Many of us think we have a good brand story. We have the websites, the videos, and the social media channels all working for us. But do we really? Can your audience find the stories and are they simple and straightforward enough to be easily understood?
I just got off the phone with an organization that is about to pitch large donors in Asia, the Middle East and the States as part of a funding drive. However, their brand story has yet to be articulated. The vision statement is there but there are no compelling stories of what they do, why they do it and what the impact of their work is (which is tremendous). Trying to piece together that information is even harder, their “About Us” section leads to their mission statement which is overloaded with technical terms, too complicated for a quick, easy grasp of what they are all about.
Often times this happens when an organization is too inward-focused. And many technicians, academics and experts in different fields are dead-set against simplifying language for the general public, fearing it will distill the purpose and importance of the work that is being done. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your organization’s work will increase in purpose and importance as more people understand and can speak about your work to others.
The general public can be your unofficial ambassadors in good times and bad. Embrace them; do not push them away. And if more of your staff has a straightforward, simple story to tell, it will empower them as ambassadors as well.
How to create your brand story:
Start with your impact. Who is your work reaching? How has it transformed their lives? Look at all aspects of your work – not just the “showcase” projects or stakeholders. Some of the smaller aspects might have the most compelling and heart moving stories.
Identify your history. How was your organization founded? Was there some idea or challenge that resulted in the formation of your organization? How about the founders themselves? What were their personalities and their life stories? What gave them the passion to create the organization?
Look for the evolution. How has the organization changed over time? Why has it changed? What external or internal cause spurred that change? What has resulted from that evolution?
Identify your future. Where is your organization going? What stake in the ground can you claim over the next five years that no one else will? Put real terms and numbers around this.
Make it simple. Your family and friends are the ultimate litmus test. If you tell your organization’s story to your grandmother/father, niece, nephew or child, they should be able to understand it, clearly. Lose the jargon, the technical terms, and tell them what your organization does. If they smile, you have a winner; if they frown, go back to the drawing board.
Make it compelling. It’s crucial in the verbal story telling and especially in your videos. Lose the slow building format, create excitement, use human faces (real ones), and tell that story. Test your story products – if your audience is not moved, you have not created a compelling brand story. You want to MOVE your audience – they will remember you and your brand. For me, if I am speechless or do not move after watching a short film, video or commercial, then it is has passed the litmus test.
When was the last time you picked up your phone to speak with a colleague? Or used video chat to connect with a colleague in another country? Or walked over to your colleague in the cube or office nearby for a face-to-face conversation?
I have spoken to several organizations on technology and interpersonal communication in the workplace. Nine times out of ten, an over reliance on email and texting to communicate is leading to tense interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.
In many ways, it’s an endemic that has been building since the 90s – when email began to take hold within corporations as a channel for communication – and started to replace interpersonal communication as the primary source of communication.
What impact does that have on employees, teams and work culture when we are hard-wired as a species for face-to-face communication? For us, 50% of communication is verbal and 50% non-verbal. We’ve been operating at 50% capacity for a long time.
Here are a few tips to help you work the other 50% back into your work life:
Log-off email for at least one-hour per day. Email takes you away from your actual work. It’s meant to be one channel of communication, not the primary channel occupying 100% of your focus throughout your day. Try logging off for one hour per day and turning your mobile off to focus on your projects.
Switch from an email exchange to an in-person communication at least once a day. Do you find yourself emailing a colleague you sit next to or texting someone nearby? Start making in-person communication a priority. Try it at least once a day to begin with and build up from there. The bonus – it will increase trust and respect among your colleagues.
Pick up the phone. If you receive an email or text that is ambiguous or requires clarification, pick up the phone and call the sender. The same holds true if a string of emails is growing exponentially on one topic.
Use short, clear messages. If you cannot extricate yourself from email, make your messages short and to the point without being abrupt. Bullet points are your friend. Use the subject line to alert the recipient as to the type of email they are receiving. Next to the subject line add: “requires action/response”, “FYI only”, or “requesting input” to help the recipient manage the communication their end.
Over the past year, I’ve been hard at work developing a 3-year public awareness campaign. Next week, the first ad spots for this campaign will air on national broadcast and cable channels here in the US as a second phase of the campaign. The first phase was a soft launch on social media in December.
Many lessons were learned from creating the campaign plan to selling the idea to leadership and to members of the Board of Directors across the country. Many modifications were made along the way, but the vision remained the same.
