By Charlotte Nichols, managing director of Harvey & Hugo
One of the aims of any PR agency is to build brands, whether personal or professional.
Having worked in public relations for 15 years now, I’ve come up with a few tried and tested ways to cement our clients’ reputations in their audience’s minds.
As well as traditional marketing methods, I’m also keen on building psychology into our brand-building strategies: something I like to call neuro PR.
So how can you harness the power of the mind to build your brand?
First of all, you’ve got to be in it to win it. You’re never going to build your brand if nobody even knows it exists.
However, before you start, here’s something you need to know – there are two types of attention, and, when it comes to brand building, they’re not the same.
Human beings have two ways of processing information; high and low involvement.
High is what we use in a formal learning environment, such as school or a seminar, where you pay full attention and actively ‘learn’.
Low involvement is what many of us spend a lot of our time doing; listening to a podcast while we work, or waiting for the YouTube video we actually want to watch to start.
You may think that the first option is what we should be focusing on when it comes to building a brand, but that’s not actually the case.
Because while we may not be actively focusing on the podcast or watching the ads before the video, we are still taking it all in and subconsciously developing feelings towards what we’re learning.
And when it comes to brand-building, that subconscious element is the sweet spot.
Once you’ve attracted the attention, the next step in building a memorable brand is to attach some emotion to it.
As soon as your audience comes across your brand, they’ll assigns an emotion and meaning to it – nowhere is ‘first impressions count’ more true.
PR works by building and strengthening these original emotions, or even starting from scratch and creating new ones if necessary. That’s why it’s so important to decide what you want your brand to be known for – and stick to it, as it can be hard to shake off those first impressions.
Another good way to create emotion is by making sure your brand has a clear figurehead, or a key person of influence – after all, at heart, we’re pack animals, and so we always relate better to fellow people.
Be clear and concise
Now’s not the time to impress with fancy language and complex concepts; our brains don’t want to have to do any more thinking than necessary.
To build a strong brand, you need clear messaging, spelling out how you can solve your audience’s problems. After all, you can’t generate desire for something if people don’t really understand it, and research has shown that people don’t buy the cheapest, they buy what they understand.
Listen and empathise
The past 18 months (and counting) have been tough for everyone, so what your audience needs right now is to feel understood.
Pandemic aside, we’ve never been bombarded with so much information and many people can feel close to overload most days.
Listen to your customers, understand their problems, and let them shape the business – give them what they need, not just want you want to sell.
Too often, marketing companies sell to external problems that people have; remember, customers buy solutions to their internal issues they may have.
Look at it this way; say your business is decorating supplies. You may think you’re selling paint and wallpaper, but really, you’re providing a solution to your client’s issues, such as embarrassment about their house.
Consistency is underrated, particularly in a world that has come to expect instant gratification and fast results.
Building a brand can take years – Apple, one of the most recognised in the world, took 40 – so you need to keep at it.
That’s why regular activity is vital, whether that’s a monthly press release or a daily social media post; it’s like a tap dripping in an empty bath – small amounts, in a large enough quantity, soon have a major impact.
It’s important to keep your content coherent too; you can use different messages across different platforms, but the key values must remain the same.
Use taglines and triggers
If possible, come up with a memorable tagline, one which fits into your audience’s everyday life – Just Do It is a great example.
This way, when every they hear what, on the face of it, is a fairly innocuous phrase, they’ll also think of your brand.
Your brand’s colours and imagery are important here too, providing instantly recognisable prompts to once again push you into your audience’s consciousness.
Having said all of the above, one of the key things to remember is that building a brand is an artform, taking time, effort and careful planning.
However, if you stick at it, it will pay off, and you’ll be left with a brand that has truly captured the public’s attention.