The power of branding is a powerful tool for any company. People like good stories, and everyone has a story to tell, it’s just a case of telling it in a way that people will relate to and engage with. This article will go over the methods used by PR experts, how they create stories, use tone, and create content and scale to build loyalty around a brand.
This is a word we frequently use here at PRLab. Brand awareness, brand visibility, brand authority, these are concepts we refer to, often. Yet they are merely qualities of this greater and frankly powerful concept.
The origin of the word comes from the act of branding something in the literal sense of burning a mark to differentiate ownership of cattle.
As far back as 2700BC, ancient Egyptians would use unique symbols to deduce one person’s cattle from another. While we’ve come a long way with our idea of a brand, this practical definition influences the meaning of brands today.
Now in today’s modern era, branding is still used to distinguish ownership, but the notion of the brand doesn’t exist in reality. It is something that we perceive, and experience. It is a personality, indeed an identity that we associate with a given business or individual. According to Kotler, author of Principles of Marketing, this identity is set apart from others by its components, such as its name, design, imagery, slogans and writing style.
Let’s have a deeper look at the levels of meaning in a brand.
Your attributes are a set of labels that you wish to be associated with. For example, you want your primary attribute to be known as environmental friendliness. These attributes are communicated through your benefits, which is meaning on a more emotional level, in this case, supporting an environmentally conscious brand makes you feel good. Your brand is also built upon your core values, which customers will align with. The last form of brand identity is personality, which is what gives your brand a sense of personal interaction.
According to the definition of public relations, the aim of PR is effectively manage all of your communications and branding assets to build awareness of your attributes, benefits, value and personality. This guide is intended to help you understand this power, and how you can go about using PR to build your brand identity.
At its core, public relations is the art of storytelling.
The aim of PR is to use your story, the tale of how you started and what motivated you to set out on your journey to create and communicate your identity with your audience.
Your story forms the basis of your core values, which impacts much of what your brand does. Knowing how you started, what drives you, and the adversities you have overcome humanises your brand and makes you relatable. It is said that business leaders will not be heard unless they are telling a compelling story.
At one of our PRLab meetups, we spoke to Christiaan Ruesink, the man pioneering brand journalism. He is the chief editor at The Story Machine, a company that uses journalism as a starting point for all they do. The goal of brand journalism is to enhance brand credibility by increasing consumer trust and thus securing more loyalty and a better reputation for your brand.
Brand journalism is not just about creating ad campaigns or simply selling something. It’s about a long term investment to keep your brand in the minds of your audience. Think about your customers, what do they want to know about you? What should they know about you? Don’t tell them to buy your stuff, but tell them about your value at every chance you get!
Christiaan brings it to our attention that everyone has a story. Your brand has a story. And it’s worth telling. Tell your story and people will listen. How did your brand come to be? What were your trials and tribulations? That’s identifiable. Knowing your audience is critical when telling your story. Every brand has a valuable database (or at least they should). Go through your data to see what would be compelling to your audience. If you want to know more about the power of data you should check out our ultimate guide to PR.
Once you optimize your story, tell the same one every time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use different mediums, just stick to your story. Stories have power like no other. They can make people reminisce, dream and truly feel emotions. If you want to captivate your audience and create content that is meaningful, you should always implement an aspect of storytelling.
Why does this work so well? Because we are literally wired for stories. This formula tests the reptile brain. Vijn says that “If you want to arouse someone you have to switch on the reptile brain.” Research shows that creating this tension and solving it releases oxytocin in your brain, a chemical that creates feelings of empathy and connection.
We also spoke to the founder and managing director of the creative agency Lemon Scented Tea, Gijbregt Vijn. He discussed the importance of brand storytelling in PR, and gave some brilliant examples of how successful a good story could be.
Lemon Scented Tea is a creative marketing and advertising agency in Amsterdam that believes storytelling is the key to successfully creating an engaging narrative for your audience. The key to storytelling he says, is having a clear and defined structure. A good story always involves a hero with some sort of conflict that needs to be resolved. By creating a relatable character, and having them overcome adversity through your advertisements or PR efforts you will promote emotional engagement.
