Exploring client connection and collaboration in the new age

Emotion can be a powerful tool in creating brand recognition and loyalty, yet a lot of brands struggle with how to talk to audiences where one wrong move can cause a reputation tailspin. That is where PR comes in. Here we explore the art of turning a standard client message into a real emotional connection with your audience.

Impact PR has been around for 15 years, putting them as one of the most trusted in the region for fostering client relationships. For Impact PR, a lot of how they manage success comes from remaining authentic to client, which owner Fleur Revell-Devlin says, is important in this post-Covid environment.

“Regardless of the size of the brand we are working with, it is also essential that their story resonates well with us. Ultimately we are tasked with selling their content into media and for us to be effective in that role we need to believe in what they are doing.”

Public relation managers have a talent which makes them indispensable, and that is the ability to turn client messages into emotional responses. Revell-Devlin says the process starts with face to face interactions, which helps them get a solid understanding of what the client is trying to achieve.

“We will often take quite an informal approach to taking a brief, it saves the client time and allows us to really get a solid understanding of what they are trying to achieve – this is much more effective than a written brief which may be based on preconceptions about how PR works.

“The first step is simply listening to the client, by approaching this conversation in an unstructured way we find we can dig deeper, this helps us uncover what is going on in the wider environment.”

Yet this emotional response they are able to create is not as easy as listening to a client’s issue and regurgitating it, but comes with its own set of problems the team is expected to work through.

Fleur Revell-Devlin – Impact PR Founder

“Often a client will have commissioned a creative campaign which they would like to support with PR. They will have advertising messages and brand slogans which they may have invested a large amount of budget into for above-the-line. To maximise this spend they will want to see this same content pushed through media releases and ultimately land as media coverage, which frankly won’t work. “

Many of Impact PR’s clients have worked with them for more than a decade and understand the fundamentals of PR, therefore allowing the team a freedom to interpret messages how they would recommend.

“Obviously, with some of our clients there are industry restrictions such as the Medicines Act for pharmaceutical brands, but on the whole, we are given a lot of freedom to secure the best outcomes for their brand,” she says.

Impact PR works with a range of different clients across different sectors, so is well versed in switching up messages to suit different audiences. Revell-Devlin says what is important in that is the different number of geographical idiosyncrasies.

“We might see for example a pharmaceutical client give us a global press release written for a medical trade title and ask for it to be disseminated in its current form in NZ. In practice this presents a number of challenges. For one thing, the number of medical trade titles here is very small, for another, there is little in the way of a localised news angle.”

Revell-Devlin says at the same time, how PR professionals interact with media differs widely across markets as does the media landscape they pitch to.

“Consistently we have found that New Zealand is not a market where cut & paste from offshore will work effectively – customising the strategy for local requirements provides a far greater outcome for the brands.

“Despite our geographical location, there are still many differences between the way we approach PR compared to our trans-Tasman neighbour Australia. We tend to be less formal in our writing style and media approach. Often Australian based companies will task an Australian PR agency to run a campaign across the two countries, but without the local contacts and local industry experience these often fail, leaving us tasked with resurrecting the campaign.”

Yet with all the practise around altering a message to fit a market, how is it that PR can successfully go one step further and create an emotional connection? Revell-Devlin says the way this is done can take several forms.

“Usually, we are looking to generate content that helps bring their messages to life in media It is not uncommon for a client to present us with a collection of facts and figures from which we can extract a story. This works well for us as really is it like a lump of clay which we can then form into some newsworthy content.”

For Revell-Devlin and her team at Impact, creating this emotion connection is an art form, one that they’re constantly needing to adapt to as the landscape does.

“It gets harder when clients come with a very rigid expectation of what they see the story as. Ultimately if we can’t draw out a news story then it will look like an advertisement. While all press releases tend to have a commercial objective, striking the balance between what the journalist wants for their readers and what the client wants is where the real art in public relations lies.”

This story is part of a StopPress series celebrating the ever changing PR landscape. To read more on Storyteller Month, click here.

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