If you’ve been reading Sterling Kilgore’s blogs regularly, you are well aware what successful public relations is and its role in gaining the visibility that makes companies and their products and thought leaders famous. Now let’s delve into a sister sub-discipline of marketing—branding. Branding at its most tactical is the creation of a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a company or product from other companies or products. Typically, more importance is given to branding in a business-to-consumer environment than in a business-to-business environment. This is a mistake. With the consumerization of customer experience transcending traditional boundaries based on who is buying from whom, the attention paid to B2B branding has become increasingly important—and possibly equal to B2C branding efforts.
That said, branding has to be so much more than just logos, taglines, colors and look-and-feel; it also has to involve the process of hand-feeding to prospects key messages about what your company and products are all about and how they are different—and better—from the competition. Entrepreneur magazine so succinctly states, “Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.” This notion is not limited to megabrands like Coca-Cola and AirBnB, but is oh-so applicable to every brand out there, including yours.
Branding and PR: Sister disciplines
Without a proactive public relations effort, there won’t be meaning behind your branding. Without PR, a limited audience will learn about, understand and internalize your company’s unique message, visit your website and be willing to meet with your sales team. In other words, without media outreach, thought leadership, interesting and timely shareable content, award wins and analyst relations, your branding effort is for naught.
Branding and public relations work collaboratively within an overall marketing strategy to create a complete and compelling picture of the company that serves to gain visibility and notoriety, which in turn benefits sales and revenue. One of the results of a successful branding and PR effort is attaining coveted brand awareness.
Making your mark
Brand awareness is what gives you an advantage when buyers are comparing vendors. When they have seen your name in the publications they read, consumed your thought leadership content or seen your executives listed as speakers at conferences they attend, it becomes easier to convert them into a lead or sale.
Sadly, more than 90 percent of companies never get to the point of brand awareness, being stuck at the lowliest level of branding, brand absence. At this base stage, buyers either aren’t familiar with your company or they only use your products and services indifferently because your offerings were already at the company when they were hired on, purchased by someone who may not even work at the company anymore.
Once a company can claim brand awareness, however, the doors of opportunity open to ever-increasing levels of recognition. Brand preference is one stage up the ladder, when buyers prefer your company’s offerings over others’. Brand insistence is when buyers are so loyal to your brand they will not use competitive offerings. And the magnum opus of your combined branding and PR effort: Brand advocacy, when customers are raving fans who endorse and recommend your offerings to others. If social media has taught us one lesson, it is how powerful brand advocacy can be.
Although a PR program can be successful without solid branding (but it certainly does help), branding cannot be successful without PR or some type of concerted outreach into your target markets. If you feel your branding is lacking or could use a boost from public visibility, give us a call.