Bringing the Power of PR to Brand Marketing

by Mike Smiley

In many small businesses and nonprofit organizations, the roles of marketing and public relations professionals are often intertwined…or even combined. The fact is, in the era of value-driven competition, marketing and public relations must indeed function as one.

How marketing has changed
Across the past 100 years, the focus of marketing has transitioned from production or service delivery to selling to marketing consumers to relationships. This evolution has resulted in a loss of effectiveness for traditional marketing and communications as evidenced in:

  • Explosion of information and media channels
  • Increased competition and price cutting
  • Shift to store brands and sub-brands
  • Greater influence of social media

What matters to consumers is the value a brand, product or organization has in their life. Driving this shift is the evolution in consumer behavior, exemplified by four major trends:

  1. Mindful Matter. Consumers weary of overspending and overconsuming are stepping back to reprioritize…”life can be better with less, if it’s the right less.”
  2. Gross National Happiness. Consumers are focusing attention on how to create social, economic and business conditions for happiness.
  3. Get Real. Consumers are done being told what they think and want. They laugh in the face of contrived media images and prefer to define their own reality.
  4. People Power. The free-flowing Information Age tools empower consumers to coordinate efforts and demand to be heard by corporations, governments and other institutions.

Consider further that the words consumers are using to describe what they value most are changing us as well. In a recent study, consumers ranked the following values highest:

  • Loyalty
  • Success
  • Honesty
  • Courtesy
  • Justice
  • Authenticity
  • Responsibility
  • Eequality
  • Conscience
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • Integrity

What this means for your product or services
The bottom line is that your customers or stakeholders are engaging with your products, services or organization very differently than even five years ago. They want to know what they are buying (or supporting, in the case of nonprofits), where did it come from and what their interaction with your business or organization says about them.

Stated simply, consumers are returning to what could be defined as “old-fashioned values” to create their version of lives with purpose and connection. It is a very deliberate shift from mindless to mindful consumption.

What consumers want from your brand
It is clear consumers are reevaluating their relationships with businesses and organizations based on shared values. While in the past they may have sought out brands that were exclusive, sensuous or daring, now they identify more closely with those that are friendly, high quality and socially responsible.

Starbuck’s, Proctor & Gamble, Chipotle and Tom’s Shoes are outstanding examples of business that understand and have embraced this shift in consumer behavior. These brands are at the intersection of what the consumer values and what the company values. This shared connection is essential to power marketing and make it great.

Why PR can power your marketing
Companies and organizations must find ways to close the trust gap at every level with their stakeholders. They must develop authentic, emotional ties to their brands that translate to value for the consumers they serve.

To that end, there has never been a better time for public relations to support brand marketing through its ability to:

  • Tell stories
  • Generate content
  • Express emotion
  • Personify companies/organizations
  • Communicate in trustworthy channels
  • Encourage two-way conversations

Your ability to assess your relationships with your customers or stakeholders and to integrate public relations with your branding efforts is critical to sustained success in this new era of value-driven marketing.