How consistency has taken the centre stage in brand communications

While the pandemic has managed to change the way brands communicate, experts weigh on the importance of maintaining consistency in a brand’s messaging across channels

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Oct 30, 2020 11:13 AM
PR

Communications industry has taken to Murphy’s Law as its thumb rule — If anything can go wrong, it will, usually at the most inopportune time. With every organization and brand vulnerable to crises in the age of naked social media, the staple mantra for the industry is precaution is better than cure.

With the viral Tanishq ad making ample headlines in the past 2 weeks, the controversy has put forth the important question of consistency in messaging through all channels of communication including brand, creative agency, PR agency and the audiences.

Publicists give us a lowdown on the facets around brand messaging, consistency and crises management that has been brimming up since a while now.

Consistency in messaging

Like the Chinese whispers game, the key message for a brand campaign might go wrong while travelling through different channels. According to Dilip Yadav, Founding Partner, First Partners, “It is best to have a single message delivered repeatedly and through multiple channels, so that the imagery is vivid and reassuring.”

For Vineet Handa, Founder and CEO, Kaizzen, every interaction customers have with the brand should embody the brand promise. “To leverage the Omni-channel marketing approach in today’s time, all teams need to collaborate and design a unified strategy which should be in sync with the purpose of a brand and deliver the same messaging across all digital and traditional channels.”

Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations says, “Plain vanilla consistency may be as outdated as custard has become today. There are now new opportunities opening up for granular inconsistencies when niche vehicles address carefully segregated audiences. It is now our thesis that a more woke approach is micro-modulations for mega impact.”

Criteria for formulating a message

So what are the criteria that need to be kept in mind while formulating a message/campaign?

Handa emphasizes on doing proper groundwork, research and planning while working on a campaign or a message. Explaining about the golden rule, Handa says, “While building a campaign, you must always keep the larger sentiments in perspective. It is critically important that you reach out to all the stakeholders like legal, marketing, communications and take their viewpoints into account. Furthermore, it is essential to evaluate all the possible risks and anticipate any sort of crises beforehand and be prepared for it, well in advance.”

Sharing further insights, Handa says: “Make sure that your brand messaging guidelines should be clear in terms of your brand’s USP; should have a detailed description and understanding of your target audience (or audiences); should narrate what your company stands for and its goals, and should clearly put across any other messaging that might be used.”

Speaking on a similar context, Yadav urges that creative enthusiasm should not be allowed to derail the real purpose of a communication campaign. “A brand must therefore be sensitive to the sentiments of their audience, particularly those in minority. Anything which can irk the audience or put them at unease is strictly avoidable.”

Brands stand

At the time of any adversity or setback, should brands stand by their messaging?

For Cherian, stepping back is indeed an option, but it must be based not on fear. Asserting about the three Es - experience, expectations and extrapolations. “Big Data today allows instantaneous analysis of Customer Impact, especially if you are with an agency that is consistently deploying AI tools on your behalf. You cannot hit and miss in that scenario. Instead of the “Imma Bounce” type reaction we saw recently, the Fight or Flee call is based on, what we at Perfect Relations call the three Es - experience, expectations and extrapolations.”

Emphasizing on responsible conduct, Yadav said, “It is better to lose an argument and win hearts rather than the other way round. Sometimes, brands can become a target of politicization around an issue where forces are trying to draw political mileage from a brand’s creative pursuit. In this scenario, it is best to make such political forces ineffective through a strong display of responsible conduct. Since brands draw their allegiance from audience the inherent goal should be to win the battle of perceptions, not of rights.”

Role of PR agencies in crises management

When unexpected adversity hits a brand’s image, PR agencies become the first poll of call, in a crisis. Cherian says helping in substantially reducing the immediate impact, building management confidence and helping them navigate safely out of a crisis should be the approach for any PR agency. “It goes way beyond communications and requires managing Stock Market Comms, regulatory responses and capacity supplementation where issues escalate on a 24x7 timeline.”

Handa also backs the idea of creating a crisis response plan that includes intensive brainstorming session to go through all the potential crises that could occur.  

According to Yadav depending on the skills and prior experience of its people, an agency can play a vital role in helping with quick recovery from a crisis. “Most crises are accompanied by some reputational damage. Hence, the role of experts who can help restore and rebuild reptation is particularly important in crisis management.”

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