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By: Benedict Aguele

In today’s social media-dominated world many business communications functions are being diluted and diffused, leading to confusion about what is what and what is relevant, and what is not.  With social media brands and institutions are able to reach vast audiences with ease and are able to receive instant feedback on their communications, while the audience is also able to share brand communications to large numbers of their peers, giving the brand more leverage. 

Whereas many brands confuse the Public Relations (PR)  and Marketing function, some even regarding PR as the ugly stepsister in the communications family,  it is important to distinguish between both as important components of brand communications and engagement with their potential customers and customers,  as well as stakeholders and publics.

By way of definition, marketing refers to all messaging aimed at putting a specific product before the eyes and mind of the consumer, with a view to making an immediate or future purchase of the said product. PR, on the other hand, is building and sustaining a positive image, reputation and cordial relationships between an organization and its public’s comprising groups,  communities, and those it serves. In short, while marketing aims to make a sale,  PR aims to build a relationship, and both activities put an organization and its products, services, and ideas top of mind for consumers i.e. the branding function. 

Top range brands have been able to master the art of effective public relations to the point where the public is unable to distinguish between PR and marketing efforts,  hence the confusion in modern-day business building, but it takes careful cultivation of both functions to reach this level.  Apple,  the world’s most valuable company by market capitalization, during the days of its legendary CEO and founder Steve Jobs, began the culture of holding the week-long Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), being the primary media event for Apple and later Launchpad for new products and services. 

Steve Jobs was very particular about building a brand that was distinguishable from any other in the world, and this reflected in the totality of communications with the stakeholders comprising developers,  customers, and others.  Apple, according to Jobs,  did not set out to build the latest technology and sell its products to consumers. He took the PR-focused and holistic approach of building a community of fans who saw Apple as an embodiment of their goals, hence the Apple approach was one of trying to find out the aspirations of the customer and to build it into unique products. 

Nike started out selling running shoes, imported from Japan, but quickly distinguished itself by building relationships with athletes across the country and trying to find out their needs in running shoes. This approach helped position Nike in the minds of their target audience as an enabler of great athletics and partner of great athletes. 

Whereas marketing campaigns can change depending on the season and the stage of product development, PR is a long-term strategic engagement to cultivate positive perception in the minds of consumers, building association in the minds of the public with the brand and its core values. 

The goal of PR campaigns is for the core of the brand to be projected and for the consumer to see themselves and their aspirations embodied in the products of the company. Marketing messaging is usually more effective when drawn from an overarching public relations strategic objective. Apple’s  “Think Different” campaign drew from the brand positioning as a tool for greatness based on the uniqueness of the user. It is for this specific reason that Apple is able to draw huge numbers of pre-orders and long queues at its stores on product launch dates. 

Brands must define their strategy for engaging with their target publics and derive all communications messaging from their overall objective. 

(BOAPR is a boutique Digital Public Relations firm that deploys the tools of effective communication and distribution using digital technology channels to positively project your brand to relevant audiences to drive patronage and growth.  www.boapr.ng)

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