How to Increase Brand Awareness in a World of Clickbait, Fake News, and Reporter Robots
Whether we like it or not, today’s media landscape is cutthroat. Everyone is vying for a spot among the viral videos, spammy clickbait headlines, and hyper-short attention spans. For some brands, this means competing for the most eyeballs or the most clicks on a page – thus increasing value of ad space and, ultimately, revenue.
The situation has gotten so dire that many publications enlist robots to pump out a continuous stream content to drive readership and inflate ad value.
As the first integrated public relations and digital marketing agency in Texas, we must ask ourselves:
Is this evolution of media a race to the top or a rapid nosedive to the bottom for brands (and the media)?
We believe it’s the latter. For brands looking to raise awareness, “securing coverage” in the current marketplace means much more than the number of impressions, clicks, views, or even the amount of ink on a page. Instead, contemporary PR practices like storytelling present brands an opportunity to create lasting awareness that’s actually meaningful.
How is this accomplished? By maintaining a steady drumbeat of timely and relevant media placements – with storytelling as the key tactic.
Harnessing the Power of PR as an Element of Storytelling
Several recent neuroscience studies reveal that people have always been, and always will be, fascinated with a good story. In fact, good PR — when founded upon a story — allows brands to engage with audiences, not simply impress them. However, just because a user scrolls down the page doesn’t mean they’re reading your content. Thus, to generate engagement with your audience using your story, you must first learn how to finesse when, how, and where you tell that story.
This concept recently came to a head for Integrate when Houston’s newest food hall — Finn Hall — was ready to make its downtown debut in 2018. We recognized two distinct challenges ahead of us:
- Making Finn Hall a household name in Houston by telling the story of the city through food
- Elevating the brand nationally to become the city’s premier destination for its multicultural food scene
However, a great story is worthless if no one hears it. The kind of coverage we desired could only come about through top-notch planning, relentless persistence, and strong media relations. For Finn Hall to succeed and maintain its grand-opening momentum, we needed to find more creative ways to tell its story and build long-term engagement.
Identifying the Story and Crafting the Message
Because PR isn’t easily measured, many businesses put PR at the bottom of its business plan when in reality, it should be very near the top. With a full-spectrum PR strategy, news stories can begin months or even years in advance.
For Finn Hall, we began crafting its message nearly a year from its opening. As a food hall that reflected Houston’s multicultural population, Finn Hall as a concept checked all the right boxes. We wanted to position Finn Hall as more than a restaurant – its culinary options served as a symbol of Houston’s diversity, flare, and multiculturalism. But in a city where everyone touts that attribute, our story needed some “oomph.”
That’s where the local vendors came in.
We used the various vendor restaurants inside of Finn Hall as a lens through which we’d tell Finn Hall’s larger story. This allowed us to include Finn Hall in headlines even though the building itself wasn’t the focus. We grouped these vendor announcements into five separate releases, strategically spacing them out to ensure a consistent pulse of coverage.
In March of 2018, nine months before opening, at least 15 different articles had already mentioned Finn Hall.
Building Brand Momentum Through Effective Media Engagement
As great as that attention was, we couldn’t afford to rest on our laurels. We needed to maintain the momentum and get people excited. Our answer? A VIP party, of course.
Coinciding with the press release announcement of the official public opening, we told key members of the media about the party and strategically planned it for the Friday before the big day. With more than 40 media sources and influencers in attendance, the event provided them, and thus their readers, a first look inside Finn Hall.
The event itself featured live music, small bites from each vendor, and a full service bar. Our social media team live posted throughout the evening, thereby allowing attendees to share footage and grow Finn Hall’s social footprint.
Although celebrations are always fun, our goal wasn’t just to host a party and have a good time. The VIP party gave the public a glimpse into Finn Hall through the eyes of a select few. 45 articles and 81,617,674 impressions (i.e. eyeballs) later, you still couldn’t dine at Finn Hall, but people couldn’t wait for the grand opening!
Creating Lasting Brand Recognition within a Target Audience
After the positive energy generated by the VIP party, Finn Hall had to transition its story from being another new, trendy restaurant to becoming Houston’s must-stop downtown destination. We used the establishment’s range of food and beverage options to create versatile campaigns that attracted its true audience – a group we called “food explorers.”
The goal was to help adventurous foodies keep Finn Hall top-of-mind for every food-related scenario:
- Dining before an Astros, Rockets, Dash, or Dynamo game
- The perfect date-night spot
- The optimal place for downtown professionals to power lunch
- A national travel destination for visitors
We used this revised story to secure another 21 broadcast and print placements for Finn in top local and national publications, including in the New York Times and CNN. Tyra Banks even stopped by to see what the commotion was all about!
Right before our eyes, we witnessed the fruits of our PR labor. Houston fell in love with Finn Hall, earning it a spot in the pantheon of great cuisine in Houston. The 88.9 million impressions we’ve received over the full course of our storytelling strategy was just the cherry on top of Finn Hall’s highly engaged audience. We’ve continued to grow Finn Hall’s presence through our tried and true PR but also now by fully integrating them through digital marketing and social channels further continuing the steady buzz.
Integrate believes in the power of a good story to share our clients’ strengths and differentiators. But it can’t be a flash-in-the-pan message seeking quick impressions. To form a lasting relationship with media and build a sustainable trust with your audience, you must craft quality content with that story to generate the sustained coverage and long-term brand awareness every company needs.