Priyanka Wadhwa
Guest Article

Why do family-managed businesses need PR to build legacy brands?

Our guest author Priyanka Wadhwa says PR can play a pivotal role in building family-owned brands.

In a family business, legacy is the connective tissue that binds the business's core purpose, the family's values and meaningful achievements across multiple generations. India has a strong entrepreneurship culture, with its rich business history and traditional form of firm ownership.

Indeed, we are aware of the prominent family-owned businesses in India, such as those owned by the Tatas, the Birlas, the Godrejs or the Ambanis. Across the boardrooms of these businesses, young leaders are playing a more proactive role in transforming some of the most significant legacy enterprises that have come to define Indian entrepreneurship. And, PR has played a major role in bringing their stories to the public.

PR for growth

As the COVID pandemic stuck, we saw what kind of transitions these next generation leaders made to sustain businesses. This test of time gave them enough room to think about what role they could play to keep the family legacy alive, and newer changes they could implement. Mihir Jain, marketing & sales director at Insight Cosmetics, is one example that understood the importance of having a communication strategy.

When Jain joined the family business, he took the company online across multiple platforms, making products available across 18,000 pin codes, including numerous channels for sales. He associated the brand with many companies for deeper penetration into the untapped markets.

He ensured that the strong distribution channel he created had an echo of a well-thought marketing strategy that included digital marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and collaborations with the right brands and people. The mix of PR ensured that the family-owned business ventured into uncharted territories for maximising growth, while building brand equity.

Priyanka Wadhwa
Priyanka Wadhwa

PR for storytelling

Many family businesses realise that to survive and thrive in a world where giant, well-funded companies offer daily competition, an effective branding strategy is a way in which they can set themselves apart. A communication strategy represents the tangible and intangible assets: the financial worth and the social and emotional value that the family has accumulated, adapted and paid forward.

Let's look at India's homegrown brand - Wagh Bakri Group. For a company that has humble beginnings, Parag Desai, as the head of sales, marketing and international business, knows well that it is, perhaps, this obsession with storytelling that has made Wagh Bakri India's third-largest packaged tea company, with an annual sales turnover of Rs 1,100 crore in 2016-17, and 42 million kg in volumes. To craft a story as premium chaiwallahs of India, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, takes art and strategic PR planning.

PR for credibility

Many family companies advertise their products and services in their communities and beyond. Some have sophisticated marketing plans to target the customers they want to reach and build brand images. Successfully transforming the company from a largely promoter-run set-up into an institutionalised, professionally-run organisation, while driving innovations, requires strategic thinking and positioning.

No matter the size, every company depends on its reputation for success. One such brand is Dabur India, which has been crafting its story with innovative campaigns for over 100 years, through traditional and digital mediums. PR is an essential component for building a credible brand that consumers can trust, because it is driven by real opinions and reviews from the outside world.

Since these messages don't come directly from your company, the stories that appear in the media and online, are typically unbiased. This allows a more genuine dialogue with consumers, which can help your brand increase its credibility.

PR for relevance

A communication strategy represents the tangible and intangible assets: the financial worth, and the social and emotional value that the family has accumulated, adapted and paid forward. PR is a great way to communicate with your target audience.

When you consider how you could be on TV, radio, online news sites and in print media in one PR campaign alone, it's staggering to think about the millions of consumers you could potentially target all through crafting just one initial news story.

PR allows you to position yourself as an expert in your field, as you'll be able to demonstrate your knowledge, experience and skills to consumers. The Piramal Foundation's campaign, Win the war against pandemic, used the PPP model and media to highlight the special effort to serve the general public in the current conditions.

PR for crises

If you're a fan of the HBO show Succession, or if you're aware of the conflicts playing out publicly and perennially among some of the most visible family businesses in the world - think the Murdochs or Ambani family - you may assume that family businesses are more fragile than other forms of enterprise. PR is a broader concept and, perhaps, more elusive. It has to do with the public's perception of the company and the family, building its reputation for integrity and caring about its customers.

Most family businesses encounter publicity, good or bad, at one time or another. The trick is to capitalise on or cultivate what's positive and avoid or minimise what's negative. In case of a crisis, a company can take effective action to deal with it, but the failure to communicate the wisdom and effectiveness of the strategy undertaken in a crisis, can ultimately defeat the utility of the actions taken.

Family and legacy go hand in hand, and most families in a business, desire to connect and contribute to sustaining their legacy across the generations. Good PR involves trust-building and continuing to build on that value through future generations. The key for family businesses is to make a concerted effort to manage communication to protect and enhance the image of both the business and the family.

(Priyanka Wadhwa is head of growth and strategy at CommsCredible)

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