The role of ‘Brand’ in 21st century communications is likely to take on greater significance for six key reasons:
Firstly, neuroscience evidence shows that people absorb, understand information better if it is communicated within the structure of a story. The art of story-telling is being recognised as a key skill in effective communications.
By creating a narrative within which information can be contextualised creates a vehicle for people to understand the past, present and future for any data. The medium of story-telling also harnesses emotional dimensions within a situation.
Exposition is a story-teller’s technique of deepening an audience’s understanding and engagement with characters through the telling and development of the story, through the choices made by the character, and describing any changes in the character’s environment.
Public relations professional with their expertise in writing and telling news stories are ideally placed to capitalise on the growing importance of Brand story-telling and Brand Exposition within communications.
Secondly, there will be greater appreciation of the distinction between ‘characterization’ and ‘character’.
While studying on a film scriptwriting course I had an epiphany when I came across the distinction between ‘characterization’ and ‘character’; within the mechanics of story-telling characterization describes the surface detail of an actor within the narrative. In brand terms this can include certain elements of a Brand’s iconography and style.
(Note; a Brand ≠ logo. Two of the world’s best know brands – the Mafia and Al Qaeda do not have a logo.)
A ‘character’ however, is defined by the choices it makes. Whatever choices are made defines the character. Real-world choices truly define who you are – and what you are not.
The prime influence on Brand character – the real qualities of when it says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – are its actions. Public Relations counsel rooted in understanding a context and an environment is ideally suited to advising an individual or organization on how its choices will impact on its Brand.
Thirdly, within the concept of Brand public relations needs to wake up to the potential of Brand Content, or as is increasingly being known as ‘Content Marketing’. Most businesses are moving to a Freemium Business model, where Content asset created, owned or stored by the business is provided free in order to create a relationship which can be migrated to a premium income-generating customer.
Content – ideas, IP, editorial, information, entertainment is a crucial asset for 21st century businesses.
The traditional skills set of public relations – strength in the written word in explaining, creating conversations and in brand story telling are suited for the task of Content Marketing. Content Marketing provides tremendous opportunities for public relations professionals. Any new definitions of public relations practice needs to embrace it.
Fourthly, there is now recognition that ‘Values’ are a key element of communications. I define a Value as something you do even when it hurts. Your Values underpin and drive your behaviours, guiding when to say ‘Yes’ and when to say ‘No’.
Again, public relations in practice has been the poor relation in terms of being attendant to, but often not at the heart of corporate or culture change programmes within organizations.
By identifying Brand Values as an integral part of what makes up a Brand, and how these impact on existing and potential communications is an area which should in my view, be under the domain of public relations counsel, and not some ‘change management consultant’ – usually from the human relations domain.
Fifthly, a crucial part of an effective brand is its icons – the images that come to mind when you mention its name. In my talks I use the example of New York City and ask delegates what is the picture in their heads? The reason I use ‘New York City’ is that it is one of the world’s most icon-rich brands. (Try it with a group of people and see all the different responses you get.)
I believe icons act like coat pegs in managing your understanding and comprehension. If you don’t have strong icons there is nothing to hang the rest of the communication upon. So, a crucial element of effective communications is ensuring you have powerful icons. The graphic design industry has led the way in creating graphic icons, but these icons can be people, buildings, places where you work, other famous brands you are associated with, things you have done, things you are planning to do.
As more people recognise the significance of the role icons play in communications, Icon management will play an increasingly important role in brand communications – with hopefully public relations at its heart.
Sixthly we can use the model of DNA in nature and apply this to ‘Brand’. Brand DNA consists of an infinite-way, multitude of elements, all in either a positive, neutral or negative state.
Is it about time many of the public relations professionals wake up to the opportunities presented by using Big Brand Theory by embrace ‘Brand’ in its widest definition.
The Big Brand Theory is now being offered as a one day training course by the Public relations Consultants Association in London on Thursday March 28.
Further details here: