One of the most important jobs that a public relations representative can have is the branding of a company or organization. PR is all about ensuring that you control the public perception of a company, and branding is definitely a part of that.
There are two parts of branding that we are going to discuss in this article. The first is physical branding. Physical branding is the actual visual representation of a company, usually through the use of a unique and memorable logo. Physical branding not only involves the creation of a logo that will present the company in the best light possible, and make it easy for people to recognize the company when they see it, physical branding also includes how that logo is used.
Branding is an interesting concept because it is so self-perpetuating. When you think about physical branding, what comes to mind? For many people, especially because of the timing of this article, they might say Star Wars. Star Wars is extremely popular right now, and everywhere you go, you can find Star Wars merchandise. The great thing is, the more people see Star Wars merchandise in the stores, the more they will want to see the movie; and the more people that see the movie, the more that are going to want Star Wars merchandise and the more stores that it will be displayed in. Then, the cycle starts all over. That’s how branding is so self-perpetuating and you can use it to your advantage when you are a PR person.
Physical branding does mean the creation of a logo, but unless you are a PR person at a brand new start-up, your company already likely has a logo. So, you may not have much control over the design of the logo. However, the PR person at a company usually has some say as to where the logo will appear. Where the logo can be seen may influence the public view of the company, so the PR person should be aware of how the logo is being used.
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The second type of branding is the metaphorical type. When you say your “company brand,” you aren’t just talking about what people can see visually, you are also talking about the reputation that a company has and how they are seen in the public eye.
The PR person has the responsibility to ensure that the company’s metaphorical branding is also something positive to the company image. This may include advising executive management on whether a decision is a good idea or not, developing relationships with the press and managing news stories when they come out, as well as various other tasks and decisions that can affect how the company brand is seen by the public.
Just as a PR person can help to further the visual brand of a company by deciding where it gets displayed, a PR person can also affect how a company’s reputation is regarded by making PR decisions.
The task of public relations today is more about open and honest communication with key audiences than ever before. These audiences include customers and shareholders of course, but they also include media analysts, influential policy people and much more. Public relations representatives need to know who they are speaking to, not only with their words, but also with the messages that are being sent with each action that a company takes.
All of the various elements of a corporate image go into branding. From the tone and the personality of the company, to the times when no action is taken, the company is being judged. Functional and emotional benefits may be leveraged to change the image of a company and a vision, the core message and company beliefs are all part of the branding of a company.
Public relations reps need to develop a strategy for each of these things. They will need to work with the top-level management to figure out just what the company is trying to say at the core, and what beliefs and standards the company has in order to create these strategies.
Being a public relations person today is very different than it was twenty, or even ten, years ago. Today, a PR person has to deal with a lot more elements to managing a company’s image than they used to. That’s because marketing professionals and experts in public relations have been able to create key strategies that are then taught to new PR reps. There is a lot of new information coming in regarding image management and public relations. PR isn’t simple like it used to be. It is challenging and takes a certain type of person in order to do the job well.
In addition, things are changing as far as the technology used and the way that branding is done. The web has changed almost everything about PR. Where PR used to send out press kits and information, which was all information that they controlled, those press kits have largely moved online. But that’s a problem for many companies, at least when it comes to PR, because the information isn’t being controlled anymore. In other words, someone could go to the corporate website and get information there, but they could just as easily use a search engine and find out stuff that the company didn’t publish themselves, and that might not make the company look as good as the PR person would like.
In addition to the changing way that PR reps have to use and leverage information, there are also major changes to the ways news is being delivered, again, thanks to the web. PR reps have to worry about blogs, independent news websites, YouTube channels and podcasts nearly as much as they have to worry about regular news media. Sure, the audience on most of these is small, but if some piece of information goes viral it will reach as many people as a national news organization.