PR for Rebranding 101: The Role of PR in a Successful Rebrand

Many businesses will need to rebrand at some point. Rebranding represents an important shift in who you are, your direction, and your place in the market. Here, we’ll explore the what, when, and why of rebranding.

published: June 12, 2024
updated: June 26, 2024

Your brand is your number one asset. A strong brand is memorable and serves you well during tough times. But what happens when it ceases to do this? The market and changing public tastes can alter perceptions of existing branding. Take Nokia. The mobile phone company hit the snooze button when the smartphone market took off. Once the company's biggest phone manufacturer, it failed to seize a golden opportunity when it didn’t rebrand quickly (and sufficiently) enough, losing huge ground to Apple. This resulted in Nokia taking a rather large tumble from the pole position.

What made it worse was that the writing was on the wall, but they failed to address the industry's innovation rate and growing customer feedback.

Other factors that can prompt a rebranding PR campaign include international expansion, diversification into new industries, mergers, or acquisitions. Not rebranding can mean a failure to resonate with important stakeholders. This is why public relations for rebranding is so important.

A rebrand might be undertaken to modernize the company's image, differentiate from competitors, or align with current market trends and consumer preferences.
Example: Companies may update their logos, slogans, and overall brand aesthetics to appear more contemporary and relevant, especially if the existing brand image feels outdated or does not resonate well with the target audience.

Let's look at rebranding, why it's important, and how to do it step-by-step.

What is rebranding, and what are its goals?

Rebranding involves more than just getting a new logo —

creating a new strategic approach to the organization's image to forge a new brand identity.

The goal is to improve a company’s financial performance and reputation and give it greater longevity in the market.

The core purpose of rebranding is to connect with and reconnect with customers. When there is a meaningful connection, there is a relationship, and where this exists, there is a greater chance of brand loyalty. It's as simple as that.

What is a rebranding PR campaign?

A rebranding PR campaign is a specific campaign for a company to push out a particular message or change to stakeholders. It is a strategic marketing effort to change the corporate image, identity, or brand message in the eyes of its audiences, such as customers, investors, employees, and the general public.

A rebranding campaign can usher in new life for an organization. For that reason, PR is needed. This involves going back to the drawing board, recreating the company's mold, and deciding what it’ll stand for.

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Why is PR important during the rebranding process?

A communications strategy is vital to any rebranding PR campaign. PR for rebranding involves reinventing a brand identity while staying relevant in customers' minds.

The decision for a brand to rebrand should not be made lightly.

An audience base may have built a relationship with an organization based on its branding. A lot is at stake, but the risks can be worth it. You need a vision that inspires people to take action, i.e., remain loyal and embrace change. But it's not easy.

1

Communicating the change

PR for rebranding performs the basic task of message delivery: letting people know about the change. To make an impact in the quarters where it should, it’ll need to be delivered correctly and reach the right audiences.

Internal audiences require different approaches. It should be less sales and more practical, as it might require employees to know or do something. An in-house newsletter or intranet announcement should do the trick here. Invested third parties may require something different. Think here about shareholders. You’ll first need to reach customers on the right channels.

2

Crisis management planning

If there is one thing you shouldn’t be without during a corporate rebranding, it's a crisis management plan. A short history of unsuccessful rebranding tells us this. After a disastrous design change on their cartons, Tropicana's leadership team soon realized the seriousness of the situation. In light of a crisis, it conducted large-scale consumer surveys, which underscored the response they needed to make - a reversal of its old design. The bottom line is your bottom line.

Those in PR need to monitor what is said across channels, track recurring comments or concerns, and be ready to address them. If any unintended consequences arise, PR is essential to managing this situation.

3

Building and maintaining trust

Rebranding may cause a degree of uncertainty among stakeholders. PR professionals can help quell these by providing accessible and transparent change communication, explaining why the change is going ahead and how (if so) it will affect stakeholders.

This can ease people’s concerns, reduce bad press, and increase the chance of customers staying loyal.

You need to be prepared for confusion. So, your company name has changed. Why? Many will ask why fix something that, in their minds, isn’t broken. You need to provide the inner details of these company changes in an easy-to-understand way.

4

Media relations

It’s important to control the narrative with anyone who can communicate it. With some Stirling PR skills, you can get media coverage that helps not hinder the process, amplifying the core message and reaching a bigger audience.

An agency 'gets' the fragile nature of rebranding and the importance of engaging the media. The media works for one thing: a story. As much as your exciting rebrand may be a story, any mistakes you make could equally be one. A good PR agency can help you get your messaging just right.

