Growing a brand takes more than simply selling a product or delivering a service – it requires strategic marketing efforts to foster a positive relationship with not only the brand’s target market, but all major stakeholders. As consumers’ emotional expectations of brands are increasing, public relations (PR) is key to moulding and shaping the perception that a specific brand occupies in the mind of the public.

Public Relations and communications agency

This is according to Candice Hellriegel, Account Director at Epic MSLGROUP, who says that PR is a process that begins with identifying the brand’s personality and key messages in order to develop a communications strategy which will enable the brand to connect emotionally with all target audiences and stakeholders. “These can include industry influencers, journalists, bloggers, consumers and employees. The ultimate goal of PR is to increase brand awareness, promote brand development, position the brand’s spokespersons as thought leaders and manage the brand’s reputation.”

Trust is the foundation of any good communication strategy, she adds. “According to a recent study conducted by Nielsen in September 2015, empowered consumers are increasingly less trusting of paid advertising. The study found that six in 10 global respondents don’t trust adverts on TV, newspapers and magazines, yet eight in 10 say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family.”

While advertising also plays a large role to play in building brand awareness, PR has the ability to reach target audiences who prefer to avoid mass adverting but still yearn to remain informed, says Hellriegel. “PR builds awareness for a brand through word of mouth channels and ‘earned media’, better known as editorial, which is achieved across media channels including newspapers, magazines, online news sites, blogs and broadcast platforms. PR enables a brand to connect with audiences by effectively telling the story behind a company, brand or product,” adds Hellriegel.

She says that it is important to note that while PR can generate a measured increase in publicity and brand awareness, the success of a good communication strategy should be assessed by whether it assists the company in meeting its business objectives. “Working together with a Marketing or Brand Manager, the agency will determine how PR can assist the business to meet its specific, measurable, attainable and realistic marketing goals. Whether or not PR enhances the reach of the business, adding actual value to the brand is the ultimate measure of good PR.

Building a solid reputation in the media and relationships with key stakeholders can be particularly useful in a crisis situation, says Hellriegel. “Having a team of PR professionals on hand to assist with communications required during a crisis can significantly reduce the negative perception of a crisis. PR professionals are trained to know how to respond to media queries so that the business leaders can focus on fixing the problem at hand, while being assured that media coverage of the crisis is minimised as far as possible.”

She explains that PR has grown and evolved considerably over the years. “Today, the internet offers the industry an extensive range of tools to effectively monitor and engage with a far wider, yet more targeted audience. If PR is about connecting with stakeholders, it should involve responding and engaging with them on the platforms where the conversations are currently taking place. This is why PR and social media go hand-in-hand to facilitate two-way communication.

“Companies that are willing to be transparent and collaborative in their communication approach will benefit immensely from adopting a PR strategy as it offers huge potential for continuous brand building by implementing targeted communication strategies,” concludes Hellriegel.