Welcome back to ‘Ask Elise’, the monthly blog column responding to questions sent in by our community about all things PR. Just think of me as your PR agony aunt!
Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions this month. They really got me thinking, and I’ve done my best to address them below.
So, without further ado, let’s crack on with this month's roundup…
"Why is it important to be on brand?"
What a great question! The importance of remaining ‘on brand’ cannot be stressed enough, for both businesses and individuals in the public eye. Allow me to explain…
For small businesses, there are many things encompassed in your branding, from the visual (logos, colour schemes, fonts, etc.) to the intangible (values, mission, tone of voice...). Maintaining these throughout your internal and external communications and across all channels is vital for establishing a consistent and memorable brand image and identity.
Diverting away from your brand guidelines will at the very least confuse your target audience. At worst, it will push them away from your brand as they struggle to grasp just who you are and what you stand for. And it goes even further...
Think of some of the PR disasters that have shocked or saddened you in the past. Many of these have had such a negative impact because they’ve revealed a brand or individual to be something other than what the public previously understood them to be. This divergence from the ‘brand’ can have disastrous consequences: sometimes damaging the reputation of a person or company beyond repair. Whilst this may be an extreme example, it goes to show the importance of remaining ‘on brand’ in all senses, at all times.
"I'd love to know more about PR as a career. What skills from marketing can be transferred into PR?"
This is a fabulous question, and I'm so pleased to hear you're interested in pursuing PR as a career! While PR and marketing are two separate practices, the similarities between them mean that several skills and attributes sit somewhere nicely between the two.
These span far and wide, but I’d consider the following to be among the most important:
Listening skills, empathy and emotional sensitivity: this might seem a lot to group together but there is a method in my madness. To succeed in both PR and marketing, it’s important to have a real awareness of the audience you work to serve, and of human beings as a whole. Possessing listening skills, empathy and emotional sensitivity will help to ensure that you truly know the minds of your audience, and appeal to them as a result. This is essentially what both practices boil down to.
Organisation and prioritisation: both PR and marketing are hectic jobs, particularly when working in an agency. Being able to manage your time, multitask and prioritise effectively will be vital for juggling the ever-increasing workload.
Creativity: while many activities that fall under PR and marketing can seem like admin tasks, creativity is key in those moments when it’s up to us to come up with incredible ideas, enticing hooks and captivating campaigns. It’s important to be able to look at things from fresh perspectives and generate new ways to get your message across.
Analytical skills: marketing is known for having more of an analytical focus than PR, but analysis has its place in both practices. Whether you’re breaking down social media analytics, reflecting on ROI or scrutinising the mindset of your customers, analytical thinking is a great skill to possess.
Communication: last but certainly not least… Effective communication skills are vital in both PR and marketing because, when working in these fields, you are a communicator above all else. Interpersonal intelligence, social awareness and ‘people skills’ are all fundamental to your position as a messenger between businesses and their publics: their message is in your hands, and it's up to you to communicate it effectively.
"What would you say to someone who is cynical about PR?"
While I'm a great defender of my industry, I have to acknowledge the fact that PR itself has received some pretty bad press over the years (oh, the irony!) From the spin doctor perception to inaccurate portrayals of PR in pop culture, the industry - in my view - is one of the most misunderstood.
For this reason, it’s natural that some people would fall victim to these falsehoods and have a negative view of PR as a result. However, I would urge anyone with a negative impression to do their own research before bashing the discipline altogether.
PR is not founded on lies, and it’s not about getting bad people out of bad situations with an ill-worded reactive statement (I’m not naming any names). Rather, PR is a long-standing commitment to constructing, developing and maintaining a positive reputation for a business or individual. There's nothing shady about that. And the reality is that PR is all around us. That editorial you saw in last month’s Vogue? PR. That clever campaign you saw on Twitter? PR. Those awards your favourite small business has won? PR. PR quite literally surrounds us 24/7, so it’s unfair to narrow it down to the ill-advised PR mishaps we’ve all seen in the media.
PR is far bigger than many of us realise. It’s a practice founded on stories, people and values. Anything negative you may have seen surrounding PR is simply a result of bad PR, and we can't tar all PR with the same brush.
"What’s your view on personal branding? Does it encourage fakeness or inauthenticity?"
Personal branding is such an interesting topic. To some extent, all of us have a personal brand, made up of the things that make us us. However, not all of us are concerned with our personal branding, in that we don't proactively construct and maintain the image of ourselves we want to share with the world.
You raise a great point about authenticity and I can see the dilemma here, but I still don’t think that being concerned with your personal branding is the same thing as being fake, namely because personal branding should be grounded in realism and authenticity. Social realism is on the rise, and brands and influencers alike need to be aware of this when constructing their public image. Sure, a conscious effort around personal branding might mean that things are a little more thought out and a little less spontaneous, but that’s not to say that an individual's personal branding isn’t truly representative of them.
Of course, there will be instances where someone’s personal branding is purely a fictional construct, and I wouldn’t condone that. But making an effort to shape your identity and influence public perception is not always the same as being ‘fake’.
Thank you so much again to everyone who submitted questions to this month’s edition of Ask Elise. Don’t forget that you can message me any time with your questions or concerns. I’m always more than happy to help wherever I can!
Do you have any views on any of these questions? Come and join the conversation in my latest post over on Instagram!