Why Community and Communications are Critical to Building Your Brand
‘There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.’ ~Margaret J. Wheatley
There are a few cornerstone principles to the Always-On Public Relations approach and one I’ve been promoting for many a year.
Build Your Community and Brand Voice before you need them
Failing to recognize the value of a strong brand has consequences. A large percentage of companies, particularly in their early stages of growth, focus solely on developing a solid product or service to fill a market need. Then as their focus shifts to growth, scaling their business, operationalizing new go-to-market strategies, they turn to public relations (PR) brand development as their focus shifts to growth, scaling their business, and operationalizing new go-to-market strategies, they turn to public relations (PR) brand development, and a stronger presence on social media.
There lies the opportunity and challenge. PR and brand development should be viewed as a strategic shift in the company overall and not just a check-box approach that just secured additional budget support. A dedicated communications practice is a commitment and culture shift. It must flow throughout the organization with a focus on supporting and helping shape the market and communities within industries and leveraging your voice and platform to connect with industry leaders, analysts, and key media driving the future of the industry.
Regarding the value of the brand for B2B tech companies, a recent research report published by the IDC company Foundry provided an in-depth analysis of who is involved in the IT purchase process and the information sources they rely on during each stage of the tech buying process. One key point often buried under the attention lavished on building the demand funnel is Brand Matters. A lot.
Almost 3/4 of buyers say effective brand investment increases a provider’s chances of making the shortlist. So even if a company has the most transformative product being brought forth to the market, if the buying decision-makers and stakeholders aren’t aware of you as a trusted brand, consume your supportive content, engage with your leadership team, or read online reviews, you may not make the list at all.
Our advice to growing companies?
Focus on your brand.
Consider shifting your mindset when it comes to the objectives, budgets, and support for brand development, content, and communications programs, and invest in them as vital to your business success as much as you do product development and sales team support.
A brand is a promise delivered to the market and performed consistently over time. It’s delivered in three systems: communications, environmental experience, and product design. It’s not about the font, the color palette, or the brand identity playbook. You shouldn’t become hung up over one individual piece. The whole system should always work to be unique, and relevant.
And a brand and communications team are like a good host, anticipating the needs of their guests. Not just delivering what they asked for, but developing what they need to help shape and direct their future. The future.
A brand and communications experience should be relevant, relatable, and authentic to the vision and purpose of the company.
For truly iconic brands, it’s about being remarkable, extraordinary, and amazing. As long as it’s a genuine public with an authentic approach that displays your full commitment, sincerity, and clear purpose, you may just have something special.
Public Relations is more than spin rooms and red-carpet events
PR is more than media relations, publishing press releases, and splashy events.
If I hear the phrase, ‘We should PR that’ one more time, I’m going to have a meltdown.
Public Relations credo
Always be connected and engaged. Always-on, proactive programs designed to amplify the tone, identity, and offerings of its clients to its desired audiences. Developing that matter, stories that move, and stories that build communities and shape markets make a distinct difference.
In an increasingly niche-driven and dispersed media and business landscape, helping clients establish a commanding presence by strategically mapping their story to every potential audience touchpoint is what we do best. We believe an effective, successful program should focus on delivering greater awareness, strong message pull-through, and brand validation, while simultaneously supporting and building community.
PR and leadership-driven communications should bring insight and add value to the industry conversations at hand.
Don’t focus on yourself. It may be hard to hear, but no one cares about you, your product, or your new service offering. Partners, customers, shareholders, and the media care about themselves, their needs, pains, interests, and passions in life. How can you support them, help them transform, and cost-effectively scale and grow?
A Robust Community Is Key to Success
When building your communications program, it’s important to recognize, comment, support, and engage with key media, industry leaders, customers, and partners along the way.
We are built for reciprocity – recognizing, rewarding, and celebrating those who go out of their way to support a cause, an industry movement and the people who help move an industry forward goes a long way. If done effectively, you’re not only connecting with the community that shapes your industry, but you’ve also become one of its recognized voices and a trusted brand leader.
And to close out with some special thoughts on public relations I feel we all need to be reminded of many I’ve seen of late being propelled by peers in the industry.
PR isn’t media relations and writing press releases.
- PR isn’t writing bylines or analyst relations programs
- PR isn’t measurement and sentiment analysis
- PR isn’t messaging, crisis communications, and media training
- PR isn’t thought leadership, securing speaking opportunities and event support
- PR isn’t a social media strategy, designing social tiles and online community engagement
- PR isn’t developing specialized content; blog posts or drafting LinkedIn responses for leadership teams
- PR isn’t an awards program
- PR isn’t storytelling, word of mouth community building with industry advocates.
- PR isn’t creating podcasts or designing influencer programs
- PR isn’t attracting VCs, other funding sources, and supporting equity development messaging
- PR isn’t any one of these things
Public Relations is All of Them – and red carpets and spin rooms too. [oh, so much more.]