Advertising Interviews

Michael Berland

President | 18 Mar 2011

A level of authenticity is required today. Information is readily available, and if you don’t share something, it’ll come out anyway. So you need to be able to explain your motivations, so that people can form a connection with the brand. This is all part of the brand purpose, which you must reinforce through innovations in product and clear two way communication with the consumers.

Michael Berland is the President of Penn Schoen Berland. He has led studies and campaigns for the world’s top brands, blue-chip companies, political candidates and entertainment clients in more than 80 countries on six continents. An expert in how people think and behave as consumers, voters and decision-makers, in his 20-year career he has become known for applying the insights and tactics of the political campaign trail to the corporate arena, creating highly aggressive, tightly focused image and marketing campaigns. Michael advised political candidates in the US and abroad, including Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton. The New York Times heralded Michael’s targeting and messaging work in the Bloomberg campaign as "transcending the traditional political fault lines of race, party and class." Michael's book, "What Makes You Tick? How Successful People Do It – And What You Can Learn From Them," co-written with Doug Schoen, was published in 2009.

In a conversation with exchange4media’s Gopal Sathe, Berland explained how the PR industry is going through a fundamental shift now and it is imperative that PR professionals start to think beyond media coverage and consider a larger brand purpose if they want to stay relevant by making an impact on a brand’s bottom line.

Q. How do you measure the value of a PR campaign?

What matters to the client is how you are making the difference and impacting the bottom line. Media coverage is just a very superficial measure of public relations. Our research conducted in India with senior communicators is actually showing the shifting need from coverage to business impact as one of top shifts in the needs of seekers of public relations services.

The measure for the effectiveness of PR should not be clippings, but rather should be the impact, in terms of buying and sales or in terms of perception, which can be measured through market research.

Q. How important is transparency and accountability in the new information age?

Consumers are very perceptive and information travels fast. People are looking for optimism and just as information moves fast, they expect companies to move fast as well. People are looking for a faster recovery and greater transparency. You can make money along the way, but only as long as you have a greater purpose than just the transactional value.

Q. So the misuse of communication can create problems for products and brands?

Try to withhold or spin communication and you’ll just create a bigger problem. PR and advertising can make a good product great, but nothing can save a bad product.

For example, look at the BP-oil spill. The well burst was a big issue. The PR issue was the CEO trying to minimize something he may not have fully understood before he spoke. People saw through that and it created a second crisis.

A level of authenticity is required today. Information is readily available, and if you don’t share something, it’ll come out anyway. So you need to be able to explain your motivations, so that people can form a connection with the brand. This is all part of the brand purpose, which you must reinforce through innovations in product and clear two way communication with the consumers.

Q. How does a company deal with its employees being on social media? Do they need to have guidelines about this?

In a digitally connected world, every employee of a company is a PR responsibility – a careless word on Twitter of Facebook might seem harmless to the employee, but could seriously affect the company. Companies should not try and clamp down on the social presence of employees, but have clear internal guidelines on what they should and should not say in public.

Your employees are the best advocates for your company. They are the people who can tell the world about the brand and so companies must have some guidelines which are essentially common sense. It’s the same as your behavior in any public forum – if it’s inappropriate in a physical forum, it’s inappropriate in a virtual space as well. There is basic etiquette which must be followed that companies must cover, but in general, an employee is the best advocate for a brand.

Write A Comment

VIDEOS

JOBS & CAREER