3 Essentials of Publicity and Branding

by David D. Menzies
Have you ever passed by a new store, restaurant, or entertainment venue in your hometown and gotten excited? Just the simple act of a fresh paint job and signage to catch the eyes of passersby can generate interest and buzz. Now, have you ever passed by that same new operation weeks or months later and seen a "For Rent" sign in the window and wondered what happened? Far too often, new business owners think that simply throwing open their doors will be enough to get things moving in the right direction and, more importantly, keep a steady flow of customers coming in. Successful business owners understand that getting a new endeavor up and running is only the beginning of the heavy lifting and that getting the word out about their product or service (publicity) and building customer loyalty (branding) is the key to keeping their doors open. Regardless of the business or industry -- or whether it's brick and mortar or online -- there are three essential elements of every publicity and branding effort that need to be addressed early and often.


C-Level Buy-In

If the key decision maker(s) within a business or organization do not truly understand nor support publicity and branding efforts, there is really no reason to start, and the business should immediately begin liquidation. In my 22+ years of professional communication experience, every successful publicity and branding effort I have either been a part of or witnessed has had the support of senior leadership. Conversely, 100% of the failed efforts have had one common thread -- a key decision maker at the very top of the chain of command who did not care about getting the word out and building customer loyalty or, even worse, actively fought against such efforts.

Imagine that if you will a senior executive whose livelihood is tied to an organization's success actually fighting efforts to grow the business. Many times, the individual fighting such efforts has no background in nor exposure to PR, marketing, advertising, or business development and feels threatened by someone within the organization (or a vendor) who does. Other times, a C-level executive isn't willing to invest the time and money necessary for publicity and branding, believing wholeheartedly in the value of their product or service to stand on its own. It's kind of like having an owner of a sports franchise who isn't committed to putting the right coaches and players in place to win games and championships. Over time, the brand will be weakened, fans will stop coming and the entire operation will unravel.

Be sure at the very beginning of conceptualizing a publicity and branding plan that you keep senior leadership engaged and informed, and literally ask them to state their commitment to the plan before it starts. If you're doing things yourself, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are willing to make the effort to publicize and brand your business. If you can't get an answer from those senior leaders (or yourself) to such a simple question then you're never going to be able to make your publicity and branding work.

Messaging

As a business person, would you ever walk in front of a room full of people, take the microphone, and launch into a presentation about your products or services without knowing what to say? Sure, you could know your business inside and out, backwards and forwards, but how would you know what that audience wants to hear and, more importantly, what they need to hear?

Strategic messaging reflects the core of what your business is and what value you provide to customers. It generally consists of five or more key themes, supported by words and phrases that clearly reflect your value proposition and differentiators from competitors. Once you develop your strategic messaging, you can then disseminate it on a consistent basis throughout multiple public relations, marketing, and advertising tools to customers and prospects.

Hearing and reading your message over and over again via different trusted information sources builds your brand with target audiences, setting the stage for initial sales and providing the opportunity to turn customers into loyal, longtime stakeholders in your company.

Continuing Effort

A guy walks into a bagel shop one morning and is greeted by a warm, "Hello! Thanks for coming in today, how may I help you?" from a smiling cashier. Enjoying his experience, a few days later the same man walks into the same bagel shop, but this time is not greeted warmly but rather with a dry, "Can I help you?" at the register. A little less enthused, the same man goes back to the bagel shop a few days later and is not greeted at all, but rather endures the call of "Next" from the cashier. Regardless of how delicious the bagels at this particular shop may be, they are still bagels, and new bagel shops are opening all the time. What impetus does this man have to return to this particular bagel shop again instead of trying a new bagel shop?

Granted, at first blush this example screams customer service, but the way you treat customers is part of the message you get across to them, i.e. your strategic messaging, which communicates your brand. The faithfulness of your customers, expressed through repeat purchases in the face of marketing pressure generated by competitors, is the definition of brand loyalty. Getting your brand in front of prospects is an important first step, but continuing to expose them to your brand and giving them a reason to become emotionally attached to it is the key to keeping and expanding your customer base.

Part of building a customer base of loyal, longtime stakeholders is having a consistent brand that is continually promoted to target audiences. A customer can feel valued the first time he or she experiences your business, sure, but if they don't "feel the love" during follow-up interactions, or if you stop making efforts to stay in front of them, competitors will take the opportunity to snatch those customers away. Getting your messaging to customers and prospects on a consistent, regular basis with PR, marketing, and advertising tools and methodologies is the only proven effective way of building brand loyalty.

David D. Menzies is president of Innovative Public Relations, a PR and media relations consultancy. He is a 22+ year public relations professional with expertise in strategic messaging, publicity and branding. For more information visit www.innovativepublicrelations.com. Copyright © 2014 Innovative Public Relations, Inc. Publicity and branding solutions from Innovative Public Relations help U.S. and international life sciences and technology companies get in front of prospective customers and cement their brands in the marketplace. Click here to learn more about our signature Proposal => Engagement => Success model.