swali: My lecturer ‘confessed’ reading your column regularly. She often stressed the gains derivable from how you ‘practicalize’ marketing. A project for my post-graduate work has prompted contacting you, through this medium, to kindly provide me with hints about the place of public relations in a typical brand campaign. Thank you very much in anticipation of your positive response, as I know many others will benefit from it – Kingsley Omeihe
The urge to promote the advancement of knowledge, coupled with realization that many (including your lecturer) read my humble contributions through this column, have influenced a positive response to your request. Kama si, I would have preferred you researched for your project elsewhere, to ‘sweat it out’ as a student. However, it is essential that I remind you that the ‘campaign’ being referred to here (by way of definition), as it applies to brand, is: The effort of a company or through its assigned third party marketing organisation, to increase awareness for a particular brand (product or service) which it offers consumers, or about its own identity. Efforts in this case should have a limited duration. Any organisation which plays down on the place of public relations (PR) in any brand campaign does so at its peril. kwa kifupi, PR is essential to launching a new brand or boosting an existing one.
Advertising, like other aspects of marketing, conveys what its sponsor or ‘the advertiser’ claims (k.m.. ‘the largest network in…’, ‘the largest bank in…’, ‘big, strong…’, ‘the best and the brightest’, nk). These tend to make consumers cringe nowadays, couple with consumers ‘bombardment’ which are fast making them wave ads off as ‘one of those things’. PR stands to convey the ‘true story’ about a product or service. This is why its application, as an initial step (before advertising, kuuza binafsi, sales promotion, direct marketing, nk), is very crucial to the success of any brand campaign. The definition of PR (among several others) which often comes to my mind affirms this – “The deliberate, planned and sustained efforts to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics”. The rest of this piece strengthens this assertion.
The application of PR, prior to new launches, facilitates the announcement of a company’s plan, states those actions being taken, to instill confidence that tasks have been achieved. As PR plays a leading role in corporate communications, it helps to establish, maintain, and grow brand’s connection with key stakeholders. Brand is best put across regularly as part of sales and advertising main message, while reputation is best made known through truthfulness and transparency which remains the ‘real job’ of PR (It tells the truth, and nothing but the truth about a product or service). PR should not become applicable only when crisis occur in an organisation, but must be dealt with on an ongoing basis – Especially always at the forefront of a brand campaign.
When consumers encounter newspapers editorials or access the web (which PR often facilitates), their exposure and information derived are mostly treated differently – Complete conviction. This is why experts claim that PR impact on consumers differently, from advertising or sales promotion. Since PR comprise a vital component of communicating to opinion leaders, influencers, writers, bloggers, nk, brands have to move to where the conversations are (which PR has no doubt generated). Delivering messages through editorial contents makes for easier access, willingness and readiness on the part of the consumer. Generally, editorial contents are likely to be viewed as having integrity because of the self-governing nature of this platform. PR, hakuna shaka, is used in influencing editorial contents.
Some have argued that PR is even more crucial in building a brand than advertising, based on the assumption that PR remains constant in the provision of news. Who doesn’t know the significance of news today – 24 hours a day, seven days a week provision of information about “what makes the world go round”; as the mass media exist based on selling airtime and print space? We know PR tools offer vital sources of ‘fueling the media’. We also know what credibility is in news provision, and can be tied to the saying, “No credibility = No brand”.
It is glaring that image (largely what people say about a product or service) can be built through ad campaigns, organisation’s designs, brochures, signs, or even outlook of company’s premises. Reputation is built through nurturing relationships and what the organisation stands for. PR expands reputation to look after the brand. Most times brand equity remains threatened when introduced into the market due to doing so only on the platform of advertising, and not PR. Bombardments from commercial messages, which seem to be the bane of consumers these days (as advertising remains a major culprit), public disbelief in the market now remains the trend. PR helps to douse this with its typical generation and grasp of favourable publicity in the media. PR also aids in better understanding, and education about the brand which often culminates in customer loyalty.
Through PR, more effective and efficient approach to conveying messages is achieved. Hakika, information overload which the above stated ‘bombardments’ (which used to be appreciated in the past, but no longer the case) represent, do not really work presently. With obvious downturn in global economy (with Nigeria not being insulated), the momentum of PR is increasing in the light of PR input in brand campaigns being far cheaper than ad campaigns.
Omeihe. Your patronizing lecturer and yourself, will agree with me that PR is quite significant in shaping brand perception, based on what actually is (not commercial jive), which subsequently makes for brand being perceived in a positively desired manner. PR’s significant place in building relationship that is reflective of customer-to-customer communication (often from word-of-mouth support for a brand), resulting from thrust with emotional relevance, often culminate in holding up for the brand. Word-of-mouth endorsement, from third party credibility, has been adjudged the publicity with most impact.
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