The Role Of Public Relations In Branding

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Because PR can be difficult to control, it is often discredited. According to Dick

Lyles, president and chief operating officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, a

full-service consulting and performance improvement company, “People tend

to migrate to things they can control. Even now, when an executive looks at an

advertising message that’s exactly what they want to create, with exactly the

right positioning and so forth, they say, ‘That’s the message I want to send.’

That’s great, even though people may not read it, or people may give it less

value and discount it, because it’s advertising…. [On the other hand], if you get

a well-placed article in a trade journal or you get some ink, people give it more

credibility. The impact is greater, but because it may not come out exactly the

way it was intended to come out, [businesspeople frequently] discount it.”

The concepts of Branding and public relations are closely intertwined. The job

of public relations is to encourage the public to have positive thoughts about a

particular company, product, service, or individual. Branding is the idea that a

particular set of attributes will encourage the public to have positive thoughts

about a particular company, product, service, or individual. It’s a subtle

distinction, but an essential one.

In order to best understand Branding and how it is done, it is necessary to

examine and explain public relations. Many experts on Branding espouse the

opinion that public relations are a vital part-if not the most vital part-of the

Branding process. Public relations practitioners are particularly well suited to

the Branding concept, since they are well versed in the techniques and

practices that create a public identity very close to the central idea of a brand.

Unlike marketing or advertising, which are essential activities and

indispensable to the creation of a brand, public relations is not devoted to a

tangible object. Advertising executives create television, print, and radio ads;

these are concrete, identifiable things. Marketing creates a product-be it a

physical product or a service-and presents it to the public. That is an obvious,

noticeable thing; it is not hard to understand.

Public relations does not do either of those things. When properly conceived

and executed, a public relations campaign is next to invisible; the public does

not know it’s there. More to the point, public relations does not create a

physical manifestation of its effort: When PR is done right, it doesn’t leave the

trace of a newspaper or magazine ad, a videotape, or an audiocassette that will

win awards-and that can sometimes overwhelm the message being delivered.

What public relations does is to encourage third parties to deliver the

message. Why? Because the third parties are news organizations, print

journalists, and television and radio news programs and talk shows, which by

definition have more credibility for the general public than an advertisement or

the word of a company spokesperson.

In other words, public relations is meant to generate news coverage. It does so

through planned events and through news stories (true news stories, it should

be emphasized) suggested to reporters and their editors. When a newspaper

runs an article about the unusual new promotion being done by a local

business, that’s public relations. But to the reader of that newspaper, it appears

to be an article generated by the editorial staff of the publication itself.- There

is no advertisement disclaimer that runs over a PR-suggested news article.

That makes sense, because the news editor always has the option of ignoring

the suggestions made by public relations people. Editors and producers will

rely on public relations for news leads, but will not simply act as a conduit,

presenting the message from the public relations company’s client unedited

and unconfirmed. Public relations can suggest, but not control, the message

being sent. It is a very difficult tightrope to walk.

For example, in 2000, when the Beatles song compilation 1 was being

released by Capitol Records, it presented (believe it or not) a public relations

dilemma: how to promote an album full of songs that the entire target

audience almost certainly owned in another form already.

The problem was solved in a number of ways. First of all, it was emphasized

that these were the 27 number one songs the band had produced during its

legendary career. Press releases noted over and over again that these songs

had never been compiled on one album before. It was intimated that many in

the group’s core audience might not have heard these songs on CD before,

having bought them on vinyl records when they were originally released.

But more than anything, the public relations executives managed to generate

publicity for the album with something that no other project could possible

offer: access to the (at the time) three surviving Beatles for interview. News

programs, interview shows, publications, and talk programs were all given

opportunities (albeit brief ones) to interview at least one Beatle, and therefore

the album was mentioned on countless air-waves and in publications for weeks

before its release, and given very prominent placement.

The album went on to become a smash hit, reaching number one almost 40

years after the initial release of some of the recordings. It was yet another

triumph for a legendary recording group, but it was also something of a coup

for the public relations personnel involved. Yes, they had the luxury of three of

the most famous faces on the planet, and the ability to use them. But the PR

people who worked on that project also knew that they had to make something

that wasn’t necessarily new seem vital and important, and they knew where the

news story in the project was kept. Making sure the news got out was their job,

and they did it admirably.

The best part: The public was never aware there were PR people involved at all.

What average fans saw on TV was Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and/or

Ringo Starr. They heard snippets of the songs they had loved for decades. And

they were told that this was different; it was new; it was unique. That’s all the

public needed to know. The fact that this message had been carefully

constructed and the interviews painstakingly arranged was irrelevant to

consumers; all they needed to know was that the Beatles were, more or less,

back.

Public relations works behind the scenes, but its impact on Branding is

enormous. Because PR generates interest, and precisely because it is working

offstage, it is as valuable a part of the Branding process as can be imagined.

And best of all, it’s often the, least expensive component in a sophisticated

Branding machine.

As Adam Christing, president and founder of Clean Comedians, a company

that provides meeting planners with G-rated comedians, says, “Public relations

takes the brand and makes it mobile, makes it more visible. It’s like taking a

band that’s been successful in a local neighborhood and taking it out on the

road so more people can experience it.”

Of course, when the message is not delivered in the form that was initially

intended, that means the public relations professional has not done the job

properly. The mistake can be in the design of the message itself-in particular,

if the message that has been designed is a false or misleading one-or in the

method of its delivery. It’s a fine thing to have a vital, exciting news story to

tell, but if the presentation is ineffective, that story win not be told, or win be

told in such a way that its original intention is lost.

Public relations is about messages and their delivery, but that isn’t all PR is. In

correlation with Branding, the goal of public relations must always be to create

a feeling in the mind of the target audience for which the message is being

tailored. If Branding is about creating an identity for a product, service, or

entity (company or individual), public relations’ contribution to Branding is

about making that identity friendly and likable for the public–specifically, the

public for which the message is intended.

Obviously, the feeling most PR aspires to create is a positive one. But the

intention is vastly more complex than that: In truth, public relations seeks to

create and maintain a consistent feeling of familiarity, trust, reliability, and

confidence with the targeted public. If advertising is about getting the public’s

attention, public relations is about delivering the message once the attention

has been commanded. When people express an opinion about a product or a

company, initially they’ll say they like or don’t like it, without offering further

explanation. But when they’re given specific questions about their opinions, the

effects of public relations become clear. When products are assigned

personality traits or attributes by the public-“friendly,” “environmentally aware

… .. concerned with quality … .. accessible”-it means that public relations, in

conjunction with advertising and marketing, has done its job. But because the

public is naturally wary of advertising and marketing, and because those

disciplines are considerably more visible than public relations, it is possible

that PR makes the most honest, and deepest, impact on the public’s psyche.

How is the feeling created? Unlike advertising or marketing, public relations

alms to influence public opinion without being noticed. So efforts made by

companies to create goodwill through advertising and marketing are effective,

but will be met with a higher amount of resistance from the public than a

public relations campaign.

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Source by Michael Levine

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