A way to think about this is to use the twelve archetypal characters in writing. Some examples of these archetypes are:
Having characteristics in mind when creating your story will help you develop the correct voice to use when communicating messages to your audience. By presenting yourself in a certain light, you can persuade consumers that you can contribute to their identity. Your brand will help them to be a rebel, or to woo the hearts of their beloved, and become an exciting story that people can relate to. A character isn’t interesting without context, and any good story will need some conflict. Without drama a story is boring and unengaging. People don’t want to read about facts and figures, or hear about all the great things you have done. They want to see a risk being taken and paying off, or a conflict being resolved.
By seeing the journey taken by your business, consumers will see the challenges you have faced and the adversities you have overcome. This will humanize your brand and make you more relatable as someone that understands their daily conflicts, and can now provide solutions for them. Conflict and resolution makes your brand far more interesting than just existing in perfect harmony; it gives you authenticity, and makes you deserving of trust.
So ask yourself, who is your brand’s hero? You can do this by identifying your archetype. Is it the caregiver who longs to keep everyone safe and secure? Or the rebel who fights against society’s restrictions? Vijn brought it all to life with Lemon Scented
Tea’s project for Veloretti “An Amsterdam Bicycle Story.” Veloretti wanted to build their brand in other cities, so they turned to the storytelling experts.
Veloretti’s archetype? The rebel. Everyone loves a well-done grungy storyline. And theirs had a purpose – to liberate people from cars. Their packaging literally has ’F*CK CARS’ written across it. In Viloretti’s story, the brand is the main character. It features young people on bicycles, combating weather, cars, falls and makes for an identifiable case for young people in Amsterdam.
It’s the archetype that makes the storyline cool and sets the tone of voice for your project. So choose yours wisely and then keep it consistent. Your entire brand can be this exciting story that will then become your whole brand’s journey.
Here are the steps followed by Vijn to tell a story using PR:
Nothing communicates identity as much as the tone of your content. Tone isn't a style, it's your message. In order to send the right message, you also need to tone to reflect the reason your audience tunes in for the latest post. So what is the right tone to take for your content? This all depends on your audience, the type of content you’re producing and its purpose, and the identity you want to develop.
Your target audience will determine your tone due to their expectations and needs. Are you an edgy tech company that wants to communicate how exciting you are and the boundaries you’re pushing? Then perhaps using informal, emotional language to appeal to people interested in groundbreaking technology is the way to go. However, if you are a more traditional company that focuses less on change but more on the excellence of your core products, then you will want to take a more educational approach. This is who you are and this is why people visit your blog page. If you start deviating from it, you will confuse yourself and your audience.
As mentioned before, you should know the purpose of your content. How-to articles look to inform your audience on how to accomplish something and advocate articles look to insight change, focusing more on ideas than specific facts. Therefore the tone used will differ depending on your goals and the needs of the audience.
So when you first set out in crafting an intriguing blog post you first need to decide what you want to accomplish with it. What is your call-to-action you are trying to push on to your audience? you have to make a decision on the type of content you want to create.
Deciding on the goal of your content not only helps with the tone itself, but with where this content will appear.
Educational content is very popular, and for good reason. If you are a property tech company, you are a very relevant source of information. As such an article about how
to modernize your office space on a budget is not only highly relevant to your readers, but will be well received as people trust your insights on your field of specialty and therefore you should leverage your expertise.
To produce good educational content . Sometimes a new research comes out with game changing findings, and a blog post can be relevant on the subject. You can use the new data to debunk myths in your industry and effectively educate your audience.
More commonly referred to op-ed’s when published in a newspaper, advocacy articles do also find their way into blog posts. If you own a talent acquisition software and have long discussed diversity in hiring, then blog posts advocating for a change in the status quo is highly relevant. Although it may educate readers, the main purpose is to reaffirm your standing on an issue and that you are actively pushing for change.
