There needs to be a brand revolution in PR. And I don’t mean Russell Brand’s book. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone (although kudos to him for stirring things up in #GE2015). What I mean is a revolution in the way we approach branding.
As agencies across disciplines jostle for creative, content and digital supremacy, I believe we are ignoring a battle in which the benefits of victory could be equally, if not more, transformational for our industry – the battle for brand guardianship.
The brand has travelled a long way. It can make or break a business or secure global domination. It has spawned a whole agency sector, populated by powerhouses such as Futurebrand and Interbrand, often with budgets of which we can only dream.
For any agency, then, brand guardianship is a route to bigger budgets and higher-level relationships. Yet it’s often ignored in favour of reputation management (brand guardianship’s corporate cousin). But, while reputation is the core of PR’s future, brand guardianship must also figure. So, here’s my manifesto.
- We think brand is synonymous with consumer. In fact, corporate communicators are increasingly after brand counsel to help develop a more consistent, softer, human dialogue with audiences. The industry can build on its reputation expertise with the rigour of a consumer brand model to give clients a strong, engaging and more consistent corporate brand.
- The flipside of this is that we all too frequently fail to bring our reputation expertise to bear on consumer brands (at least outside times of crisis). At a time when consumers increasingly need to trust the business behind the brand, our industry is perfectly placed to translate hard (social impact) issues and causes into softer, consumer-friendly language.
- We think brand is about comms. But, it’s also about development (defining missions, visions, values, essences and propositions – even names) and identity (logo, design, brand guidelines, office/digital environment). While brand comms is our comfort zone, development and identity are no longer the exclusive domain of branding agencies.
- People think a brand expert is someone who has worked on a lot of consumer campaigns. That is a consumer expert – a brand expert knows how to build and nurture a brand; they get infrastructure and design. With more managers, strategists and creators in our industry we will be able to better speak the language of brand and build strong ties with those who run them.
- Brand ‘success’ isn’t simply about ‘branded mentions’, but the impact a campaign has on brand attributes and loyalty. We must connect the work we do to the brand trackers used to benchmark success, not obsess about reach or fixate on often-unmeasurable ‘ROI’. Our work has a huge impact on brands and we need to measure and celebrate that.
- In short, if we spent less time with our heads in the PR weeds and more time with our heads in the brand clouds, we’d do better work with greater (measurable) impact for more fee.
So bring on the brand revolution (but not Russell’s book).
Adam Mack is chief strategy officer, EMEA at Weber Shandwick