The critical role of long-term PR and brand building in creating a sustainable business marketing strategy
One year on from the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK and it’s fair to say that the world of marketing, like the world at large, has experienced significant changes. From the channels we use to reach our audiences to the messaging that will help us engage customers with new mindsets and purchasing behaviours, the words ‘pivot’ and ‘adapt’ have been synonymous with many brands approach to marketing over the past twelve months.
Whilst there’s no doubt that a certain level of adaptation and recalibration of plans has been essential in helping many businesses to weather the storm of the pandemic, it’s critical that they are able to balance short term tactical activations with longer term brand building in order to continue to drive brand equity. There is strong evidence, in fact, that brand building activity can be vital to the recovery of businesses following a period of economic crisis, with research from BrandZ highlighting that after the 2008/09 financial crash, stronger brands recovered up to nine times faster in the stock market.
So, as many businesses enter a new phase of planning for a post-pandemic world, how can PR help to build brand awareness, generate greater customer engagement and support the sales pipeline as an essential component of the marketing mix?
Driving customer demand
- Sales activation doesn’t create demand, it just helps businesses capture the demand that already exists. Brand building is what actually creates demand
- A focus on retaining customers has a better knock-on effect for acquiring customers than the other way around. This means PR is needed to keep customers loyal and create ongoing engagement with them (as well as advocacy)
- By priming potential buyers with brand messaging, activation (sales-led) campaigns are likely to work much harder
- PR is the best way to tell a story of your brand or business and this is what creates an emotional connection with customers
Building business resilience
- In times of crisis, people are much more likely to buy from established brands/people they know and trust, therefore long-term brand building can help make businesses more resilient to future pandemics/crises
- Trust building itself is a long-ranging strategic exercise, with several near-term tactical interventions that add up. For brands, now’s the time to double down on personalized marketing that reinforces trust
- The internet means that it’s easier for people to buy direct, so building brands is even more important in a future that is so digitally focused
- Now is the best time for marketers to go through the brand building exercise as everyone has been forced to push the reset button
Measurement: playing the long game
- Only 4% of B2B marketers measure the impact of their campaigns beyond 6 months
- This focus on short-term activation and measurement cycles means it’s harder to ascertain what elements of marketing are really working hard for a business
- A focus on long-term strategy should include long-term marketing measurement – otherwise the bias is towards short-term sales tactics