In some instances and depending on your identity as a company, a good story telling article can not only provide great entertainment, but also reaffirm why your company is one of the best in your industry. Most of the time we see this in the form of a case study, but these are quite formal. If your audience appreciates being talked to and you have a story worth telling it needs to be entertaining.
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Now that you know what content you will be producing and its purpose, it’s time to think about your tone. If you are a company that regularly challenges the status quo and you are writing an advocacy article, then you can be direct and harsh in your tone
Address the audience themselves and knowing your audience, they won’t mind it.
If your audience is a bit less receptive to this type of harshness, you can still create a great advocacy piece, but don’t be as direct. Address the industry and not the reader, that way it feels less like an attack. This more formal approach is more common due to its conservativeness.
Educational pieces on the other hand should always be more on the formal side. You want to educate the readers on a topic and for that it needs credibility. Avoid storytelling entirely unless it exemplifies why something works or it doesn’t. But still keep it short, otherwise your message will be lost. And always address the audience directly, that way it seems like a private lesson and will make them feel valued.
On the flipside, storytelling articles should always take an informal tone of voice. You are not necessarily addressing the audience, but instead giving them an inside look into your company. Here they get to see how it operates, how you handle adversity, and most importantly, it shows them that you aren’t out of touch with reality.
Ultimately, choosing a tone isn’t something difficult if you know your audience and your purpose. The tone of voice you choose is part of your message and a crucial aspect in how it will be received. So know who you are, who your audience is and what you are trying to accomplish.
Now you know about creating the correct content to tell a story, and using the correct tone, it’s time to learn how to create this content at scale to maintain a constant presence online and in the media. During on of our PRLab talks, Jan Jelle de Boer, Head of Creative Strategic Partnerships at S4 MediaMonks, shed some light on one of the topical issues of contemporary advertising and the way we perceive it.
He says that today we are approaching creativity and advertising like we did years ago - making a linear traditional film instead of implementing something brand new. As marketers, we have many interactive and innovative mediums we can use yet we often insist on revolving it around linear and traditional formats. We fail to tap into the potential of up-to-date technological advancements.
According to Jan Jelle, breaching this gap between creativity and media channels should be the main focus of the advertising industry. Here are 3 principles on how to fill this gap, both from a storytelling and content production perspective.
Creating a fit for format content entails optimizing the content for a particular platform or medium, which in turn boosts the creative efficiency of the content. In his presentation, Jan Jelle guided us through the process of how they improve their content’s creative efficiency at MediaMonks :
Firstly, they develop a brand strategy focused on big ideas, which is done using real platform insights and matching it with natural user behavior. The collaboration between MediaMonks, L’oreal and Facebook on a launch for a new L'oreal brow makeup line in Italy can serve as a great example here. Evidence suggests that it takes 1.7 seconds to catch the audience's attention, and based on this they asked beauty influencers to participate in the campaign in a very engaging way - by sharing very short videos of their eye-brow beauty routine.
They then experimented with new formats, which MediaMonks adapted during their partnership with Netflix and Google by combining the up-to-date Google Lens technology with traditional media. Having implemented Google Lens’ interactive tool into a print ad for the first time ever, they allowed the New York Times readers dive into the Stranger Things adventure world right from the newspaper page.
The technology is beyond simple: just by scanning the ad through Google Lens app users could access an exclusively designed virtual reality and feel the part of something truly special. The campaign brought enormous results, leading to 2,400,00 impressions in New York Times.
In order to create content at scale, you need to consolidate your production efforts. You can do this by applying an integrated approach to content production, which will maximize your content output. Integrated production means one shoot, one budget, one production process, multiple pieces of content. Here Jan Jelle refers to the project that MediaMonks worked on together with IKEA Netherlands. They generated creative ideas per touchpoint and used one single production platform to display all these variations of content: TV commercials, photography and youtube pre rolls, and animated gifs.
