At its core, public relations are about storytelling and now more than ever brands need to have a powerful and compelling story to engage and mobilize their audiences.
The trouble is, storytelling has its limitations. In today’s saturated communications marketplace, where information is digested in smaller sizes and competing against more channels, the ability for a story to engage and retain an audience is becoming increasingly difficult. Furthermore, technology has expanded the ability of audiences to digest information, so brands must find a more meaningful means to deliver a coherent and credible message.
Moving beyond storytelling
Brands today must move beyond segmented campaigns and episodic storytelling and develop a narrative, an central thematic that is the basis of the brand’s identity and strategy. A foundational idea that encompasses and forms all areas of a brand’s engagement across its myriad of channels and stakeholders, be it employees; consumers, traditional media, social influencers, policy makers, etc. A company’s narrative should tell everyone what it stands for and offers an idea for those stakeholders to connect with and align behind.
Today, public relations, corporate relations, publicists and marketers are all competing to engage the same audiences through more integrated means – paid, earned, social and owned – meaning that messaging needs to be not only engaging but also consistent across the various streams, and most important of all, in real time.
Brands must lead conversations
Digital and social media platforms have changed the way brands engage with their audiences. Communication no longer flows in a single direction; audiences are now feeding back to companies on a constant basis. Brands must now lead “conversations”, interacting with their audiences in real time, which has quantifiable impact on their reputation.
Proactively driving engagement is now an absolute. While engaging with audiences across these various channels, brands need to utilize a coherent narrative, one that provides clarity and consistency of that engagement. The ability to communicate a compelling, inclusive and consistent narrative has the power to inspire, energize and mobilize an audience in ways our industry never thought possible.
How to develop a strong narrative
Have a real understanding of the brand’s purpose and its values. Consumers today are more value driven than ever before. How a company is trying to achieve its objective, is as important as what it is trying to achieve. Ensure your narrative seeks to explain what the brand stands for and what is it is seeking to achieve.
The narrative must be relatable and easy to explain. To maintain the attention of audiences, a narrative cannot be bogged down in jargon. A strong narrative is based on fact and is not only persuasive but also easily repeatable.
Be inclusive and insightful. Narratives need to evoke an emotional connection and invite participation. It presents an idea for an audience to believe in, support, and ultimately recommend.
In our hyper-completive, over-saturated communications environment, being able to portray a potent and authentic narrative has the power to genuinely connect with an audience, inspire them to action, and lead them on a journey.
It all starts with a strong story: one which not only shares the vision of the brand but is relatable to the audience. This is followed by a commitment to maintain and enhance that story with all other public relations efforts. The Ladurée brand story is intertwined with Parisian history and refinement, and through that story they invite the audience into their world of French luxury and elegance.
The ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor
An important question to ask once the story is defined is, “what makes your product more unique than similar products also on the market?” Ladurée has been able to differentiate themselves through the idea of authenticity, elegance and sophistication, and by being an active part of the definition of Parisian haute couture over the years through partnerships with high fashion houses and like-minded celebrities.
Old world meets new world
For any brand to be strong, it must be an important part of modern culture while still holding true to its own story and uniqueness. This is done in different ways, but most commonly through celebrity endorsement, social media, word of mouth reviews and of course, PR. From a brief sweep of the 20+ official Ladurée Instagram accounts, it is apparent that they have managed to keep the old French sophistication at the forefront, while still being culturally relevant – from creating decadent macarons based on Disney’s Frozen, to featuring celebrities such as Pharrell and Blake Lively, to partnering with Vogue magazine.
Ladurée is also the first of its kind to open in Canada, and with its choice to be on Robson Street, a street known for having high class designer shops and restaurants, it is also culturally positioning itself in Canada as being more than just another macaron shop, but a standalone designer store.
Personality always wins
The product has to appeal to their target audience and allow them to be drawn into the world the brand has created. At this point three questions must be answered – Is the brand appealing? Will I purchase it? And if so, why? In addition to a strong product, Ladurée has surpassed all expectations on this by answering all three questions. Ladurée has created an experience that is not only appealing to a wide range of people, but is an experience people are willing to pay money for in order to gain something they cannot get anywhere else. Macarons can be bought in many places, but curated Parisian culture and art cannot.
From the pretty pastels, fine china and floral patterns to the visually appealing deserts, the brand has curated a story that the public wants to not only buy into, but to share with their friends and on social media. As a result, Ladurée and other brands with similar buzz are not only accessible, but they create an experience worth coming back to, again and again.
The lights, the decorations and the Christmas music are in full swing anywhere you go in the city these days. From big shopping extravanganzas to ‘stuff-a-bus’ campaigns to tree lighting ceremonies to the Starbucks red cup fiasco of 2015, it seems that the holiday season is always the time of year business after business tries to out-do each other for the PR spotlight. Case in point with WestJet’s admittedly impressive stunt in 2013.
This Christmas, forget the large-scale, consumer-focused, out-of-this-world PR campaigns to promote your brand and services. Because, let’s be honest, not many businesses have quite the PR/marketing budget that WestJet has.
Few things give people the warm fuzzies more than a simple heartfelt – and sometimes awkward – Christmas card in the mail. As the holiday season approaches, take this opportunity to send out festive cards (bonus points for snail mail!) to clients and business partners to nurture existing business relationships and to tip the scales in your favour for potential new business relationships in the new year.
In PR, we always talk about the importance of key messages. Don’t miss an opportunity to incorporate these in a company Christmas card! More than just wishing ‘Happy Holidays’ or saying ‘thank you’ via email or social media, use your card as a way to remind clients, past and present, of what makes your business unique and the value you can bring to help them meet their business goals. Think about the big themes that give your company its character and charm and use them as the foundation of your card.
Maybe all your employees are big advocates of health and fitness. Or maybe everyone at the office is an obsessive coffee drinker with an unusual love for cats. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be flashy, but utilize your creativity to incorporate your company’s voice, personality and character into a holiday card without just relying on your company logo and tagline to do the talking.
From the message, to the wackiness of your graphic design, this is the perfect opportunity to capture your brand’s values and personality in a non-invasive, feel-good way. Be classy about it – no one needs to see your website URL in bold 20-point Arial font across the front – but use this card as a PR tool to reinforce your brand values and keep your business at the forefront of people’s minds.
Until recently, my experience with Kickstarter was fairly limited—I loosely understood it as a fundraising platform for companies or projects. So when one of my for-profit clients announced they were launching a new product via a Kickstarter campaign, and needed extensive PR support to get more “backers” (campaign supporters who donate funds in exchange for a product or service) to reach their fundraising goal, I knew I had my work cut out for me.
In a nutshell, Kickstarter was developed to help creative projects flourish among target audiences—it is a low-risk channel that connects early adopters and innovators by introducing new products or services online at a discounted price. The concept is comparable to a commercial version of online dating—matchmaking in commerce. Typically campaigns last for 30 days and all financial proceeds collected during this time are used to help the company cover innovation costs and the expense of bringing the product or service to market.
While Kickstarter was a novelty that received extensive publicity when it launched in 2009, it is now ubiquitous. Rising above the chatter to deliver a topline Kickstarter campaign can be a difficult task that requires a well-thought out marketing and publicity strategy. Product websites, ad buys, news releases, case studies, video, social media, bloggers, events and direct marketing executed before, during and after a campaign are all excellent promotional tactics that increase exposure.
However, I quickly learned one of the most invaluable tactics, that has consistently achieved the best results in campaigns, is word-of-mouth support from your backers and brand supporters. Getting your backers to endorse, rate and review your product or service will always produce more authentic public content than you can generate internally.
Furthermore, if the media—i.e. influential bloggers and well-known outlets (such as The Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, Mashable)—see that the general public is buzzing over your campaign, they will listen and are more likely to mention you in their next blog or article. Don’t underestimate the power social media, word of mouth and the loyalty of brand fanatics. While marketing your campaign is both important and necessary, taking your Kickstarter campaign to the next level requires looking outside the walls of your company for support.
Take Pebble Technology’s most recent Kickstarter campaign for its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The company has raised $$19,256,637—3,851% of its $500,000 Kickstarter goal—with seven days of the campaign still to go. While Pebble benefits from previous experience with Kickstarter, much of the campaign success is due to the company’s large social media following, word of mouth and ongoing media attention.
Here are a few basic tips that I learned from my experience. I hope they prove useful for those of you preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign of your own:
Be sure there is a genuine interest for your product or service, and a real need for external funding
Communicate with your customers before you launch your campaign, and maintain consistent communications with backers and customers during and after the campaign—do not lose contact with them simply because they have pledged for your campaign
Ask your backers to talk about your product or service among their networks
Remain active on your social media accounts and be sure to post consistent updates to your website and Kickstarter webpage
Proactively identify and reach out to select media and bloggers that have a specific interest in your product or service area
Be consistent, transparent and genuine—continue to post updates and communicate with your backers and the media well-after the campaign is completed. You never know when you will launch your next Kickstarter campaign and the ongoing exposure is vital for the success of your company.
Many of the writers and bloggers I spoke with were interested in publishing a follow-up piece on the successes and learnings from the campaign. All publicity is good publicity, after all! So you didn’t get the results you were after? My advice: reach out to your media contacts and backers anyway to tell them what you were happy with, and what you would change next time. This shows your humility and willingness to learn, and will help generate support for your next Kickstarter campaign before it’s even been conceived.
