5 Steps to Promote Your Cross-Platform Brand Story

Reprinted from PRNews

Since I wrote 6 Steps to Create a Comprehensive PR Plan in 2014, the public relations and communications industry has gone through a transformative time.

The speed of communications is ever-increasing, and new channels are constantly emerging. There’s also a greater need to micro-target messages using interconnected cross-platform campaigns to create a continuous story experience. But getting the basics right still applies.

Here are 5 steps to consider when starting your campaign:

Challenge your goal. What outcome do you want to achieve from the campaign? A change in behavior, a change in perception, increased sales, increased awareness? Brainstorm with your team to delve into the outcomes required from the campaign. Challenge assumptions and think differently. This is where you determine whether a campaign is a go or a no-go, which will save you time and money in the long run. Is it the right strategy for your brand right now in the current market context?

Know your audience, know your platforms. The details are in the demographics. Determine which individuals you need to move to achieve your goal. Know how they interact and receive information about your brand. Where do they get their news? What platforms are they most active on? Who/what do they rely on as a trusted source? Who are they influenced by? How influential are they as a whole? A marketing research agency can help you segment your audience, while focus groups, surveys and polling can help you find answers to the questions above. UberConference can be used for focus groups with ability to monitor who is on the call, while SurveyMonkey offers a selection of ready-made marketing surveys.

Let your data speak. Continually mine your data for insights. Consider social media monitoring software such as nuvi.com to help you listen in and see what others are saying about your brand, the industry you are in or the perception you want to sway. If you have the budget, you can work with a digital agency; if not, be resourceful and use the data you have available on your channels. Avoid the temptation to mass-market your campaign due to lack of data access.

Create your storyline. Analyze other campaigns that are targeting similar audiences to see what is and isn’t working. What content is your audience responding to? What content are they creating? Review your agreed-upon goals for the campaign and brainstorm 3-5 storylines with your team, keeping the outcome in mind. Test your top storylines with a selected segment of influencers and revise, revise, revise based on input. You can release test storylines onto your social platforms to measure performance in terms of reach and spread across your audience segments or select influencers you are familiar with to participate in an online, closed focus group.

Determine your channel mix. Your campaign story can determine your mix. Maybe you start with a consumer Instagram Story which ties into promoted brand content on media platforms. That Story ties to an event launch for your brand, and is followed by your brand story promotion. Think of multiple ways to lead and position the story, connecting within your public and consumer audience from the beginning.

Truth, reputation and reliance are mainstays—make sure those key attributes are anchored in your approach and are reflected in your selection of media partners and influencers.

The Rise of Brand Narcissism

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

Pepsi – and now United – are the latest example of brands exhibiting evidence of spending too much time admiring their reflection in the mirror while the societal and political climate is changing rapidly outside their doors.

‘Tone deaf’ and ‘out-of-touch’ – two terms that are now synonymous with both brands with United quickly becoming a global textbook case.

United and Pepsi are not alone – Uber, Google, YouTube – powerhouse brands that have been forced to take the blinders off and face the new reality of growing business and consumer impatience and purchasing power action.

Most of it directly correlates to company culture – when leaders and employees together perceive their brand from 1.) their vision of the organization, 2.) negate alternative realities to that vision, 3.) ignore public/consumer feedback and 4.) remain out-of-touch with rapidly changing scenarios within markets.

Communications and public relations teams can help put a stop to brand narcissism by taking the lead on bringing the public and alternative views into sharp focus internally.

Benchmark, continually. Benchmark perception on a regular basis, every quarter or twice a year. Hire an independent research firm to conduct the benchmark analysis and to present findings to yourself and your leadership team. Try to avoid a defensive reaction to the feedback and take time to assess the findings before reacting.

Pay attention to digital. Keep an eye on your sentiment analysis data and read what is being shared and said about your brand on a regular basis. Share those reports with your leadership team in your meetings (don’t just email the report, present it and explain it).

Don’t forget media. Deep dive on your brand in the media daily both on social and on the web. Who is covering you on a regular basis? Who is citing you as a source or your data/research as a source? Read article comments over time. Provide staff with weekly updates on media coverage, encourage them to read and interact with the comments.

Educate leadership. Often times, brand narcissism starts from the top and is a reflection of leadership style. Invite specialists to come and speak to your company/team about changes in your industry, changes in customer behavior, innovation in the workplace. HR can be a trusted partner in helping to provide online courses and information on a regular basis to prevent ‘group think’ from taking hold.

Last, but not least, conduct scenario analysis. Stay informed of what is happening in the news, what is trending in society, politics and culture and how overall public sentiment is evolving. “If you see something, say something”, applies here.

The Fiat Public Relations Campaign

We’ve all seen it – the Fiat travelling the streets of Washington and New York with the Pope waving from the back seat.

I was on my way back from a meeting – Starbucks in hand – when I encountered the Pope and his Fiat.

