Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maintain Brand Equity During a Downturn

By Rick Gould, CPA, J.D.

For PR firms, what is more important than your brand? It must be treated and protected as if it were a unique, complex piece of intellectual property.

Brand equity is an important factor in PR firm valuations; a valuable asset that can be monetized. The strength and experience of your management and staff, along with the quality of your clients, are a few things that improve brand equity.

To build your brand, you do not need to commit to big budgets, especially in recessionary times. What builds the brand is the quality of your work, the perceived value- added to your client base and the approach to service producing measurable results. This requires an attitude and mindset consisting of more than dollars. It requires integrity in your approach and trust in your client relationships. And more than ever it requires a positive reputation.

Richard Edelman, in his midyear Global Trust Barometer, noted that trust in business and government is rebounding. It was way down a year ago.

Trust is what creates loyalty and improved brand recognition. When a firm creates a brand as a “trusted adviser”, that brand may stick for years. A brand of trust, integrity and confidence is a key strategic asset.

What is evolving in business is a major shift away from traditional advertising in trade magazines/ directories and toward areas relating to the web. In a recession, firms typically make the mistake of cutting back on brand building activities. Don’t fall into that trap.

Brand building should be an ongoing effort. Forward-thinking executives avoid cutting their branding budgets. All available channels to build your brand, including constantly improving your website and search engine optimization efforts, should be pursued.

Develop an over-arching theme for your firm and promote it in your writings, capabilities kits and speeches. Do what Richard Edelman has done so well over the years, as he ascended to be the largest independent PR firm in the world. He built his brand upon trust and exemplary value- added performance.

Find something unique to build your brand upon. Make it important, relevant and lasting. Do so and your brand equity can be more greatly monetized through an M&A transaction at a time of your choosing.

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