Has the media lost its credibility? 10 years ago, there was still a certain degree of objectivity in the media. Now, when video news releases seem to substitute for real news, when we see the debacle with Dan Rather and 60 Minutes, one can no longer be certain whether or not the media is impartial. In fact, it could be said that the media, in its pressure to produce 24/7 news while also providing shareholder return (remember – these news organizations are owned by corporate monoliths with a profit-centric focus) – is in the job of selling advertising space, and the first news outlet on the scene of a story is the company that can set the highest ad space pricing.
What does this mean for Branding? Simply put – this pressure has made the press vulnerable to pre-packaged content such as press releases developed by private agencies. If you’re trying to build your brand, you shouldn’t expect to accomplish this by leading with a public relations campaign alone. As important as public relations is to the overall development of a brand, the risk now exists for potential customers of your brand feeling “duped” when they read, watch or hear a story about your product or service, rather than the result you may have hoped for. For example – when a television news story on a fashion line is sponsored by the same company that is featured in it, there is a real risk of that company’s brand identity to loose credibility. In other words, “no credibility = no brand”.
PR role isn’t to build the brand. Its role is to support the brand. With all the advertising messages (or clutter) out there, PR can be an excellent tool to help cut through the “white noise”, and gain attention to your brand that it may not otherwise achieve. Furthermore, when you build the brand, you’re building an image. With PR, you build a reputation.
Your PR strategy should be centered more around insulating your brand, and to defend the reputation of the brand. Thanks to the perceived bias within today’s media, PR should be transparent – anything that screams “propaganda” is to be avoided. Instead, your PR strategy should be to do what the media doesn’t – provide fair, honest, objective information to the media about your brand. Even if that information sounds negative. By doing so, you also accomplish an important goal for your brand – differentiation.
Finally, keep in mind that branding and advertising have the same goal – building in image. Advertising, thanks to media bias as it relates to PR, may have come full circle – it may now have regained the credibility that it once lost. Let’s face it – when people read an advertisement – they expect to be sold. It’s honest and straightforward. In a world of “mixed media messages”, combined with the risk of the media skewing the perception you’ve worked so hard to build with your brand, advertising may be the best vehicle to accurately communicate the image of your brand.