How to Elevate Your Brand Marketing in 2021: Connect Your PR and Marketing Strategies

Nick Powills

Posted by: Nick Powills

How to Elevate Your Brand Marketing in 2021: Connect Your PR and Marketing Strategies.

Here’s our most important marketing advice for 2021: connect your silos.

How many marketing and communications projects is your company working on right this moment? Not just broad strategies, but actual day-to-day work, like social media, image design, data analysis, copy writing and everything else you’ve invested in.

A good marketing team will ensure that all of those projects are telling the same story — complementing each other. But a great marketing team will ensure that each element of your marketing operation leverages and elevates the others.

That requires integration — connection.

It’s not enough that your social media team is telling the same story as your PR team — whether internal or external. Those teams have to feed into each other, coordinating the assets they create into a single pipeline that directs every single one of your projects to the same high-impact end.

Connecting your silos is critical to effectively selling your brand, but that’s only the start.

HUMAN INTEREST STORIES ARE THE EASIEST TO CONNECT

Humans have an innate need to connect emotionally, but we are far more likely to connect with other people than with brands. Therefore, you have to bring the human element of your brand to the forefront.

The most powerful way to do that is by telling people stories — not brand stories. Because brands don’t sell brands, people do. Our brains are hard-wired to look for personal connections and respond to narratives, not to remember stats, facts and selling points.

Consider the case of Wireless Zone, the nation’s largest wireless retail franchisor.

Wireless Zone has long been dedicated to giving back to the community through its charitable foundation, The Wireless Zone Foundation for Giving, which fosters partnerships with a range of charitable organizations. In order to maximize those efforts, the brand needs to spread the word about the work it’s doing.

The problem is, today’s consumers are notoriously skeptical of corporate philanthropy and are primed to pounce on even the faintest whiff of disingenuousness. Wireless Zone needed to remind audiences that it was not a faceless corporation but a network of small business owners who are dedicated to supporting their own local communities through charitable efforts.
Ultimately, Wireless Zone was able to do just that with the help of Mainland, who interviewed corporate team members and franchise owners to learn what the brand’s charitable efforts mean to them and how they were participating.

Mainland took those personal stories, packaged them with clear hooks and Wireless Zone’s distinct voice, and moved them through Mainland’s integrated marketing cycle:

Strategy and Consultation, where Mainland worked closely with Wireless Zone to build a storytelling strategy that accurately reflected the brand’s goals.

Owned, where Mainland developed the copy, imagery and other marketing assets to best tell the brand’s stories.

Earned, where Mainland’s PR team took those stories and pitched them to the most relevant and far-reaching news and media outlets, including national news, trade publications, local media and digital influencers.

Paid, where Mainland amplified the impact of those stories and media placements through digital advertising and other paid marketing.

Data, Analytics & Reporting, where Mainland dug deep into the results of the campaign to gain insights on what stories and methods had the greatest impact, then used those insights to inform the Strategy and Consultation round for the following campaign.

By integrating those stages — stages that too many companies still treat as distinct and separate silos — Mainland helped Wireless Zone extend the reach and impact of its charitable campaigns dramatically, booking $285,000 worth of PR and $81,000 in ad value in 2020 alone, the same year Wireless Zone made its millionth backpack donation as part of its flagship backpack giveaway campaign.

LIKES AND SHARES ARE NOT HOW YOU SHOULD MEASURE SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS

If you’re still judging the success of your social media efforts by the standard metrics — followers, clicks, likes, shares, engagements — you’re missing the point.

Those metrics are all good indicators of the breadth and depth of your audience, but what are you actually doing with that audience? And how are you tracking that progress?

In and of itself, social media is a fine way to keep your brand top-of-mind among your audience, but that’s not enough. You should be using social media to extend the reach of the stories and assets your marketing team is creating. You should measure clicks from social into your website, and then, what actions happen with retargeting.

Social media’s true value is in its ability to amplify a message. Again, it’s about integration — social media cannot be its own silo.

When you try to define the purpose of your team’s social media strategy, one word should come to mind: boost. How is your social media boosting the content that your brand has spent so much time, money and effort crafting?

DON’T JUST CREATE CONTENT — AMPLIFY IT WITH THE RIGHT MARKETING

Creating content isn’t a one-and-done proposition. It is critical to put that content in front of the right audiences at the right times and to keep the conversation going.

Drip marketing campaigns, sometimes called marketing automation, allow you to send specific sequences of emails to your customer at just the right time, based on where your user is in their customer journey.

For instance, you can target specific, bi-weekly messages to new customers about their experience or send gentle reminders to woo back former customers. Consider when is the most effective time to reach an audience and how often to reach them, then make sure all of your marketing assets across teams are being distributed accordingly.

IDENTIFY TARGET AUDIENCES AND DEPLOY MESSAGES DIRECTLY TO THEM

Where is your next customer hiding? Better yet, what are they reading? What podcast are they listening to? What websites are they visiting?

To reach the right audiences, you have to know where to find them. But how do you know the preferences and habits of the audiences you haven’t reached yet?

By building personas.

Look at your existing clients and patrons. What patterns can you find? Are they largely in the same income bracket? Do they have college degrees? Military experience? Political inclinations?

Once you’ve identified the most prevalent patterns among your existing buyers, build a few reliable character models — or, personas — that align with those patterns, then market towards those models.

Target personas will not only help you craft stories that appeal to the right audiences, they will tell you where to direct those stories for the highest impact. Meaning target personas, when used correctly, inform every stage of your marketing pipeline — your strategy, in-house assets, PR efforts, paid advertising and data. Just as long as those stages are fully integrated.

In 2021, make it your goal to ensure that all of your marketing strategies are not only aligned, but integrated — working with each other to make the most out of every asset and effort each of your teams is producing. That’s how your story is going to break through this year. That’s how you’ll be heard.