Ganapathy Viswanathan
Guest Article

Honest messaging and staying transparent will help to boost your PR campaigns

Remain honest, follow the strictest moral standards and ethics, says our guest author.

Public relations, as a practice in India, has grown over the years with many advertising agencies, including PR services, in their portfolio. Independent PR consultants have mushroomed into full-fledged PR agencies. Many global agencies have also set up shops to grow their business in India.

Clients and brands trust and have put a lot of faith in PR for the simple reason that if you are transparent and honest in your messaging, you are in a position to build the credibility of your organisation as well as brand. The age-old saying, ‘Honesty is the best policy’, works strongly in the PR industry.

To gain the public’s trust, earned media must be fair with, and true to, their audiences. The entire PR industry thrives on this and encourage brands to be authentic and transparent in whatever they are communicating.

An honest messaging will help the brand over the long run. It will also be able to build a strong bond with the media, as journalists will come forward to carry the news.

With the rapid digital transformation happening, consumers today are far more intelligent. So, as a brand, you need to be careful. Consumers are looking to trust the brands they use, as it is the trust factor that makes them buy a certain kind of product or brand. With so much of personalisation happening, driving home an honest messaging will help the brand in building its equity.

In verticals like technology and automobile, most brands deliver honest and clear message. Especially in the case of automobiles, where the journalist takes the vehicle for a long test drive and presents an honest opinion on the brand.

Many international brands organise trips for journalist to get a first-hand experience of cars. They also interact with the team closely to know everything about the vehicle. Some well know automobile brands also recall the vehicles when there is a serious technical defect, which is also one way of being honest and transparent about the product.

Honest messaging will also help in reinforcing the brand’s image, equity and also strengthen the corporate branding. It will then percolate and spread across all other products of the company.

Even in the business of advertising, they always say that be honest in what your product delivers and do not over-promise and lose the face and credibility of the brand. Delivering the right brand benefits should be the mantra when you plan your campaign, be it advertising or PR.

Managing a consumer-facing brand is a challenge, as if something goes wrong, the news spreads fast. We have seen this in the past with Maggie noodles and Cadbury’s. Both went through tough times when they went through a severe crisis.

So today, in this digital world, brands are always cautious about protecting their equity and, therefore, ensure that they are transparent when it comes to messaging. It also helps in keeping a check on the health of the brand.

In a category like FMCG, since it is available in all markets across the country, one must create messaging that is honest so that that the core message that you have planned in English, comes across in regional languages in the same tone and style.

Today, campaigns are planned for different regions that are customised and made hyperlocal. But the key here is to not deviate from your overall core message by being transparent and honest. By being honest, you can build credibility, a requirement of earned media.

Unlike in advertising, PR agencies do not pay to get their stories seen, nor do they own their stories. Journalists publish earned media articles and attach their own names to them. They will not do so if the content is not factually accurate. 

So, the best is to stay honest in whatever you are communicating. Only true and genuine stories will connect well with the audiences by building a trusted relationship. Any lack of authenticity will negatively impact the source, medium and subject.

By remaining honest, following the strictest moral standards and ethics, and presenting your brand as a true brand will help your brand to stay healthy in the consumers mind. It will help the brand to stay undisturbed over the long run, without much crisis to handle.

(Our guest author is Ganapathy Viswanathan, independent communication consultant.)

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