It’s easy to dismiss brand identity as a minor detail in your online and print communications. After all, the filter you use on the images has virtually nothing to do with the services, products, or content that you offer.
As a matter of fact, though, a consistent brand identity is more important than it might seem. Take any large, successful company or leading influencer as an example – study their marketing campaigns or Instagram content, and you’ll soon notice a common trend among the visual materials.
What does ‘brand identity’ mean, why is it important, and how do you ensure it’s consistent across all communications? These are the questions we’re going to answer today.
What is a brand identity and why does it matter?
Your brand identity is essentially a reflection of how you want to be perceived by your customers. Through using consistent visual and verbal communication, you evoke specific values and sentiments that you want your brand to represent. Keep in mind that the word ‘brand’ doesn’t just refer to companies with physical products – branding is just as important for professional influencers and for service companies.
A consistent brand identity means that your communications – whether they’re images, ads, or written content – are immediately identifiable as belonging to your brand. In essence, your brand identity is your signature style. When done in a measured, consistent way, brand identity projects professionalism, builds trust with customers or audiences, and helps to reassert your brand’s values.
Elements of the visual brand identity
In a world where visual content is so important and widespread, you want your images to stand out and be unique to your brand. Verbal brand identity – your well-defined values and mission statements, the vocabulary you use across your advertising, and how your brand describes yourself – is just as important to get right. But on the internet especially, first impressions matter most – and the visuals of your branding will be the first thing catches your audience’s attention.
The key components of a visual identity are:
Most companies enlist the help of a PR agency and/or a graphic designer to create brand guidelines. That’s because the process involves a series of decisions that will have an impact on all future communications and on how the brand is perceived. It’s important to ensure that the key elements of your visual identity are not only consistent in terms of where they are used, but also in so far as creating a cohesive whole – the logo, colour scheme, images, and fonts need to make sense together. And as well as looking good, they also need to reflect your verbal brand identity (key messages and values) in some way.
If you work in a team rather than alone – as many influencers do – it’s a good idea to create a folder with brand guidelines. This should include your logo in various dimensions, the hex (or RGB) codes of your brand colours, font names and usage, and any other necessary information. It’ll be a big help in ensuring that everyone on your team is using the same brand guidelines, increasing consistency.
Last but not least, remember that ‘consistent’ doesn’t mean ‘forever’. Trends in marketing, branding, PR, and graphic design change really quickly these days, so it’s a good idea to review your visual branding on a regular basis. The visuals are unlikely to need a complete overhaul – unless you’re shifting your values or want to change your branding. Most of the time, just slight visual updates will suffice to ensure that your visual branding doesn’t look outdated.
We’d all like our products to sell themselves and our brands to grow of their own volition, but unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen. In today’s competitive markets, a solid PR strategy is essential to growth and success.
Despite the fact that it’s been around for decades, PR is still misunderstood all too often by business owners. A common misconception relating to both PR and marketing is that it’s something you can do intermittently, sparing funds and attention for public relations here and there, without a proper plan in place. As a matter of fact, running campaigns without solid planning is, more often than not, a waste of time and money.
So, let’s outline the five steps common to most PR strategies, essential to ensuring that the campaign will be worth the investment.
1. Data gathering and analysis
Before we can work on what to achieve and how, we need to have a thorough and objective understanding of the context. Details on any previous PR and marketing efforts and their results are also incredibly useful, as they can help to determine what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
The key brand messages to date, target audience, and data on ways in which the customers interact with and respond to the brand are equally important. If the brand doesn’t have well-defined, up-to-date key messages or data on audience engagement, now’s the time to work on developing these.
2. Setting measurable goals and planning the approach
Too many PR campaigns skip this step and move on directly to implementation, even though the very definition of the word strategy is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. Logically, you can’t come up with a viable PR strategy if you don’t know what goals you’re trying to achieve.
When setting the goals, it’s essential to ensure they are all measurable. This means the goals need to be highly specific and preferably include dates, numbers, and other qualifying data. For example, rather than aiming to ‘Have more followers on social media’, set the goal of ‘200,000 new Instagram followers by the end of the year’. This will enable you to measure your progress and establish the level of success of each element of the campaign.
For each goal, there needs to be a separate sub-plan of activities designed to achieve it, complete with a time-frame and space for evaluation.
This is often the most difficult part, although if you have been precise in your planning up until this point, it should go relatively smoothly. It’s time to carry out your plans from the previous steps, taking advantage of all media outlets and networking tools available to you to achieve your aims.
There are two main categories of PR: digital or traditional. Digital PR takes place online, with social media engagement, articles on news websites, newsletters, and the messages on your website, for example. Traditional PR focuses on non-digital media outlets and events, such as mentions and ads in local newspapers, events (e.g. trade show appearances), and so on.
In-house or improvised PR will most likely focus on just one of these aspects, given that most PR departments have a limited capacity for securing deals and placements in a range of outlets covering both the traditional and digital worlds. A PR agency, meanwhile, has established connections in both ‘camps’, which opens up a wider set of opportunities for promotion. By working with an agency, you will have more tools at your disposal for the implementation of your strategy.
