Building and promoting a clear and concise brand is one of the most difficult and important parts of operating a business. You want consumers to know who you are — your business’s ethics, values and history — and your customers want to know what they are buying into.
I help small business owners, entrepreneurs and startups across many industries leverage their public relations efforts. I’ve found that when you’re working on building a business, branding seems like a simple place to start. Developing your brand and getting your message out to the public is the best (and some would argue the only) way to garner media attention and customers, but many businesses struggle with branding. It can be difficult to know where to start, and when budgets are limited, businesses often don’t have the resources to hire experts.
Gain a PR perspective.
PR and branding go hand in hand. If you can’t explain the benefits and what sets it apart, then there isn’t much benefit in developing it further.
I often think of Amazon’s “Future Press Release” as an example of this. Initiated by Jeff Bezos, I find this concept to be a great example that highlights the importance of PR, even in the very beginning stages. In a nutshell, Amazon doesn’t begin product development for a new idea until a press release is drafted. Why? It forces teams to highlight the product’s differentiation — what sets it apart. If the team is unable to clearly state its differentiation from the start, it’s not going to get any easier, and chances are the product won’t be successful.
Looking at your business from a PR perspective can help you define your brand. Plus, PR is a helpful method for communicating your brand identity to consumers. It’s a win-win.
At its most basic level, PR is about storytelling. It’s about creating and pitching (factual) stories that promote the positive aspects of your business. These stories tell consumers who you are, what drives you and why they should care. These stories define your brand identity. And the most impactful stories — the ones that stick with audiences — are those that highlight what makes your business different.
Find your angle.
To craft your brand identity, start by identifying what makes you unique. Grab a pen, and take five minutes to consider the following questions. Each of these questions can unearth important aspects of your business and identify potential avenues to pursue a story:
• What is your business?
• Who was it created for?
• What problems do you and your products solve?
• What is unique about your product? For example, is it the first to market or a unique take on an old concept?
• How was your business founded?
• What is your background, and are you open to using your personal story to promote your business? (Note: this is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your industry.)
• What principles and values do you hold as a business owner?
• What demographics do you serve? How do they feel about certain issues?
• What do your consumers do in their day-to-day lives? What do they like and dislike?
• What does your business stand for?
• Does your business give back to the community in some way?
Craft your brand identity.
Here’s an example of how the answers to the above questions can help you develop story ideas that communicate your brand identity:
Let’s say a “solopreneur” — someone who started and runs a business on their own — named Sarah produces and sells hand-embroidered flowers. Sarah started her company as a side hustle and found success when her online campaign, encouraging customers to share what their flowers meant to them, went viral. She also donates a portion of her sales to a charity focused on helping homeless children get off the streets.
If you apply the questions above to this example, it’s easy to identify three simple — but strong — angles that make for perfect story headlines:
1. Businesswoman Turns Simple Side Hustle Into Cash Cow
2. The Unexpected Online Campaigns That Went Viral
3. Blooms For Babies: How This Simple Flower Is Saving Children’s Lives
Each angle has its own strengths. The first is relevant to business media and serves to draw the attention of others in the business community that might want to buy in or collaborate. The second, which is known as a “stacked pitch,” groups your campaign with other successful campaigns to position your brand as an authority in the online campaign space. And the third has mass media appeal: You’re promoting a feel-good story that also positions your brand as one committed to charitable giving.
The head, heart and hand aspects of your business all work together to form your brand identity. Using stories that promote these aspects of your business can help you generate consumer appeal.
Now, it’s your turn to get going on your PR. Grab a pen (or your laptop), and start answering the above questions for your business. Once you’re done, write down the first three media angles you can think of. Highlight their strengths and weaknesses, and eliminate your weaker options. Then you’re ready to begin.
Good luck, and happy pitching.