31 July 2006

DIFFUSION talks brand at PRIA.

Discussion points from the 'Senior Practitioners' Cocktail Roundtable Event', 1 August 2006, Public Relations Institute of Australia.

DIFFUSION director Stephen Byrne discussed the importance of developing a brand strategy as a primary business requirement against the context of effective public relations and communication planning.

Brand strategy within business and communication planning

The idea of integrated communication, which holds that all communication emanates from a single strategic platform, has largely failed. A number of underlying currents have been largely responsible for this:

1. Agencies are constrained by their media bias
2. Business structures don't mirror integrated communication planning
3. Development is too far down the value chain to be effective, and
4. Brand strategy is silo-ised by being viewed as a marketing and communication activity

Most companies are focussed on action and tactics, rather than an actual brand or communication strategy. The need to demonstrate branding success through empirical evidence, often replaces planning. So a brand strategy, if it exists at all, becomes synonymous with a set of tactical communications developed by tactical specialists often working in isolation.

A holistic business strategy, with brand as an essential part of it, provides strategic intent which can help unite and integrate all communication activities - such as public relations, advertising, investor relations, interactive or internal communication.

Any brand strategy must begin with understanding the role of brand within the business model and determining how best brand can help grow and sustain the business. Brand strategies should engage the highest level of management because it brings strategy, finance, marketing and communication together, to manage the brand.

Towards a business brand strategy

Ten steps necessary to build a successful a brand–based communication program:

1. Understand, formally define and acknowledge brand in your business planning; have a formal brand strategy
2. Understand those factors that contribute to the creation of brand value
3. Identify and understand all your audiences
4. Define your point of difference and build value propositions around that
5. Work out how you can clearly enunciate your point of difference so that audiences understand it
6. Create messages
7. Identify and define the role of each medium in changing perceptions and sustaining communication momentum
8. Determine an appropriate communication mix
9. Only develop those communication activities that support brand
10. Review and revisit from 5.

Brand’s role in holistic business planning is an organic process. Always return to your strategy to check whether all the assumptions you have made are still valid and correct.