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The New PR: Building Images and Reputations in 3D

In researching new approaches to reputation management and brand building for the upcoming fifth edition of The PR Client Service Manual, it has become more clear that PR is taking on an increasingly important leadership role in strategic planning and intelligent execution of the most complex communications programs. We are evolving to what I’ll call the three-dimensional chess model, or image-building in 3D.

The PR profession continues to master new tactics and tools that go beyond the flat two-dimensional approaches used in most programs. The concept is to go high, wide and deep in creating images with the substance to break out of the competitive clutter for maximum impact.

Only PR has the capability to strategically and intelligently integrate the many disparate channels of communication and move image in the right direction over the long-term. The 3D approach can create extraordinary image momentum and ROI as the game pieces move in an intricate orchestration toward ultimate victory: building reputation as desired.

The importance of adopting a 3D approach has been reinforced by experts at many recent conferences, including the recent Counselors Academy spring meeting. A key message: don’t fall in love with your tools; figure out how to work them strategically for maximum impact.

Envision all your target audiences and their sources of information. What channels do you need to use to ensure they get the right information in timely, strategic fashion to reinforce your program goals? Where do you build your positions of strength and support? As the plans unfold, can you envision five moves ahead, ten and twenty or more?

Analyze the key milestones in your program – the known deliverables, activities, encounters, events, presentations, financial news releases, analyst meetings, government conferences, etc. What exists? Then, look for the holes, the gaps. What exists? More importantly, what doesn’t?

The approach is essential in building new brands, launching new products or technology or positioning and repositioning organizations.

Why does PR lead and not other marketing, management or communications disciplines? Given a fact-based, no-hype approach, it’s where strategy, core values and communications intersect to build a depth of awareness and credibility that paid media can’t deliver.

For a brief case history, we used the old 2D model several years ago to introduce disruptive technology into a crowded field where all competitors sounded alike: issuing a launch release and holding a press conference at the major trade show of the year. The results weren’t spectacular.

Using the 3D model for a more recent similar challenge, we established an 18-month plan to manage the flow of information, build relationships and connect to multiple audiences and through different channels. The client had a brilliant scientific advisory board (SAB). To begin laying the foundation and also getting critical feedback, SAB members began vetting the technology with some of their respected peers in business, technology and academia.

With the initial relationships built understanding in place, the agency began educating the media – without asking for coverage – six months before launch, preparing for when the client would blast out of the stealth mode with power and momentum for long-term branding. Select media were pointed to academics for background. Analysts were pointed to academics and media for validation. We pitched exclusives to media in different categories (dailies, financial media, trades, blogs, etc.). The bottom line: the client exploded onto the scene with major coverage online and in dailies, trades and financial media the first day of the biggest industry conference of the year. The instant buzz at multiple levels and through highly credible channels drove interest from potential investors and strategic partners.

The momentum built from there with a series of academic papers, presentations, speeches and presentations at financial conferences. The client was acquired within two years – ahead of its exit strategy.

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