What struck me was the respect shown by the motorcade – the slowest moving, most silent motorcade I had ever seen – and this little Fiat with a very hunched over Pope (he looked uncomfortable) surrounded by numerous SUVs.

It was clear from the reaction of the people around me that he is adored and is creating a new awareness and affection for the Catholic Church among all denominations. Just a few years ago, the Church was beset with scandal and the Vatican was appearing increasingly out of touch.

So what have they’ve done to change perception?

Establishing a Strong, yet Simple, Brand. Pope Francis is very much the everyman Pope. Taking seriously a vow of poverty and becoming the voice of the voiceless. That is his brand. With every speech, he exemplifies and expands upon his brand, and with every appearance, he symbolizes his brand.

Using Symbolism to Reinforce Message. The Fiat exemplified symbolism in action. It was simple and everyman while also underpinning the message of his visit – addressing climate change. It was a powerful message that was shared via social countless of times – further extending the message.

Ensuring Image and Actions are Aligned. There is a story making the rounds that an aide to the Pope carried his luggage on board one of the flights. The Pope asked him to bring the luggage back so he could carry it onboard. He is very aware of his image and works to ensure his actions are consistent with his image.

Being Straightforward and Honest. The Pope has been straightforward on the issues facing the Catholic Church and has taken these issues on directly as opposed to ignoring or hiding from them. By doing so, he has engendered trust and respect among the public not only for himself, but also for the Church.

A Brand Experience Lesson from a NYC Cab Driver

Late on Saturday night after a hectic day in Manhattan, I hailed a cab on fifth to take me to the airport. The first thing I noticed was how clean it was – I had never seen a cab so clean.

The driver was also dressed immaculately and was very calm. I thought to myself, “Is this real?”

Lou the driver explained that he had been driving a cab in New York City since 1969. He considers himself an ambassador and his cab an embassy. I wanted to ask if he offered asylum as well. It was as if we were driving around the city in an oasis of serenity.

As a little boy growing up outside Guayaquil, Ecuador, he had dreamed of a job and a city where he could meet many people around the world.

He achieved his dream and has shared advice on how he aims to be the best in his job every day through the brand experience he creates:

Create the experience from the beginning. From your first interaction with a brand you should feel – and notice – the difference that sets it apart from other similar brands. Of the 13,600 licensed cabs in New York, Lou is able to set himself apart from the start.

Engage with your customers. At this point in his career, Lou is a great psychologist and knows how to subtly get his customer’s attention. And he starts with the customer’s favorite topic: themself. He is not overbearing in his approach.

Be a great conversationalist. He is also a great conversationalist and a master storyteller. He provided me with many life lessons on my way to the airport. He also had me in tears laughing after I learned he was married to his fifth wife (he highly recommends marrying several times and advises to always have a bag packed in case they ask you to leave).

Listen carefully. Lou’s best tip was to remember that your mind and your words are connected – use them well and remember to actually listen to your customer. Find out what makes them tick, what their needs are from their perspective, not your brand’s perspective.

Lou has a manuscript about his life sitting in the passenger seat of his cab. I urged him to get it published. Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to meet Lou on your next trip to NYC. And if not, his book will be a riveting read.

Using Thought Leadership to Transform Your Brand

Is your brand recognized as a thought leader in its industry?

In today’s social age, potential clients are making business choices based on the quality and visibility of your brand’s thought leadership before they engage with you. Thought leadership is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity.

By sharing insights and ideas – online and offline – that are relevant to your current and potential markets, thought leadership can differentiate your brand from the competition.

Here are six steps towards building a successful thought leadership strategy:

Revisit your brand strategy. You will need to know the core offerings of your brand and how that will evolve in the future. Review your strategy with leadership and have a conversation about the future.

Identify the experts. Review the expertise and background of your c-level executives. Align their expertise with your core offerings now and in the future to begin to determine how their knowledge can be maximized to make your brand more credible and marketable. Keep in mind your most valuable thought leader might be the most unassuming person in the room who never ‘toots their own horn’.

Examine the playing field. Research the channels and opportunities available within your brand’s current and future target markets. Understand themes and content trends over time. Which are more successful than others? Which brands are well positioned and why?

Determine your timeline. How long will it realistically take for you to implement your thought leadership strategy? Your experts may need training first so you will need to allow additional time and you may need to socialize the importance of thought leadership throughout your company.

Develop your thought leadership strategy. Create strategic goals, a content plan and pipeline that align each expert with a particular market segment. Identify what mix of channels will not only be most effective but where the experts will be most comfortable. Ideally, it is a mix of both online (platforms and channels) and offline (speaking events and webinars). Determine how you will measure results and how often.

Take content risks. Clients and potential clients will want to know how your brand envisions the future. Your experts should be comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone to discuss what will be happening in the future within their market areas – whether right or wrong.

Remember to include your experts and leadership in the development of the strategy and to keep your content within your brand’s service areas now and in the future. This will enable you to establish your company’s commitment to thought leadership and to maintain content alignment with your brand strategy in the long-term.