Here are my five lessons learned:
Stick with your vision. Establish the desired end scenario from the beginning. You can adjust how you get there, what tools you use and what audiences you reach but stay true to that initial vision.
Adjust smartly. With anything related to the field of communications, most people believe they are experts as they engage with the medium in their daily lives – from social media to advertising. However, exposure does not necessarily translate to expertise. Many will freely offer their advice – and it will differ widely – listen intently but be decisive and smart in choosing what advice to take onboard.
Never fear visibility. Creating any type of public facing campaign for an organization will raise the stakes for them both internally and externally. Such increased visibility will result in a lot of interest and a lot of conversation. What naturally follows on from that is criticism. The more public you are, the more critics you will face. Don’t fear the conversation and encourage direct engagement with those critics.
Even airtight launches falter. No matter how well you plan a launch, something will ultimately go wrong; in our case, an erroneous tweet. How did we recover? We jumped into the conversation created by the tweet and continued to reach out to those offended online and offline. And we kept the launch going. End result – we had new champions emerge and new potential partnerships (as well as more engagement with the campaign than planned – see number three above).
Stand strong. It’s your campaign. If you do not believe in it through thick and thin, no one else will. That goes for the communications and marketing team, leadership and the organization as a whole. Believe in the product and communicate about it with one unified voice.
A new year is upon us. What does that mean for public relations? The industry has undergone seismic changes over the past several years. These changes will continue to solidify and make the industry much more innovative. And if it’s any indication – because of these changes – public relations is fast becoming one of the hottest fields out there.
Weakening impact of earned media. This shift has been happening for several years but will become increasing evident as we move into 2015. With native advertising taking hold at the same time that most outlets are downsizing, the days of earned media dominating over paid and owned media are over.
Integrating measurement. Measurement can no longer be ignored. With so many new options for measuring the impact of public relations and increased integration with marketing, the connection with the company’s bottom line has never been stronger. 2015 will be the year to prove it or lose it.
Personalizing content. Many have been singing the demise of the press release for years. In 2015, the personal approach wins over the mass spam approach. Crafting a personalized pitch into 140 characters and reaching out and developing relationships with bloggers and journalists via social will be the new normal.
Amplifying integration with marketing. Social media has changed the landscape of public relations and marketing. No longer are they isolated fiefdoms; they must be operating closely in order to maximize the impact of awareness and engagement through increasingly integrated campaigns. Global public relations firms are turning to marketing as they restructure to meet their client’s changing global needs. Isn’t it time you did too?
China rising (and Asia too). Companies in China are increasingly embracing the use of public relations to further their businesses abroad. And public relations firms in China are looking for opportunities to acquire/consolidate their work globally. It’s time to look east.
Are you planning to dress up for Halloween?
Many of us are. For one night, we have an opportunity to make ourselves into someone we want to be.
I love this holiday as I find it incredibly interesting to see what people choose to transform into. It’s almost as if they finally have the freedom to reveal their true nature.
Whether we realize it or not, it is an image refresh – or in public relations speak – a personal rebranding.
For organizations and public personalities, it’s a lot harder. And if the past month is any indication, it seems that the season for changing your image is well underway with the Republican Party and Jennifer Lawrence making strange bedfellows as they launch their rebranding efforts.
Here are some tips to consider before donning that Halloween costume or taking your image in a new direction:
Assess your strengths. What are your strengths? How can you best deliver on those strengths? If you have a hard time assessing, ask those who know your work and know you well – including your career history and personal interests. Your strengths are your value.
Get to know your potential audience. What is the market need that only you can fulfill? As with your strengths, if you do not know ask. Informally or formally survey the market to see what are the biggest issues that are keeping executives in your field awake at night.
Look for the sweet spot. Now that you have identified your strengths and the market need, make a list of both, side-by-side and find where they align. This is what makes you unique and will make the new you marketable.
Build your brand around your promise. Always remember that a brand is a promise to your potential clients/customers – it needs to align with reality and be reflected through your marketing. From your logo, mission/purpose statement, to your website, social media presence, marketing materials and campaigns to the way your business looks and how you and your employees act.
Check in once a year. Everyone and everything changes with time. As you progress with your new image, you’ll need to adjust as you go and the market may also surprise you with how they continually respond to the new you. Review your image once a year to ensure it is still aligned with your promise and the market need.