It’s crucial to remember that your consumers are not targets - your goal is not to make them feel stalked and aggressively targeted, your goal is to make them feel heard.
That’s why, instead of creating personalized panic, you should carefully analyze your audience and understand their actual needs.
Jan Jelle shared his strategy of creating a personalized experience with us:
One of the ways of identifying these signals is by generating different pieces of content based on the geographical location or language. That’s exactly how MediaMonks approached the launch of Narco's third season: by aligning dynamic content to three different target audiences across the globe in accordance with their local interests and cultural features. This campaign was very successful, with almost 1,5 million potential outcomes.
Let’s go into more detail as to why you should be developing a content strategy that builds your identity. We’ve mentioned already that it’s because having a relatable identity can build loyalty, but what does brand loyalty mean, and what does it take for a consumer to become ‘loyal’ to a certain brand.
Brand loyalty is a type of consumer behavior, when they start to prioritize a particular brand over others that offer similar products or services. A consumer bases their choice on being loyal to a specific brand based on several factors, and the most common among them includes good customer service, an abundance of personalized offers, great deals, and well-designed brand loyalty programs.
So why is it important to put effort into building your brand loyalty? Firstly, established brand loyalty is an integral part of a long-term and sustainable business strategy. If you find yourself constantly brainstorming about exclusive ideas and tools to attract primarily new customers, you are likely leaving behind very important contributors to your business success - the brand loyalists.
According to statistics, 80% of your future income will consist of 20% of your present clientele, which speaks for the long-term effect of increasing your brand loyalty. As for the question of sustainability, it is proven that it costs you almost five times more to develop a business strategy specifically for reaching new clients than previous ones; for instance, improving brand loyalty programs for existing customer base. Of course this doesn’t mean that you should give up on generating up-to-date business campaigns, aimed at getting new clients for your brand - just don’t underestimate its benefits.
At first glance these two terms seem to be almost identical - both customer and brand loyalty are associated with a positive impression about your brand, which makes it stand out among all the competitors in the eyes of a customer. However, in reality customer and brand loyalty pursue different objectives. While customer loyalty is mainly enhanced by special offers and discounts, brand loyalists are motivated by the quality of your goods and services as well as the overall positive image of your brand regardless of the price you offer. Therefore, the ways of increasing your customer loyalty and brand loyalty also differ
Understanding the financial capability of your clients is the key to customer loyalty, while brand loyalty requires more in-depth analysis of a client’s expectations of a great customer service. So if you are looking for strong customer loyalty - focus on providing your clients with tempting discounts and promos in accordance with well-researched market’s needs. but if you choose to stick to increasing your brand loyalty - try to make your customer experience special and irreplaceable by any other competitor in your field.
So which kind of content can help you gain strong brand loyalty? First of all, you need to set up your unique brand story that represents your company’s values and contributes to your authenticity on the market. For example, at PRLab we value collaboration with purpose-driven companies, which is why we regularly update our client spotlight with case studies summarizing the experience of our partnership. Having worked on your brand story, you need to identify your brand voice and use it throughout various Social Media platforms. A combination of having a unique story to tell and using your own brand voice to spread it will help you become an outstanding company and help distinguish yourself from others who provide similar services.
Also, apart from being authentic, it’s crucial to maintain consistency while preparing and sharing your content. Here comes the importance of adapting an effective content marketing strategy: establish your own social media plan, avoid spamming and aggressive promotions, so your customers feel well-informed and updated, but not overwhelmed by abundance of poorly organised content. A good addition to that could be making your content plan more personalized through sharing positive customer experience: you can add a whole section on your website or social media profile, which will include some of your customers' feedback on their own experience of trusting your brand.