4. Measuring the results
Although for purposes of clarity, result measurement is a separate step, you should actually be measuring results continuously during implementation. By monitoring the engagement and results of your campaign at regular intervals or after every activity, you give yourself the opportunity to alter your strategy as you go, improving the results. If you leave the evaluation to the very end of the campaign, you might miss out on opportunities and waste resources.
5. Drawing conclusions and altering the plan if necessary
As you measure the results of each stage of the PR plan, you should use the insights from you data to inform your subsequent PR activities. While it’s important to be consistent with your promotion and stick to the overall strategy, don’t be afraid to make alterations along the way if something isn’t working out as expected.
Just like with measuring results, it’s important to make these alterations as and when it becomes apparent that they are necessary, rather than waiting until the entire strategy has run its course. For example, it might turn out that your campaign generates much better results on Facebook than it does on Instagram. If you only realise this after a year’s worth of social media promotion, you will have missed out entirely on the Instagram audience – despite putting effort into producing Instagram content. If you catch this trend early, though, you can troubleshoot your Instagram activity to figure out what went wrong – or at least divert your Instagram effort and resources into the more effective Facebook campaign.
There is a lot more to implementing a winning PR strategy than simply sending out a newsletter and setting up the odd business event. If you expect it to have an impact and bring in positive results, your PR plan needs to be well-thought out from the start, carefully implemented on a series of platforms, and measured at regular intervals. This is why hiring a PR agency to handle your strategy is such a popular solution these days: only PR professionals have the expertise, tools, and time required to ensure your campaign is a success.
If there’s one thing we can all agree to be true about Instagram, it’s that it’s one of the most competitive platforms out there. It’s estimated that there are around half a million of active influencers already on Instagram – going up against such extensive competition can be enough to overwhelm and intimidate most aspiring Instagram personalities.
How can you make sure you give yourself a real shot at success?
1. Focus on your audience
One of the key things to remember is that the aim of each influencer is not to ‘steal’ the audiences of the other 500,000 influencers on Instagram. Most users are not exclusively ‘faithful’ to one influencer – otherwise, each Instagram user would only be following two or three people, instead of hundreds.
The key to unlocking your audience isn’t, therefore, to win over the followers of your competition: it’s to define and subsequently cater to your target users. If you can reach your target audience with valuable, high-quality content that they will enjoy, it won’t matter that they already subscribe to other influencers – they’ll follow you, too.
This step is often omitted by aspiring influencers, and perhaps it’s not strictly necessary – but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of careful planning from the get-go. Having an idea of your ideal follower and the reasons why they might be interested in your posts are essential components of coming up with an effective content strategy.
2. Let your personality shine
Regardless of what needs you meet for your followers – what questions you answer and what kind of content you provide – your personality is going to be the driving force behind your success on Instagram.
While it’s important to cater to your audience, it’s equally important not to lose your unique voice and perspective – after all, that’s what your followers are there for: you.
It’s advisable to use a photo of yourself – rather than a logo, for instance – as your profile picture. The style of the image should tell visitors to your page something about who you are and what you’re about. Similarly, your bio should reflect who you are and what you offer as an influencer – so spend some time to make it truly yours.
3. Engage with your followers
As you gain popularity, it will gradually become impossible to reply or react to every single comment from your followers. However, it’s important to make an effort to consistently show interest for your followers, their views of your posts and beyond, and their content.
You could make a point of spending an hour or two per day reviewing and replying to comments on your posts, perhaps. Follow back the people you find interesting, and show that you truly care about your audience. Try to be genuine and specific in your replies, displaying genuine interest.
4. Use CTAs often, but wisely
A call-to-action, or CTA, is a common way of generating feedback and engagement from your followers. It’s important to use CTAs often – they really do work – to get your audience to comment, like, and follow. This will help to increase the number of your followers, as well as providing you with invaluable insights directly from your followers. You can use these insights to guide future content and tone.
However, the most successful influencers use CTAs that go beyond the standard ‘leave like if you enjoyed this post’, or ‘let me know what you think in the comments’. Consider asking your audience specific, meaningful questions instead, facilitating engagement on a deeper, more personal level. For example, if within the post you share a personal story about your most cherished childhood memory, invite your audience to do the same in the comments. This will help you to understand your audience and make you appear more personable and approachable.
5. Choose brand partnerships carefully
For many Instagram influencers, brand partnerships are the holy grail of what they do. Others don’t care for brand deals, not wanting to appear as a sell-out. One thing’s for sure: the moment when you being receiving brand deal offers will mark a major milestone in your Instagram journey.
It’s recommended to find a middle-ground between the two approaches. You definitely don’t need to take every single offer you receive, but there’s no harm in vouching for a product that you genuinely would recommend.
Before you agree to a brand deal, look into the product and the company carefully, taking the brand’s publicity (both now and historically) into account. Consider this alongside both your current and potential audience, and make in informed decision as to whether this will be a good fit. The most important aspect is to make sure that you won’t end up turning away followers through your brand marketing – whether it’s because of choosing an inappropriate brand or pushing branded products a bit too much.