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  • Writer's pictureSPRD

People, not Brands

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

During times when consumers are bombarded with advertisements and corporate messaging, the public relations industry faces the challenge of cutting through the noise. The solution lies not in louder slogans or flashier campaigns, but in something far more profound and inherently human: building a community driven by the people, for the people.

Publics vs Community: The Heart of Empathetic Branding

The dichotomy between 'public' and 'community' is more than a linguistic choice; it's a strategic approach that defines how a brand interacts with its audience. When brands view their audience as 'public,' there's an inherent distance—a line drawn between the entity and the individuals it serves. This perspective can create an environment where communication is one-directional and top-down, leading to a lack of empathy and a greater scrutiny of the brand's actions.

Conversely, when brands cultivate a 'community', they break down barriers, fostering an inclusive space where dialogue and empathy thrive. In such an environment, the brand and its audience share a common ground. Each piece of communication becomes a building block in a collaborative relationship, rather than a directive issued from on high. This shift from a transactional to a relational approach transforms how the audience perceives and interacts with the brand.

When a brand focuses on transactions, the interaction is often short-term, emphasizing immediate sales and one-off customer engagements. The goal is predominantly about numbers—increasing conversions, sales, and profits. The brand’s communication with the audience is primarily about persuading them to make a purchase, and the relationship may not extend much beyond that.

On the other hand, a relational approach is about building long-term relationships with customers. The brand invests in understanding the needs, preferences, and values of its audience and engages with them on a deeper level. Communication is two-way, with the brand not just talking to customers but listening to them as well. The focus shifts to creating value beyond the product or service itself, such as through customer service, community building, and shared values.

Crisis Management and Community

In a community-centered model, crisis management becomes more than just damage control. When a brand has fostered a genuine community, there is a foundation of trust and goodwill to draw upon. The community is more likely to show understanding and forgiveness when a brand makes a misstep because there's a history of authentic interaction. This doesn't mean that crises are overlooked, rather the path to resolution is paved with the empathy and shared values that have been cultivated over time.

Beyond Marketing: Personal Narratives in Public Relations

This approach challenges the predominant notion that personal narratives thrive solely in social media or traditional marketing. They extend beyond this and into the realm of Public Relations as well. The transformative power of PR is deeply rooted in the ancient art of storytelling.

Stories are the threads that weave together the tapestry of human experience, carrying the weight of culture, values, and aspirations from one generation to the next. When brands harness this power, they tap into a fundamental human desire for connection and meaning. It's not the brand that people ultimately connect to; it's the people behind it and the stories they tell. It's the human struggles and achievements, the aspirations and insights that resonate with individuals on a visceral level. The best PR efforts don't put a product front and center; it highlights the innovators, the customers, and the community that grows around a shared experience or goal.

When it comes to public relations, storytelling is not just about crafting a narrative; it's about creating a narrative that embodies the values and vision of the people behind the brand. It's about showing the faces, the decisions, the actions, and the intentions that drive a company. When people see themselves in the stories told by a brand, a profound connection is formed. They become part of a shared narrative, a larger purpose that transcends the mere consumption of products or services.

The Magnetism of Personal Narratives

The allure of personal narratives in shaping brand perception can be seen in the stories of several industry titans. Steve Jobs, for instance, was not just the CEO of Apple; he was its soul. His story of starting a company in a garage and growing it into one of the most valuable in the world resonates with the ethos of innovation and simplicity that Apple is known for.

Similarly, Bill Gates’ personal journey from being an intelligent computer programmer to becoming the head of Microsoft and later transforming into a philanthropist is a compelling narrative that shapes the Microsoft brand.

In the Indian context, the examples of the Tata group leaders - JRD Tata & Ratan Tata are exemplary. Ratan Tata is celebrated not just for his industrial insight but also for his integrity and commitment to ethical business practices. This narrative of responsibility has been pivotal in establishing the Tata Group as a brand that is trusted and admired far beyond the value of its products.

Tinker Hatfield’s story with Nike is particularly illustrative of the personal narrative’s power. Known for designing iconic sneakers like the Air Jordan, Hatfield brought a narrative of rebellious creativity and design ingenuity to Nike and that is how we know Nike today - ingenious rebels.

These leaders exemplify how individual stories can be woven into the fabric of a brand’s narrative, elevating it from a commercial entity to a cultural icon. Their personal contributions, visions, and values add depth and relatability to the brands they are associated with, demonstrating that at the heart of every great brand lies a great story.

Brand Recall and Character Aura

For brands, the concept of 'aura' is equally applicable. It’s not just the relatability of a narrative that fosters recall; it’s the unique character of the brand. This character is composed of the brand’s story, its values, its triumphs, and its failings. It's about presenting a holistic view of the brand that resonates with the community on a personal level.

When a brand showcases its character, it allows the audience to see it in a multidimensional light. Just as with influential leaders, a brand's 'aura' is what makes it memorable. It's what differentiates a brand from its competitors and helps it to stand out in the minds of the community.

In Conclusion: A Call to Humanise Brands

The evidence is clear: the most effective PR strategies are those that pivot the spotlight away from the brand and onto the people. It's about the founders, the customers, the ideals, and the collective journey. It's about shared human experiences and values that become intertwined with the brand's identity.

When the narrative is genuine and human-centric, the brand is no longer a faceless entity; it becomes a living, breathing community with a story that matters. This is the true essence of public relations in the modern age—it's about the people, their stories, and the communities that these stories create.


Psst! This blog was made with 💕 and created after some thought by a real person.

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