Michael Gullan, MD and founder of Gullan&Gullan Advertising
“In our experience, PR, both as a communications tool on its own - and as part of the overall communications mix - has helped build many of our clients' brands. And there are many case studies of international and local brands that have become market leaders using PR only,” comments Michael Gullan MD, of Gullan&Gullan Advertising.
It's common practice for marketers of brands and organisations that require immediate awareness to make use of advertising. This is effective in that it allows you to launch quickly, to take control of the message, and to guarantee that your message appears in as many media as you have the budget for. However, this strategy does not ensure your message will be believed. In fact, the louder the advertiser yells, the more sceptical today's informed consumers become. PR and the power of the third party
Brand and corporate transparency via journalism and consumer evangelism can help advance your brand positioning in the minds of your target market. Your PR effort either as a preface to or as a congruent activity helps make your advertising messages believable and credible.Listen to stakeholders and take action
An important aspect of contemporary PR practice is to encourage stakeholder feedback and interaction with your brand. If you are marketing a consumer brand then it is vital to monitor consumer brand conversations. This can easily be done by creating the space for consumers to give feedback - either on your website, via your call centre, by monitoring relevant blogs and social media networks. Of course, tracking the media forms part of this process. Take note of any themes and respond to them with immediacy. Also, be sure to acknowledge the time taken and the value of the feedback. This will assist in establishing a meaningful dialogue.Maintain an authentic voice
In your PR initiatives, be sure to present diverse perspectives of your brand. Firstly, this is how journalists are trained to write and report in the media. Secondly, this will engender trust in your consumers. Consumers and other stakeholders, such as investors, suppliers, employees and potential employees want to know as much as they can about your brand and your organisation. “When stakeholders are empowered to scrutinise your brand and you as a brand ambassador are open and honest about both its strengths and weakness you are more likely to engender enduring trust in your brand. Trust is a very powerful emotion, one that every marketer should be focussed on creating in your consumers,” adds Gullan.
Remember, no two people will ever have exactly the same view of your brand. Embrace your critics and evangelists equally and treat diverse opinions with respect. Those conversations will happen whether you choose to acknowledge them or not. Be patient
PR takes time and does not necessarily work to your schedule. Planting new ideas or changing minds is a gradual process. When your PR program rolls out over a longer period of time, prospects have time to adjust their attitudes. Brands that take this approach are longer lasting too.It's not all rose tinted glasses
Remember, there are many disadvantages to PR. You can't control the content, timing or the visual appearance of your message. And you can't even be sure that your messages will be delivered. But the one advantage that overrides all these is that PR has credibility that your advertising does not. People believe what they learn about in the press, television and radio and what their community has to say.
“PR can change the context of how people react to all of your communications, your brand and to other brand critics and evangelists,” concludes Gullan, “it's a powerful communications tool that should not be ignored in today's brutally competitive landscape where your target market has access to brand information and other brand critics and evangelists at the click of a mouse.”