Without fanfare, images of Angelina Jolie and the Queen appeared across media outlets worldwide last week as she was made an honorary dame for her services to UK foreign policy.
Flash back fourteen years ago, and there was a very different Angelina Jolie that we were all familiar with. It’s clear that she took the steering wheel and directed her brand towards where she is today. And in many ways, she is the forerunner on celebrity branding.
Others have followed in her wake, including George Clooney and Ben Affleck: some to great success others to lesser success.
So what has been the secret Jolie ingredient that enabled her to transform her brand and her perception among the global public and what can those seeking to build a brand learn from her?
Found her passion and promoted it in a carefully planned, step-by-step approach. She did not rush into her humanitarian work with refugees but took a slow approach after experiencing the plight of refugees in Cambodia while on location.
Hired experts to help identify organizations to affiliate with. She hired the best to give her the advice and background needed to be successful in campaigning for her cause while being selective in her affiliations. She chose only those that aligned with her values.
Created a tie-in with her core capability: her acting career. Slowly, but surely, Jolie began to pull her passion into her core skill set and work through directing and backing films on subjects related to the impact of war on civilians.
Prepared to transition by increasing scale. As a stage two of her brand development, Jolie expanded into issues around women and girl refugees and aligned herself more with the international policy community.
Her comment on Friday that “to receive an honor related to foreign policy means a great deal to me” may be an indication that she has honed her brand focus and has found where she can make the most impact in the coming years.
Last week, while returning to London on the train from a wedding in the country, one of my fellow wedding guests pulled out her brand new iPhone 6 Plus. It looked beautiful and had some great new features that she quickly demonstrated. Not one of us referred to it as the ‘bendy phone’.
Upon landing back in the States the next day, #bendgate was in full force.
So what happened? One video went viral of a user bending their iPhone 6 Plus with his hands the same week several other users posted complaints and videos showing that their phones had bended while in their pockets. By several, Apple reported 9 complaints in total. Some are now arguing that the video was a fake and it was a planned negative attack against Apple.
But due to the power of social, 9 complaints out of millions of users equaled a public relations wildfire.
Slow to respond. Apple did not respond immediately to the growing hype around the bend issue perhaps hoping to wait this out or thinking their corporate brand was strong enough to overcome a few complaints around their new product release. The universe loves to fill a vacuum and fill it, it did. During Apple’s absence from the conversation, the brand identity of the iPhone 6 Plus – and iPhone 6 – was taken over and became the ‘bendy phone’.
No-action statement. Apple did eventually release a statement to the media; however, it focused on explaining the design, structure and testing of the phone. It did not address what actions it would take to ensure that bending was no longer an issue. It acknowledged the problem but it did not provide the next steps to a solution.
Apparent lack of scenario preparation. Apple has a much admired approached to their product releases – they keep the product veiled in secrecy to keep the excitement at its peak. But what they do not seem to be doing is preparing different crisis scenarios on launch or to have a plan of action in place to enable them to respond quickly.
Apple eventually took matters into their own hands and gave tours of its hardware testing facilities to journalists to prove the durability of the iPhone but the damage had been done. If they were quicker to respond, had a plan in place and had opened their doors to journalists early on, they may have been able to mitigate the damage to their brand and image.
This article is reprinted from PR News. Follow @prnews on Twitter for the latest trends in public relations.
In assembling a communications team to successfully guide your organization through a crisis, there are certain qualities that should stand out among candidates.
Here are my top four elements of a crisis communications team that will function well under pressure:
Connection. How vital are they/their division to the crisis outcome? For example, if you are facing a threat to your technical operations, your CIO or CTO would be an essential member.
Skills. What skills do you need to bring to the team for it to function well? Typically, I would choose the HR director or chief talent officer, CIO/CTO, CCO and legal counsel, keeping the team to a maximum of five or six. The skills you will need depend on the crisis you face, and the selection will have a considerable impact on the outcome. Choose wisely.
Leadership. The most effective crisis team I have worked on had a chair appointed by the CEO to represent him and to report back. Having an independent chair to help negotiate and move the discussion along while considering all options can be essential to a positive outcome.
Experience. Are there staff who have had previous crisis experience? If so, you may want to have them on the team to help guide and advise the chair. They can serve as an auxiliary member and not as part of the official crisis team.
Join us for PR News’ Crisis Communications Boot Camp in New York City on September 15th at the Yale Club. For more details, please visit: www.crisisbootcamp2014.com