Brand Reputation: Let's go back to basics

Reputational success for brands requires us to dust down of some of the most basic PR principles.

It’s true that to be truly creative we need to rip up the rule book and find new ways to do things. But the basics are also important and should not be underestimated.

Against the backdrop of a changing landscape driving how we interact with brands, there is still a place for adapting some of the fundamental PR principles that can help build brands and reputation.

This is true of many disciplines. International film-maker George Lucas told the industry: "Don’t forget the basics. Don’t get enamoured with new technology, because it’s not new. The medium we’re working in is new, but that doesn’t change anything. The art of what we do is exactly the same. It’s beyond technology. It’s the art of movies."

For me that’s the same for the art of PR. If we lose the basics, we dilute the impact and meaning of our brand-building PR campaigns.

I was inspired some years ago by a well-thumbed pamphlet in the Coca-Cola archives entitled It’s Human Relations That Count. This was held in high esteem by Coca-Cola president Robert W Woodruff, who led the company for more than 60 years. What’s interesting is that this became Woodruff’s business and personal philosophy.

So impressed was Woodruff by the words and their meaning that he had the pamphlet reprinted to pass out to key people.

He also kept a small plaque on his desk with a quote inspired by the pamphlet: "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit." This symbolised one of the core values of the business, which acknowledged the true spirit of collaboration and consideration for others.

Simple and concise, the leaflet highlights the obvious but sometimes forgotten mantras of what really makes PR integral to business success today – the importance of human relations.

Sometimes the very basic and traditional approaches to PR can be still the most impactful. The simple truth about why good human relations still count and what PR can do still requires us to dust down of some of the basic PR principles:

1 Get your brand in the right hands and in the right places

2 Be culturally and socially relevant

3 Invest time to build effective relationships

4 Be true to brand values inside and outside the organisation

5 Articulate your message and meaning

6 Interrogate who will care about what you are saying or doing

7 Act with integrity and create fact-based compelling conversations.

Reputation is hard to build but easy to lose and the more friends and ambassadors a brand has, the more likely they are to stand with you in challenging times.

PR is also hard to do, but with a solid foundation in the basic principles, it’s more likely that ongoing trust and relevance in brand campaigns will be more effectively delivered if you act with integrity and have valued relationships, substance and cultural and social context.

Joan O’Connor is head of brand PR, Coca-Cola North West Europe and Nordics

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