Interested in learning more about Kickstarter? Here are a couple of useful articles that may help get you started:
Having the right spokesperson can really make or break your story, your cause, and in some cases, your company. It’s crucial to think about who is representing your brand to make sure the messaging is clear, concise and powerful.
Last week, I was reminded of just how important the right spokesperson can be. I was working with the Alzheimer’s Society of British Columbia (ASBC) on media relations surrounding the city of New Westminster becoming the first in B.C. to train its councilors to be ‘Dementia-Friends’. This training session is part of a larger initiative aimed at helping communities develop the skills necessary to properly support those living with dementia. To start the training session, Maria Howard, CEO of ASBC introduced the society and its role in creating dementia-friendly communities. She then turned the floor over to Jim Mann – a past member of the ASBC Board of Directors. Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007 at the age of 58, and has since grown to become a tireless advocate for dementia through awareness, education, and stigma reduction. Jim shared some of his experiences with dementia to an extremely engaged, emotional audience:
“Now, eight years after living with Alzheimer’s I have come to realize I have good days and I have bad days. I suppose the same can be said for all of us, except when I have a good day it means I get to exercise my independence, and when I have a bad day, when my mind is too muddled to do much on my own, it means I need support,” he said. “For those around us, this is an ever changing landscape of eggshells.”
The Mayor, along with every city councilor, spoke to the impact of Jim speaking after the training session was complete. Jim was able to connect with the audience because it was authentic – he was sharing his personal experience, and it was easy for everyone to relate to.
The messaging for the Alzheimer’s Society was clear: dementia is something that affects us all, and it’s also something that communities can support to lessen the challenges surrounding this disease. With personal stories about his own struggles with dementia, Jim Mann had a profound impact on the audience – I can guarantee everyone left feeling inspired to pass on the messages of the Alzheimer’s Society to their own networks, which is exactly what you want a spokesperson to do.
Today is your opportunity to indulge, have some cake and show your fans/guests/customers your true colours.
Here’s how to make the most out of your brand’s special day:
Happy birthday to me me me
Marketers and PR people say it’s the kiss of death to talk solely and incessantly about yourself on social media.
On your birthday, that rule goes out the window. It can be all about you — as long as it’s interesting.
Tell your story
How was the company founded? Who makes up the company now and what are they all about? What are the most poignant or funny stories your company has collected over the years? What have you learned along the way?
When you’re sharing these details on social media, tell stories about real people doing specific things. Stories about CEOs strategizing in generic boardrooms aren’t nearly as captivating as tales of entrepreneurs risking their life savings and drawing out their ideas on bar napkins.
Don’t be afraid to bring out the quirk.
You can rework these stories into tweets, longer social media or blog posts, and/or, if your story is interesting enough, pitches to media.
Your brand is a party and everyone’s invited
On your birthday, start something everyone can get involved in. Our client 7-Eleven Canada celebrates July 11th (7-11 — today!) every year by giving away free Slurpee drinks. Thousands of Slurpee lovers celebrate alongside the brand as a result and the company’s birthday turns into something much bigger.
Your “party” could be as involved as an event or product giveaway, or could be as simple as your CEO giving a Twitter shout-out to your loyal customers, your social team Instagramming a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the decorated company lunchroom, or a hilarious gif you made at the party.
There’s no serious way to wear a birthday hat. Today, let your hair down a little and just be you. Your resulting communications will be magnetic. Show your audience just how fun it is to be a part of your organization. Let them in on the joke.
At Peak we use our company birthday as a reason to give back to our clients and media contacts. This year, that took the form of a wine-tasting bash at the Peak office. It was our way of showing we care about the people we work with every day. Because we all had fun, engaging photos and social media posts came naturally from the event.
Celebrate with visuals
Photo- and video-sharing platforms like Instagram and Vine are your ticket to generating quick, fun content that will engage your audiences in ways no plain-Jane blog post can.
Yes. Share those badly drawn cake cartoons. Those goofy birthday cards. The interns’ three-legged race. The perfect cupcakes you made for the occasion. The CEO high-fiving the company mascot. One of your project managers jumping out of a birthday cake.
Just make sure you make those social posts before you get into the champagne.
Peak Communicators is excited to be partnering with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce to host two half-day seminars on building, enhancing and protecting your reputation through strong communications initiatives.
Taking place on April 16th at the Capri Hotel, attendees can learn the secret sauce behind building your brand and business. The session will also discuss how to protect your good reputation by identifying an issue before it becomes a crisis and delivering strong messages to internal and external stakeholders and the public.
Other topics to be discussed include:
Building a brand and profile through public relations and media initiatives
How to find and tell your news and your story
Why a crisis communications plan is necessary and how to develop one
Issues management and crisis communications
Using social media tools to build, enhance and protect reputation
The session will be hosted by two senior Peak consultants, Alyn Edwards and Chris Olsen. Both were news reporters for 30 years and are experts in helping companies tell their stories.