The starting point for a PR campaign is the brand values. The company brand or ethos is the soul of the company, the life source from which PR messaging grows. Often businesses do not truly understand how to harness or communicate their brand.  They do not think it matters or it is PR puff or a flashy logo. But is it so much more.

Find higher purpose

A brand at its best will inspire with an ethos and an attitude. It often comes from the founder or owner – what is motivating them. It is usually much more than making a living. There is passion, drive and determination there and that is what you want to dig into. The best brands are often built around a higher purpose that drives the business. Perhaps there is a will to tackle a big problem and in maritime there are massive issues to throw your brand weight behind such as decarbonisation and pollution of the oceans or perhaps you have a product or service that makes people safer at sea. The point is that if you can find a higher purpose and make that part of your brand it can become a philosophy that is so contagious, so powerful it can inspire. If you are making a positive difference think how that could make your clients, workforce and stakeholders truly believe in you and become passionate about you. The best communications always puts people first – showing your are sensitive to and care about your team, your clients and the wider society. Businesses that fail to prioritise people in their communications will come almost certainly become unstuck while those that do are at a considerable advantage.

Once you have a clear idea what you stand for you can start telling your stories with this ethos shining through. You want to find the blood and thunder stories in your company – the triumphs and adversity overcome. This is when the fire in your belly, your authentic company story, can really come alive. 

Here are some ideas and commentary on brand:

Our client the Isle of Man Ship Registry (IOMSR) prides itself on being a high quality flag state of choice that regularly features at the top of the Paris Whitelist which ranks flag states by performance. The IOMSR wanted to emphasize its ethos and commitment to safety and care for seafarers, a big responsibility with nearly half of shipping under the Red Ensign now under the IOMSR flag with around 10,000 seafarers.

The director Cameron Mitchell, a former seafarer himself, told us he passionately wanted to do something to help seafarers combat the isolation many feel in the wilderness of the sea. This had been brought into sharp focus by the apparent suicide of a seafarer on an IOMSR flagged ship. As a result, the registry launched the first seafarer welfare app by a flag state called ‘Crew Matters’ in partnership with tech company Tapiit Live.

The messaging in the press release and social media underlined how genuine this care for seafarers was drawing on Cameron’s experience at sea for 17 years saying IOMSR did not just talk about crew welfare it actually went out and did something about it. As well as being a unique offering the welfare app says a lot about the outlook of leadership and what makes the registry tick.

During a 1997 presentation at Apple, Steve Jobs gave the following advice: “To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”

Apple famously created the ‘think different’ marketing campaign whose films are really worth checking out on You Tube. The campaign championed rebels and misfits like John Lennon, Mohammed Ali and Gandhi. Apple saw ‘genius’ in these people saying: ‘the ones crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do’. This edgy uplifting campaign was about more than Apple products. It inspired people with Apple’s disruptive, entrepreneurial, world-changing attitude.

Richard Branson meanwhile is another passionate believer in authentic marketing. He said: “Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character.”  I am sure when you think about Virgin you have an idea of what the company stands for – fun, adventure, customer service, entrepreneurial, outlandish. That is the power of a strong brand – it communicates an outlook.

Being laudable has no power

When you look around the marketplace how often do you see businesses talk earnestly about having reliability or integrity. And while this is laudable it has no power, these are the values most businesses would trot out without thought. You have to think about what will make you different, what will make you stand out, what is true to your character and what is your higher purpose – what is the big change you want to see in the world or the maritime industry.

Ben Pinnington is founder of Polaris Media a UK based maritime specialist PR firm.  Excerpt taken from Making Waves: ‘Public relations strategies to transform your maritime business’ the forthcoming book by Ben Pinnington. Twitter: @BenPinnington1

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