PR Clinic: Developing a digital brand personality

PR Clinic: Developing a digital brand personality

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

Dear Doctor Claire,

My boss doesn’t understand me. He thinks our reputation is alright but that our fizz has gone flat. He says our personality and passion doesn’t shine through. How can we rekindle the flame and sparkle again? Can you help us?

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Marketeer


Dear ACM,

You’re not alone. This is a very common PR challenge amongst marketers – it’s very difficult to know where to start.

It’s easy to look at visionaries and high-profile leaders in organisations around the world – Branson, Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, to name but a few – and think how effortless their profile looks. But no relationship between a marketer and their boss is ever effortless.

Most CEOs take responsibility for offline vision, culture and driving the company forwards, but sweep the online under the carpet. For all the discussions about social selling, marketing qualified leads and awareness funnels, the place of social media and digital channels in commercial corporate communications is still not yet firmly established.

But here are a few things to consider before setting out on your journey to establish leadership, digital brand personality and start to put the life back into your brand:

- Where are your customers? Social media and digital channels aren’t special. They’re not new anymore. They provide another channel for communicating with prospects and customers. So if there’s a big group of CIOs on Twitter and you’re an IT brand, the face of the company should be too. If there are lots of stay-at-home mums on Instagram and you’re a cookery brand aimed at this group, you should get on there right now. You should also make sure that you’re relating to potential customers on both business and personal levels – and this often means blogging and tweeting about personal interests and relating to prospects outside of business hours. But all good senior executives know: being a leader isn’t just a nine to five job.

- Isn’t developing a digital brand personality really time-consuming? It can be. But if approached strategically, it can make a real difference, allowing people to engage with CEOs, give the brand personality and reach prospect groups in a way which shows how your company is different. After all, social media should be used like any other communications and marketing tool: in a targeted, strategic fashion. Occasionally CEOs will dismiss social media as ‘frivolous’ – and there’s no doubt that it can be – we’d never ask John Chambers to spend time posting his holiday snaps on Instagram, for example. However, you need to look at it more as a serious engagement tool to show off your company and talk to prospects.

- Help! I don’t trust my senior execs not to put their foot in it: We’ve all seen disastrous posts from senior staff admitting their views on anything and everything and generally portraying the company in a bad light. Make no mistake: whilst you can delete social media posts, the chances are that someone will have seen it and taken a screenshot. Your executives – whether that’s a brand evangelist, the CEO or the chairman of the board - are the public faces of the company, and there’s little difference between them getting drunk and making a scene at a customer event and posting a bad post on Twitter (although bad tweets can go a lot further than a bar). It’s a real risk – and our responsibility as communications professionals to consult and mitigate this risk.

- We don’t have an online business: You’re in a rare position. But let’s be honest – you might not have an online business, but the chances are, someone is talking about you online, affecting your reputation and commercial prospects. In all honesty, it’s been a while since the online and physical world were considered separate; but digital is just another channel. A few obvious exceptions aside, it’s a bit like arguing that a major tech company shouldn’t sell through resellers as well as directly – it’s just another route to your audience and the market.

- Is there a risk of spreading their name too thinly? Every time your senior executives tweet, post a blog or a LinkedIn post with a link, they increase the possibility of someone clicking through to your company website – which is a good thing. But of course, if you read our latest blog on Google’s Panda algorithm update, just having them spam out tweets with links will actually harm your brand – both from a prospect and SEO perspective. Limit networks and content to relevant channels, avoid overt sales pitches and provide unique, interesting content and you’ll not only make them look good, but you’ll boost the SEO of your overall brand as well.

- How do I fight off the question about why this doesn’t result in leads? This one’s simple. It can … but only marketing qualified leads rather than fully-fledged sales leads. Not only can Google Analytics (GA) and UTM-coded shortlinks tell you if your digital content is being read, but you should also be working towards creating ‘free content people would pay for’ which can be downloaded in exchange for an email address, feeding the marketing pipeline. Don’t have any content like this? Consider whitepapers, controversial opinion articles and the like – you’d be surprised how many brands spend their marketing pounds on content that they only use once, or spend a disproportionate amount on content creation compared to distribution. You might want to think about amplifying blog content through paid social channels as well for a month – then see what happens to your GA website hits.

Of course, because social media and digital tools are still a bit new and poorly understood, it can be tough to keep people informed whilst also keeping the spark of the brand alive.

But once you’ve considered some of these questions, the fundamental ‘why’ and online ‘where’ of digital strategy should feel a little more manageable. And the commercial crux of the relationship between your brand and digital often falls down to this:

Should your brand be on all social channels? Not necessarily

Should your brand be where the prospects are? Absolutely

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