Monday, February 16, 2009

Seamless Branding in a P.R. World

A seminar attendee asked a question the other day for which I did not have a ready-made answer.

"How do you define Public Relations?"

Good question.

So good in fact, that I was stumped for a moment and then admitted that although I had a sense for what P.R. was, a clear definition escaped me. And, whenever I don't have an answer that can be supported with unshakeable certainty, that prompts an immediate, one-word research project.


Several hours later and just as I suspected, hundreds of experts were offering just as many definitions, but few were serving the kind of clarity business professionals need in order to make informed decisions about building their brands.

After digesting this research, I threw it up against the wall of spending the better part of two decades in radio and television broadcasting and here is what stuck:

"Public Relations is the flow of information from a person or organization, designed to inspire and gain public trust"

Consider P.R. to be like free advertising - only with more credibility as any stories that are spread about your brand are more widely accepted and believed. However, any P.R. campaign (or ad campaign/ promotional campaign/ web strategy) will be greatly accelerated and enjoy more favorable results if supported by a "seamless" brand message; built on a rock solid foundation of making and keep a promise that matters.

One of the better examples in Canada, is Calgary-based WestJet where brand essence oozes at every turn; from the call centre to the check-in, to the cabin and the commercials we see on television. And isn't it interesting to see how the spirit "seamlessly" replicates itself when the TV cameras show up and start filming anyone of the more than 7,000 employees.

By building a "seamless" brand that inspires and gains public trust, WestJet has little to worry about when it comes to playing the typical PR game and the shenanigans of spin that entails.

They are who they say they are.

Regretfully, many companies that lack brand integrity discover the otherwise noble pursuit of public relations hijacked by hypocrites who find it impossible to perceive their own deceptions, and wind up lying with sincerity. And as such fall under the watchful eye of people like John Stauber of PR Watch.

Living in this Google world has made it increasingly difficult to get away with PR spin designed to mislead and misinform. Which is why there was little point to try and B.S. an answer to the question that opened this post.

Does your brand possess transparent qualities that can withstand public scrutiny?

How effective can any PR or advertising mask be when all it takes is a few mouse clicks to unveil things you may wish no one knew about?

"The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be" SOCRATES


Andrew M said...

I've always defined Public Relations as "Our contribution to the conversation."

Gair Maxwell said...

Well said DrewMack.

To the point.

Also leaves plenty of room to elaborate n'est pas?