The term, Brand Advocate, is typically used to describe a consumer who spreads the word about a brand solely because they want to. On the other hand, public relations professionals are thought of as “spin doctors” just trying to promote a paying client.
Too many public relations “professionals” spit out press releases, public statements, and tired story pitches to mass list of contacts that may or may not want them. The truth is that the media and audiences alike can tell when they are being pitched to or discarded with a generic statement. In reality, publicists should be their clients’ biggest Brand Advocates, paving the way for other Brand Advocates.
Here are 3 ways to incorporate Brand Advocacy into your Public Relations program:
We hear a lot about the importance of engaging your social media audience by posting content that will encourage conversation. OK, so…what content does your audience want? What if you don’t have a great social media following yet? Interaction is the most important thing in any social media strategy. For the City of Kannapolis, we have dramatically increased following and engagement through real interaction. For instance, we know that the City of Kannapolis’ residents are excited about their progression as a city, but still want to preserve their history. By posting photos of Kannapolis landmarks with some trivia, we connect with residents on an emotional level. They are excited to share posts and comment with personal stories. This interaction encourages us to continue to find ways to connect with the audience. As a Brand Advocate for the City of Kannapolis, I find myself looking forward to seeing what new activity has occurred.
2. Become the tourist
Public relations for smaller towns can be tricky, because the things that make the places so special can’t be found on a website. When I joined Walker Marketing, one of the first things I did was take a trip to Richmond County to personally visit the attractions I would be promoting. I also wanted to see what I could find on my own, during my visit and through extensive research. This enabled me to discover things that aren’t common knowledge, giving the audience fresh information. For instance, I discovered that this historic building in Rockingham was the site of a murder that became the basis for the movie, Coquette, in which Mary Pickford won her first Oscar. When a journalist asks me why The Little River Winery in Mt. Gilead is special, I can tell them about my experience tasting the best blackberry wine I’ve ever had.
3. Keep it Real and Make it Personal
A true Brand Advocate knows what their client is and, more importantly, what it isn’t. Overpromising a destination or attempting to promote a story to an irrelevant market will only waste time and money, and will brand you with a bad reputation in the end. Richmond County does not, in fact, have something for everyone. However, by embracing its unique features and focusing on niche markets, we have been able to deliver results that mean something to Richmond County. For instance, our efforts to increase awareness of attractions like the Hamlet Historic Depot and Museum as cool, out-of-the-box wedding venues have lead to an increase in rental requests.
Overall, a public relations professional should be, first and foremost, a Brand Advocate for their clients. You need to be able to respond to queries at a moment’s notice with interesting facts. Audiences generally are not interested in stories containing information they already know. On that note, if you ever visit the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis, be sure to notice the mural of an eagle on the domed ceiling. Martha Stewart did. In fact, upon her visit, she noticed that the wingspan didn’t look accurate. The artist was brought back to redo the mural, correcting the size of the wings.