PR and branding go hand in hand and are inextricably linked forever more.
Sprouse Marketing Group has numerous case studies to back this assertion up. It used to be (trust me, I remember when this was the case) that a business or company had “brand people” and “PR people”. The brand people were typically creative types with visual or graphical skills coupled with terrific communication, written and oral skills. The PR people had many of the same attributes. Yet, historically, they often functioned separately as two distinct areas under Marketing. Sometimes these people never even talked to each other!
I’ve been outspoken in my claims on this blog and in other public circles that all Marketing functions are interconnected, and the case is never more apparent when it comes to PR and branding. No longer do these disciplines function in parallel. In fact, these two disciplines often act as a catalyst, or chain reaction, to every area of Marketing.
So many things fall under the public relations umbrella nowadays, it is staggering. In addition to tools that have been around forever, like the old press release, you’ve got a host of newer things like social media, reviews, and blogs which not only tap into the PR area but to reputation management. If you’re a small business, reputation management can make or break your business. One bad review on Yelp and you have some serious damage control on your hands.
Branding, or brand management, is closely tied to reputation management, but also can be more proactive in nature. Branding is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. It includes messaging, too, which helps to establish a certain perception to an audience. For instance, Hertz (the rental car company) has a different perception to consumers than Enterprise. They stand for different things. To me at least, Hertz stands for premium service with their Gold counter; Enterprise stands for convenience (“We’ll pick you up”). PR and messaging has helped deliver these connotations to me; further, they can elevate a brand by providing necessary communication vehicles (no pun intended) to a brand’s potential constituents. They are the things (not the only things, but major things) that deliver information about how a product or service is distinct from other sellers. In this way, PR can very much be tied to branding.
Round and round we go, in that branding can impact PR. Having the right brand message can accelerate or inhibit public relations and communications efforts. If you have the wrong brand message for your product or service, or have a brand message which doesn’t actually hold up to what you are, public relations will be next to impossible to do effectively. Using the car rental example, Rent-A-Wreck can’t come out next week claiming to have better premium car selection than Hertz. Communications and PR efforts would be laughed at and no amount of PR could change that perception.
PR and branding aren’t the only things under Marketing that are matrix-like. Everything in Marketing, largely because of technology, can be linked together. Think about how PR, branding, event marketing, direct marketing, social media, email, and everything else can go together. When someone posts a positive comment on Facebook about your business, it impacts PR. It aids your branding. It creates direct marketing and viral marketing opportunities. It could build your customer list. It could spur an in-person event. The list goes on.
The more businesses can think about and understand the chain reaction happening in the Marketing space today, versus five short years ago even, the better they will be.