This marketing strategy is known as social proof marketing, which adds transparency to your customer service through sharing individual customer stories. According to the Word of Mouth report, 83 % of the customers choose to prioritize a certain brand over all the others based on the customer's individual recommendation. This shows that brand loyalty, in this case expressed through the company's positive image, is a significant contribution to your brand’s success on the market
Finally, make sure to act responsive: be prepared to actively interact with your customers - provide them with timely responses, updates and follow-ups, listen to their needs by offering them to suggest topics of their interest. Responsiveness is one of the key elements of brand loyalty as it allows you to fulfill customer’s individual expectations and, as a result, make his customer experience special. All in all, remember that increasing your brand loyalty is a multi-stage process, which always needs to be maintained and improved in accordance with your customer’s needs and expectations. Fortunately, today we have all the necessary tools for identifying them - go deep into analyzing your customers behavior, gather feedback and make sure to deliver excellent customer service.
Since the beginning of 2020 and up until now, 2021, the Sars-Cov-2 Coronavirus pandemic has prompted bold changes in marketing and branding strategies, leading to even greater changes in the surviving startup and scaleup ecosystems. PR, marketing and communication teams all over the globe have had to adapt their existing branding efforts to match the current Covid-19 pandemic situation.
For starters, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a major influence on customer and consumer behaviours and has changed how buyers interacted with their favourite brands, thus using different channels in order to purchase their products and services. Brands have had to adapt to this fast-paced and dynamic business market and its harsh reality. In 2020 and 2021, the trickiest part for both new and established brands has been to learn how to read and interpret their buyer personas' new purchasing habits and being able to label their cognitive misers or, in other words, their mental shortcuts, in their purchasing journeys. This is a key step all startups, e-commerce and retail businesses have had to face when wanting to ultimately improve their marketing funnels and therefore, their omnichannel user experience.
Although it may initially seem like branding and shopping habits are two different things, they are pretty close. The first one, as mentioned before, identifies the company's image and reputation and the latter connects the corporate values with the way consumers (B2Cs or B2Bs) perceive the organisation and its sales funnel. Therefore, effective marketing and branding efforts will focus on accurately identifying the customers and their needs, as well as to produce consumer value.
The ultimate challenge in 2021 will be for startups, scaleups and SMEs to develop a cost-effective sales strategy that allows them to distinguish their public objective's buying routines. What we traditionally knew as the four Ps in marketing (product, price, promotion, and place). Now, more than ever, companies must promote their values in a more holistic way, as part of their USP (unique selling proposition). They must show future and existing clients that their company doesn't only market a simple product or service but it also offers a mid to long term solution fitting their buyer's needs and wants.
Nowadays, and this has been highlighted during the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic, companies promoting their CSR by proving to care about their customers' security, health, safety, and assurance, have seen how their brand's identity and authority have increased immensely.
The Coronavirus pandemic has sped up the customer relations process and with it, the way mutual relationships with all involved stakeholders work.
Customers and especially online customers want to receive brief, clear, and concise messages that will enable fluid communication flows between them and the companies they interact with. Home-buying has become the new nº1 social trend, for instance, in 2020, 82% of North-American households had an Amazon Prime subscription. The situation in Europe and the rest of the world isn't as extreme as in the US, however, e-commerce and online subscription services are and have been on the rise. Why? For starters, they use omnichannel marketing tactics to communicate with their audiences and buyer personas, but not only that, but they've also reduced many purchasing frictions, allowing them to offer immediate, efficient and trustworthy services, backed by well-designed, UX-friendly platforms/channels.
As you can see, PR uses a number of tools and strategies to build brand identity. It begins with the concept of storytelling, and how developing a narrative with an awareness of your place in the industry, the qualities of your main character, and the conflicts resolved, can create an engaging story for your audience. It is about more than simple sales. It’s about making people relate to your brand, realizing its value, and convincing them to make the choice to not just buy your product, but to buy into your brand.
The important things to focus on is knowing your audience, and the purpose of your content.
This will help you decide your tone in the language, symbols and images you use that all add up in your consumer’s minds to form a perception of your qualities. Hopefully you now not only know the importance of brand identity, but are aware of strategic communications you can use to develop it. Now go out there and tell your story!