5

Building brand image and awareness

Rebranding provides a fresh opportunity to redefine a company's image and values. Public relations plays a huge role in communicating this new and improved version of your brand, sharing the message far and wide, and crafting compelling narratives that create an image in people’s minds.

Part of this also involves positioning this rebranded entity within the industry and highlighting its USPs and what differentiates it from its competitors.

6

Reinforcing brand identity

PR helps reinforce the new brand identity through consistent storytelling and strategic positioning across all communication channels. PR pays attention to the news and how the brand identity comes across in the relevant media corners. Thought leadership and brand awareness initiatives need to be aligned with the new key messages being conveyed via the new identity.

7

Long-term success

It's wise to think of rebranding as a process rather than an event. PR can help sow the seeds for long-term brand sustainability.

To grow and nurture a brand, it takes a solid backstory, a well-built strategy, and a thorough understanding of the market.

Public relations for rebranding can help build and maintain this through communicating a company’s vision and mission.

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Effective PR tactics for rebranding

As public opinion changes and new competitors arrive, the need for public relations for rebranding increases. Rebranding helps people sit up and notice what you're doing, shows you have your ear to the ground, and are prepared to change when needed. Very few companies can afford to rest on their laurels and take for granted their position.

This doesn't mean rebranding just for the sake of it.

Rebranding can be expensive and risky. It must be done right, or you risk losing valuable customers. Remember, it's far more costlier to get new customers than to keep old ones. Loyal customers are the holy grail of business. Here’s a quick list of some essential PR tactics and their benefits to rebranding.

1

Comprehensive press release campaign

Description: Announce the rebrand with a detailed press release distributed to key media outlets.

Benefit: This insures widespread awareness and provides a controlled narrative about the rebranding's purpose and benefits.

2

Media outreach and exclusive interviews

Description: Arrange interviews with key executives and offer exclusives to high-profile publications.

Benefit: Positions company leaders as thought leaders, adding credibility and insight into the rebrand.

3

Social media engagement

Description: Use social media platforms to share updates, behind-the-scenes content, and engage with the audience about the rebrand.

Benefit: This builds a direct line of communication with customers, generating excitement and addressing concerns in real-time.

4

Customer and stakeholder newsletters

Description: Send personalized newsletters to customers, partners, and stakeholders explaining the rebranding process and its benefits.

Benefit: This keeps key audiences informed and involved, fostering a sense of inclusion and transparency.

5

Website and content updates

Description: Refresh the company website, blog, and other digital assets to reflect the new brand identity.

Benefit: It ensures all online touchpoints are consistent with the new branding, enhancing credibility and recognition.

6

Thought leadership articles

Description: Publish thought leadership pieces in industry journals and on platforms like LinkedIn, discussing the rebrand's strategic vision and industry impact.

Benefit: It positions the company as an innovator and authority in its field, supporting the new brand identity.

7

Community engagement and events

Description: Host virtual or in-person events, such as webinars or launch parties, to introduce the rebrand and engage with the community.

Benefit: Do this to create a direct and personal connection with the audience.

A rebranding PR campaign: step-by-step

When things move quickly, so should you. A solid PR strategy is the beginning and the end of successfully communicating your organizational rebrand. You need to arm yourself with a narrative that convinces people of your brand's authenticity and the benefits it brings to them.

1

Research research research

Once you've decided on the direction, you must conduct thorough research. Find out where your new target audience goes and what your competitors do.

This is the first step to your successful rebranding.

Your rebrand must be based on some market information. Are your competitors taking bigger chunks than you'd like? You need to understand the market dynamics of your industry and audience perceptions of your brand. This can help determine whether you align with their current needs and values. Is the market moving too fast? What changes are occurring that are most relevant to your customers?

2

Brand identity and messaging

Think seriously about messaging. The chances are this will need a rejig, especially if services have changed. Think about what you want from the rebrand and then gear your messaging accordingly.

You need to examine your current USPs and Value Propositions. Are they still relevant?

Internal branding documents and guides should be changed to match your new ethos, communication style, and purpose.

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3

Take care of platforms and ‘the merch’

Your ‘voice’ will ‘write’ your content, from your website to social media to the way your staff interacts with customers. It needs to be consistent across all platforms.

This includes your media kit, socials, bios, right the way to employee email signatures.

First, share the updated brand style and tone guide you brainstormed and developed in Step 1 with your staff and business partners. This provides the deets on everything from your new logo to tone, mission, etc. In with the new and out with the old. This will involve disposing of any written material or sales and marketing 'stuff' (pens, pencils, etc.).

Useful tip: Before the launch, alert people who visit your domain that there will soon be a change with a 'coming soon' notice and a bit of a teaser.

