follow:
Every strategy has desired goals whether they might be long or short-term, but make yourself familiar with these goals before you invest time in a brand and represent its story. Where is the brand going next, and what do they want to achieve? This is crucial to your communication plans.
By this point your brand should have a firm understanding of brand identity, but the next question is how are you going to stand out in the market? What are your unique selling points, what is your purpose, and who is your competition? All of these questions are ones worth finding the answers to when thinking of which marketing/public relations methods you'll be using.
The only way to know what’s working well is understanding your target market and as a PR manager, you'll want to become familiar with the audience to evaluate the best approach. If the target market is unclear, there are many tools to help better understand a brand’s personas. I'd recommend Global Web Index as the best tool to give you behavioural insights into your audience, including what they want from you and what your role should be within their lives. This is also a useful tool for understanding competitor audience and ultimately what is currently working. Trending content tells us everything.
Any strategy aim is to stick to the plan, but your brand may need to take a slightly different route if things change drastically. There might be opportunities that you need to seize and often your secret weapon as a PR is to jump on trending news. Discover the barriers your brand faces and how to overcome them.
With this mini strategy in mind, you should be able to easily tick off the questions below when your next campaign adventure with a brand begins…
Credibly communicating with all key audiences reflects the value and power of a brand, and this often sits with the public relations team. Through understanding brand, we're able to enhance the commitment and awareness of the brands we represent, and this can only lead to success. Digital allows us to show the worth of a single piece of content through monitoring results, and this is invaluable in the given climate.
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