In this guest post, 3 Phase Marketing’s Marnie Vinall (pictured below), argues a brand’s figurehead is often just as, if not more important than the product itself…
The PR industry has irrefutably seen an onslaught of changes in recent years, which is due in part to the gigantic wave of the digital evolution infiltrating all aspects of public life and bringing constant innovation to the tools of the trade. Part of this disruption is that the general public have increased access to information and with this are increasingly viewing brands more holistically than ever before.
Customers are not solely just interested in the value of certain brand’s products or services, but also what the company values are, how socially conscious the brand is, and most crucial for the PR workforce to pay attention to, the personal reputation of company leaders.
In 2012, The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defined Public Relations as ‘A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.’ However, since PRSA inked these words, the world of PR has grown to incorporate not only the relationship between organisations and their publics but also of those in high powered positions within the organisation.
When we think of Facebook, we think of Mark Zuckerberg. When we think of thankyou.co, we think of Daniel Flynn and his mission to save the world. When we hear Virgin Australia, we picture Sir Richard Branson – probably on a yacht.
As consumers call for more transparency with the brands they engage with, the reputation of company leaders are increasingly swaying opinion. And with this becoming more and more the norm, those in PR need to be aware of how the leaders of the brands they work with are impacting how the public sees the brand as a whole.
Position leaders as thought-leaders
When brands are developing their PR strategies, they need to be thinking about how they want to position their leaders and how they can utilise them to build their brand’s reputation. A good tactic here is to position leaders in the company as leaders in their field or industry. This can be achieved by offering thought-leadership and giving insights to the community in the area of their chosen business.
Here at 3 Phase Marketing, our Co-founders and Managing Directors Sonia Majkic and Tamara Alaveras contribute regular articles to industry publications to position themselves as thought-leaders and experts in their field. When a consumer searches for 3 Phase Marketing in a search engine, those articles will appear – contributing to the company’s online reputation with third-party credibility and the perception of expertise. This boosts the agency’s reputation and the perception of their brand in its client’s and the public’s eye.
Harnessing company leaders’ personal brands
Some company leaders have already established or steadily growing personal brands, which can be used in the business’s PR efforts. When companies harness the power of a leader’s personal brand, they align their business with their leader’s values, build brand trust with their audience and enhance the brand’s reputation.
Take Go-To skincare for example. The first sentence of the brand’s description reads, ‘Go-To skin care is the cruelty free natural skincare product range by beauty editor Zoe Foster Blake.’ The brand isn’t seen as just a skincare brand but Zoe Foster Blake’s skincare brand. When the brand engages in PR activities, it’s often centred around the personal branding of Foster Blake. The founder is constantly giving media interviews and engaging in press to boost the brand off her own image, such as a Q&A in Business Chicks on the skincare’s newest product edition Zincredible.
It can go belly-up
Despite the common phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’, this isn’t always the case. When it comes to brands being tied to the less than ideal words and actions of those in high positions in their business.
For example, when Roxy Jacenko publicly said that Australian workers have become lazy and should be like the hardworking Chinese, she was slammed for her comments on working conditions in Australia and dragged her PR business Sweaty Betty with her. “I’d rather have a permanent headache and lead and be a full service offering no one can keep up with because while they’re at dinner with friends I’m at home on the laptop,” she told news.com.au.
As founder and leader of Sweaty Betty, these comments reflected very poorly on the Jacenko’s business, and in particular, its culture and working conditions. Nicole Webb, chief executive and founder of The IMPACT Agency responded to Jacenko saying, “A communications agency isn’t a sweatshop, Roxy. Invest in your people and take the time to create a supportive culture; productivity and great work will follow.”
PR is a tricky beast. And with consumers becoming increasingly more socially conscious and seeking greater transparency with companies, leaders of brands are being swept into PR strategies and affecting the reputation of the brand – for better or worse.