What Does it Really Mean to Humanize your PR & Brand?

computer keyboard with a key that says the word Chat on itI’m Cathy Larkin, Owner of Web Savvy PR, and a part of the Kaizenbiz Team. Our fearless leader, Elli St. George Godfrey, is on vacation and asked me to host #KaizenBiz chat this Friday August 24, 2012. I come from the PR-side of marketing. I’d like to talk today, and on our Twitter chat Friday, about just one slice of the PR / digital marketing pie – the part of PR that handles connecting an organization or business with its clients, customers & stakeholders and getting a conversation going. In the past, the goals might have been more to “get the business’s message out.” However, with the rise of social media, the balance has shifted even more towards relationship building. Businesses and their PR & Marketing teams are struggling to respond to this balance. In my over 20 years in PR, even before social media, part of our job was to humanize the brand. Connection, Conversation and Relationship-building have always been key ways of getting any message out to individuals who might care. But organizations can now do that much more directly. This paragraph is full of buzz words, words we’ve heard too often lately. But I really feel at their core, they are very important: Connection, Conversation, Relationships.

I think that for most of our #Kaizenbiz audience, I might be preaching to the converted. But It’s easy to say that conversation and relationship building are important for businesses and non-profits to engage in. I’d like to challenge us to define what does it truly means to be human online? One way of looking at “being human,” is showing the human side of a brand or company, or showing the human side of your CEO or your social media staff member. Is this essentially good for your business or bad? Is it a double-edged sword. i.e. great when it works properly and is doing its job, but a real bear to handle when something goes wrong. Or is there more going on here. It also means truly getting to know your ideal customers and your actual customers. Understanding their needs, and how that intersects with you business.

This post / chat topic was sparked by a conversation with Elli or as she’s known on Twitter as @3Keyscoach last week, as my approach to PR, social media and digital marketing, is firmly in the camp of humanizing your brand, despite any pitfalls. My process starts with Making Connections, then starting Conversations that lead to building Relationships. These steps lay the groundwork and lead to top of mind Branding and toward building a Community where Word of Mouth and Sales Leads are a natural next step. Of course for this to work you need to have both quality products and content/information backing these conversations up. This proposition is not a quick-fix solution. For me it begins with defining who is your ideal audience, defining their needs and connecting along those lines in meaningful ways.

I read three articles that connected the dots for me on the topic of humanizing a brand. One calling for Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg to step down, (since the stock price has continued to fall) “Is Mark Zuckerberg in over his hoodie as Facebook CEO?,” a second from  Marketing Profs* about humanizing your brand, and a third from @JimKukral  about whether the ROI – return on investment – of time on Twitter and social media in general is worth it for him. they each got me thinking further. *The Marketing Profs article requires a free sign up to read, but it talks about research proving that social interaction leads to better results along with specific examples.

Yet another item I read suggests a goal of creating 10 meaningful touches each week – online or off. The word meaningful is open to interpretation, but it is key to the success of humanizing a brand. What if we truly empowered our staff to do this – not just our front desk or Customer Service staff, but Sales staff, PR & Marketing pros, and even our CEOs and ourselves?

Questions for our chat, and to get you thinking and commenting:

  • What is your definition of humanizing a brand, business or organization? 
  • What are the pros, or benefits, of humanizing your brand / a brand? 
    • Sub-question: What are specific examples where you’ve seen it work?
  • What are the cons, or costs, of humanizing your brand / a band? 
    • Sub-Question Examples of where it has been detrimental to a brand, biz or org?  Please be thoughtful in your answers – don’t just jump on the dump on Mark Z. & Facebook bandwagon.
  • Let’s dig a bit deeper: Are there “rules” to what makes an online conversation effective? If so, what are they?
  • A consultant talked about a goal of creating 10 meaningful touches each week – how can brands do that?
  • If we have time we might also tackle this last question: When a brand makes a public mistake, or is called out, how can humanizing work, or hinder, a brand’s recovery?

Click to access the Chat transcript, in case you missed the actual, live chat on Twitter. We had a very lively chat. 


2 thoughts on “What Does it Really Mean to Humanize your PR & Brand?

  1. These are interesting questions, and I am sure the live chat may bring out a broad spectrum of experience and opinion to learn from.

    A the chat is a bit out of my waking time zone, a few personal views here. I believe the intent behind humanizing a public appearance on town square is much the same as online. Tools, timing, and social convention may differ, manners as lube for society are much the same.

    On FB, M. Zuckerberg and social side effects, here is a contrarian view. http://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/facebook-the-cia-darpa-and-the-tanking-ipo/

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