4

Make a content plan

By rebranding your business, you can start engaging your audience in meaningful ways. A content calendar for rebranding can help align tasks and goals. A content calendar should inform your social channels and content mix. As well as keeping track of ideas, it can provide information about what works and what does not.

This will help you achieve consistency across all projects and tasks. Plan the content you wish to share. Remember, you need to find the balance between promoting the rebrand and maintaining your company’s day job.

5

Promotion

It's time to get out there and promote. Obviously, how you do this will depend on your target audience. Your current promotional activities may need to be changed to match new goals. This is where your earlier research should come in useful.

Press releases are powerful tools for announcing a rebranding. Concisely explain the changes, their reasons, and how they fit into your wider goals to help customers.

6

Don't neglect employees

Get them involved early on to get the most from your employees. All intended changes need to be disseminated in a clear and transparent way. You should aim to get them on board for a successful and smooth rebranding. Use in-person meetings that give people the chance to ask questions. Detail the changes and the reasoning behind them, including any creative decisions. Reinforce key messages with newsletters and emails. You don't want anyone to feel like they are not in the know. This can spread mistrust.

7

Measure rebranding success

It's important to monitor the success of your rebranding efforts. Check reactions, comments, online discussions, and sentiment analysis. You should stay updated on the kinds of conversations people are having about your business. Use media monitoring here. It’s essential in any rebranding process. It lets you see in real-time how your changes are going, detect negative comments, and handle them. There are other advantages, too. You can gain valuable insights into Share of Voice (SOV).

Famous rebranding campaigns

When most people think of a 'rebrand,' they picture a logo change. A rebrand is a purposeful attempt to change the trajectory of the business. For this reason, anything a company does to change its image is considered a rebrand. Here are some well-known examples of successful rebranding that show you how its done.

Airbnb (2014)

Back in 2014, Airbnb freshened things up with a new brand logo and tagline - "Belong Anywhere." The change was intended to move the company from its infamous focus on cheap accommodation to that of an 'experience' platform connecting people to different cultures. The rebrand involved a redesigned site and app, a litany of traveler and host stories (to reinforce the 'experience' narrative), and a focus on stunning photography. With this move, it expanded its market beyond budget-savvy tourists to a broader audience seeking unique experiences.

Why it worked: Airbnb successfully tapped into a desire for more authentic travel experiences with a clever rebrand that tapped into the more emotional aspects of traveling and a community.

Starbucks (2011)

It's hard to think that Starbucks has been around since 1971! But to broaden its base and rebrand beyond its coffee-centric approach; the coffee giant moved to simplify its branding from “Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice” to feature the (now) iconic green logo. The move meant it represented more than just coffee in the eyes of consumers as it expanded its product range. The logo itself was simple, 'clean,' and memorable.

Why it worked: It was one of the best examples of a modernizing rebranding. Besides, have you ever seen an online discussion of coffee that didn't somehow involve Starbucks? Me neither.

Dominoes Pizza (2009)

In 2009, Dominoes was flagging. With poor reviews and a low reputation, it decided to do that rare thing: listen to people. It changed its dough recipe (core product) and sauces entirely and broadened its range. What made it such a standout rebranding was its candid approach to admitting shortcomings and what it intended to do to fix these.

The transparency went a long way with customers. but Dominoes still weren't done. They invested heavily in technology that would benefit and please their customers, including digital ordering platforms and a real-time Pizza Tracker. It led to a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes as sales went through the roof, and its turnover doubled from 2009 to 2017.

Dominoes had officially transformed its market position.

Why it worked: Dominoes took the idea of customer feedback to the extreme and showed customers the future it intended to create for them.

What is our approach as a rebranding PR agency?

When rebranding, an agency can shed light on what your old brand was or wasn't doing before, offering a helicopter view of the situation and some fresh eyes. Chances are, if you've worked hard on a brand for a while, you’ll only ever see it in that light.

When clients request assistance with a rebrand, we consult with our brand strategist to provide expert guidance and insights. This holistic approach guarantees that the rebrand strengthens brand recognition and maintains stakeholder confidence.

At PRLab, our approach to rebranding focuses on strategic communication and stakeholder engagement to ensure a seamless transition.

We start with comprehensive market research and stakeholder analysis to inform the rebranding strategy. Through a mix of press releases, media outreach, and thought leadership, we manage the perception of the rebrand as a positive evolution. Our team ensures consistent storytelling across all channels, reinforcing the new brand identity. We also engage employees and customers throughout the process.

It might seem daunting, but you don't need to go it alone. An agency can offer fresh perspectives and the benefit of their professional experience. They can also research your market and tell you where you fall in the competitor landscape.

June 12, 2024
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