Darlene McCormick, Freshwater - Remember the regions

Regional PR strategies are being overlooked, but they can be crucial to the success of a brand.

I doubt there are many global or European heads of communication who roll out one PR strategy across the varied regions under their remit. But there may be some marketers and comms heads in the UK who do. Worse still, there may even be some who haven't realised they should have regional communications in the consideration set.

Consumer PR has been so focused on the price vs value case, exploiting digital platforms and looking for the 'next big idea' that we may have overlooked a key fundamental. Our consumers live in a regional landscape.

They are, in turn, Irish, British, Welsh, Northerners, Southerners, Ulstermen and women and Scots.

Many have devolved governments and all have regional media. They have their own languages and dialects, their respective cultural mores. What is 'great craic' in Northern Ireland might be 'ddim yn dda' in Wales. We are a diverse nation. Everything from our household income to our choice of consumer products is influenced by which region of this great cultural jigsaw called the United Kingdom we live in.

Why is it then a brand, consumed across these regions, would fail to communicate directly to regional consumers? We may have been distracted by other things. Price is an example. Surely we have realised that price is not enough. Price has been replaced by 'a reason to buy at all'. 'Price Switchers' are the least loyal of all the consumer segments. They'll be off as soon as another brand offers them a better deal.

Brand loyalty is a different matter.

Brand loyalists are the holy grail of consumers. They are the people who will pay a premium for your product or service, act as unpaid brand ambassadors and adopt your sub brands.

They are smart. For them, their product of choice and how it engages with them must be authentic.

Awareness is the tip of the iceberg. Cut-through, engagement and adoption are another matter. Brands are emotional and connecting consumers' emotions to a brand is the stock in trade of consumer PR. This can be done to much greater effect with a regional PR and comms strategy. I have seen it at work and it can be measured.

Specsavers' PR function is a perfect example of how to do it. The Specsavers national PR campaign - relevant to all UK consumers - is supported by a PR roll-out across the UK through its PR agencies in every key region, including Freshwater. All national campaigns are sensitive to local considerations. This approach is further supplemented by bespoke regional campaigns - from sponsorships to charity campaigns - to promote the professionalism and community of the Specsavers brand.

Add in the fact that the media in each region are much better managed by local people who deal with their regional media on a daily basis and you get a deep and meaningful UK PR function. The result? Specsavers has been the UK's most trusted optician brand for the past nine years, according to the Reader's Digest survey, and is one of the most successful brands in the UK, a homegrown superbrand.

So why don't all brands have a regional PR strategy? The brand values, personality and core identity which drive national communication are constant. What is variable is the style of communication, the associations, the ambassadors, the language used, the tapping into local sensitivities and the respect for cultural preferences.

So, yes, the messaging, content, the 'big idea', the comms platforms are all at the heart of a great consumer PR campaign, but taking it regional puts your great work straight into the hearts of your consumers. And that's bostin' (if you live in Birmingham).

- Darlene McCormick is head of consumer and brands at Freshwater


- Who is your fantasy campaign spokesman/woman? Why?

I'll have one of each. Marilyn Monroe, an iconic example of the PR principle that how you say it is just as important as what you say, and Neil Armstrong, a true exponent of the soundbite and the ability to send a message galactic.

- Which consumer brand most successfully capitalised on the election campaign season?

Ben & Jerry's election ice creams. They cleverly managed to give the nation a fun taste of how we'd vote by turning the election leaders into ice creams, like Super Sweet Cameron Chew Chew and Gordon Fudge Brownie.

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