Carrie Kholi is a public relations professional and brand reputation manager. In 2007, Kholi launched Ardor Brand Public Relations and Marketing, a boutique firm located in Philadelphia. Ardor specializes in communications, branding, and social media strategy for beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brands. Learn more about Ardor Brand by visiting http://ardorbrand.com. Follow @kholi and @ArdorBrandPR.
As a public relations professional, most of my job involves getting my clients in the right place at the right time to garner the best and most appropriate attention possible. I say “most appropriate” because (for reasons unbeknownst to me) there are those who still refuse to accept the fact that not all press is good press. At this point, we’ve seen Fortune 500 businesses, CEO’s, community organizers, political representatives and others fall prey to the woes of inappropriate and just plain poor media coverage. With that said, it is also my job to create, protect, and preserve my client’s brand guidelines at all times.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Regardless of whether you are representing a company or an individual, a huge brand with commercial history or one in the making, there are steps that every PR professional must take in order to maintain the integrity of the client’s brand image. These steps may vary depending on the industry and image your client represents, but there are a few things to remember that can help protect your brand across all spectrums.
- NEVER BE AFRAID TO SAY NO.
When considering your client’s brand reputation, I must repeat, all press is not good press. Likewise, all collaborations are not great collaborations. Be sure to consider what media outlets you’re aligning your clients brand with before pitching or accepting a story or feature. In addition, pay attention to brands you associate with your represented brand. Do they share similar goals and visions? Is there a sound, useful reason for connecting a “different” brand with your client? If you can’t answer these questions when considering a press source or collaboration, you should most likely consider saying no to the opportunity.
- YOUR CLIENT IS NOT A CROISSANT.
Really. There is no reason to ever let your client appear flaky. Do whatever you can to maintain brand integrity. Let’s say your client is a makeup artist. You and your client have worked hard to create a public brand that stands for excellence in skin care and customer satisfaction. Your client has been marketing her brand hard to make a connection with a celebrity photographer. Jump ahead several months. You get a call from your client saying that she has finally secured a shoot with this photographer and yet she is not entirely prepared. While it is not your job to be an assistant, creative director, and model agent, it is your job to protect your client’s brand. If you allow your client to seem like she can’t follow through on what has been promised, there is potential for word to spread quickly that your client is a flake. While this may not be true, reputation is everything.
- SURVEYS ARE YOUR FRIEND.
Want to know how your represented brand is being perceived? Ask around. Surveys can help secure an understanding of just how your brand is being communicated to and perceived by all of your audiences. Ask everyone that matters: customers and clients, press, employees and never be afraid to ask competitors. Compare feedback to internal understanding of brand messaging. Is there a disconnect? If so, something’s not right.
- CONSUMER AUDIENCE DOESN’T CARE HOW MANY BEERS YOU HAD LAST NIGHT.
Unless your client’s brand is intended to make frat parties seem cool, the brand’s audience probably doesn’t want to know how many beers, or boyfriends, or arguments our client had the night before. In fact, over-sharing online is the fastest way to ruin brand image. Keep it simple. Stick to key messages and carefully constructed associations. Social platforms can be a great outlet when used correctly. If you happen to get poor press that is featured online, take control. Respectfully ask the web editor to remove the article. If you can’t get it removed, you’ve got access to social media for a reason. Your next step is to quickly address the issue using your brand’s blog and other social media platforms in an appropriate manner. Never disrespect a press source. Never ignore bad press.
- IF AT FIRST YOU DO SUCCEED, REPEAT, REPEAT AGAIN.
Great! You’ve got a few good press features for your brand and your social media efforts seem to be going well. What now? Stick to your key messaging. Find creative ways to tell your story to your audience everyday. Use multiple forms of outreach think newsletters, press releases, on-air interviews, postcards, brand paraphernalia. Do whatever it takes to make sure you keep control of your story.
Jump in on the conversation! Are you a PR professional or brand strategist? What sorts of things work for you when maintaining brand integrity?