Branding: Find Out What They’re Saying When You’re Not in the Room

branding audits

One of my favorite quotes on branding came from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, when he said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

So simple and so right.

Your brand isn’t your logo, your signage, your website’s design or your graphics package, though all support your brand. It’s not a tagline or slogan or ad campaign, though again, all support your brand. Your actual brand is the set of distinguishing characteristics that make your organization unique in the minds of the people who matter most to you.

It’s the reason they want to work with you or for you, it’s the reason they do business with you, it’s why they want to buy from you.

Conducting a Brand Audit

The question of what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room is the driver behind our work in communications and brand audits. That’s exactly what we work to find out for clients.

We’ve done it for top Pittsburgh law firms, businesses, nonprofits, industry associations, NGOs and start-ups.

In the course of this, we decided to take a look at our own brand to see how it tracks. As a bit of a case study, I’ll tell you what I learned about O’Brien Communications.

Clients and others perceive us as a solid media relations, writing and crisis and issues management resource. They like the fact that we’re a Pittsburgh-based PR firm, and that we’ve been ranked one of the top Pittsburgh public relations firms. But that’s not exactly why they work with us.

They like the big agency experience and experience in highly complex situations. But in terms of branding, the thing they seem to like most is something I’ve taken for granted. We’re easy to work with.

I knew that being a solo PR practice gave us the nimbleness to serve clients on a scalable basis. I use the same client service model we used at Ketchum. It’s always worked. I knew that as a sole practitioner, this firm could be more affordable than other Pittsburgh PR firms that have larger overhead and younger, less experienced staffs.

But my efforts and the efforts of the teams I’ve been able to assemble for clients have always been regarded as easy to work with. We don’t let red tape, industry jargon, invented processes and other things to get in the way of giving clients what they want. We’re business thinkers and problem-solvers and that’s all that matters.

When we solve a problem it’s always with the client’s best interest in mind.

Know Your Priorities

For example, more often than not when you work with a public relations firm, the PR team may have mixed loyalties. They get confused as to who is their master, the news media or the client. They work extra hard to get the client to conform to the news media’s expectations, sometimes forcing the client to do things it doesn’t want to do or to do things before the client is ready.

We’ve always been pretty good at balancing that because we go into every encounter with the news media with the clear understanding that our client and our client’s interests are the highest priority. The media’s needs come second. Of course, to help the client achieve its PR goals, we need to make sure we know how to cater to the news media, and how to establish our client as a go-to resource. But still, the client comes first.

Believe it or not, that lesson is lost on a lot of firms, and so it’s become an important part of our brand as a distinguishing factor.

When we’ve done work for clients on communications and brand audits, it always seems that the things they take for granted most often are their strongest brand assets: intangibles like reliability, responsiveness, experience, accessibility, adaptability, problem-solving.

If you and I were to work on a brand audit or communications audit, I’d start with a comprehensive interview with you, and then we may extend it out into secondary research, content review, but most importantly interviews with internal and external stakeholders.

At the end of the day, we want to know what those people are saying about your organization when you’re not in the room.

If this is something you’d like to talk more about, get in touch.

Posted in Content Development & Writing, Corporate & Strategic Communication, General, Marketing Communications, Marketplace, Pittsburgh, PR & Media Relations and tagged , , , , , .