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If your company had a PR policy, what would it say about you?

December 6, 2010

When push comes to shove, PR is about the delivery of core brand values expressed through news and word of mouth. Indeed, PR is a fundamental part of brand strategy, maintaining and developing brand perception so that customer brand recall remains consistent, even in the bad times. Yet many publishers use PR not to enhance brand but to sell books rather than brands. Result: new release coverage, corporate disappearance.

The problem is that often PR in publishing is judged not by what it does strategically but what it delivers on the page: column inches. But what do column inches provide? Often press articles use merely a few bones of a press release to create a different story, deigning to promote a new release by title (often at the end of a piece) but rarely if ever talking up the publisher, its brand or its ethos. This is problematic.

Successful PR is less about tactical outputs and more about strategic marketing gain. True strategic gain is less about promoting an individual title and more about a title as evidence of a publisher’s intent. If, by column inches, a company can promote its values and beliefs, this is a better outcome than puffing up an author and having as an aside that the author is published by such-and-such a company.

As Joe Marconi, an experienced US marketing consultant and author of a number of marketing books, says pithily: “one of the greatest areas of misunderstanding is that public relations is the same as publicity“. This sums up the problem – and yet again points to the need for strategic ownership and message planning.

For PR management to be effective, PR becomes less an adjunct of publicity and more a conduit of strategic vision. Again, as Marconi says, “if a message resonates, people want to accept it; they just need a reason“. So what message do you want conveyed about your publishing company? Why do you want people to believe you? And how can you prove it?

Sure, it’s nice that you’ve published a new book giving the latest information on topic X but what does this mean for you? How is your company perceived as a result of your release? What do you want people to think about you? When you see the draft piece, is what you want delivered by what you read?

Of course, we are well used to “spin” and frankly spin is a disgraceful and manipulative form of PR which deserves no support. Unlike the monstrous governmental spin we are so used to (where bald facts patently refute the message being spun), strategic brand messages need to be met by consistent delivery. Trust agents, the new ambassadors of companies in the social web, cannot be relied upon if all they are told is sales talk and unsubstantiated waffle.

For PR to be effective, self-evident truth is key. So it can be seen that strategic PR is more than just message making, it is a fundamental communicator of brand, a key positioning tool.

And brand, as we know, is an emotional thing. No-one talks up an unreliable lover. No-one believes a cheat. Relationships are born from mutual respect, trust and affection.


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