Public relations expert discusses importance of partnerships, integrity

Partnerships, sponsorships, community initiatives and philanthropy programs are major elements in today’s world of branding, according to David Nevins, president and CEO, Nevins & Associates.

True philanthropy means donating time or money anonymously, but now it’s more through associations, Nevins told GBC members at a June 7 Breakfast Briefing. Corporate and organizational branding begins with developing an honest reputation with the public.

The public relations world is often called “reputation management,” said Nevins. In the case of corporate America, branding and reputation have become more important than product and service marketing. General Motors, Ford, and Google are good examples of companies that want you to know their name.

In public relations, effective visibility can come from “benefit by association,” where companies end up in the same story as another reputable organization. For example, colleges and universities don’t have an “education” section in the newspaper to pitch to, so they use their athletic department to build their visibility. Therefore, a college’s team might benefit by playing Harvard and being mentioned on the same line in the sports section.

Comcast, one of Nevins & Associates largest clients, is an example of dedication to building a reputation as a cable company with integrity and using their philanthropic efforts, said Nevins. Comcast has applied significant efforts and resources to giving back to the community while still offering quality programs and services, he said.

American Express was one of the first successful companies to use cause-related marketing when it donated money to renovate the statue of liberty every time someone used an AMEX card. Millions of dollars were raised. Examples of local high-profile marketing partnerships include M&T Bank putting its name on Baltimore’s football stadium; Comcast Center at the University of Maryland; and Constellation Energy’s name on the Baltimore’s Champions Tour golf tournament, said Nevins. With these types of partnerships, everybody wins, Nevins said.

If a business wants to advance its reputation, it needs to be wedded to integrity and trust, Nevins said. Nevins outlined the essential questions for a great brand with integrity:
• Is it purposeful?
• Does it have a good reason for being?
• Is it distinct and memorable?
• Does the brand have a personality or human-like aspect?
• Are you able to deliver on a promise?

“Rather than thinking with the golden rule, treat others as you would want to be treated – use what I call the ‘platinum rule,’ treat others as you think they want to be treated,” said Nevins. Give them the product they expect.

Internal branding is also essential, he said. Employees are the primary ambassadors to the public. Target is a good example of great training and putting a lot into its personality or human-like aspect.

It’s harder to change perception then to build a perception, said Nevins, but “America is generally very forgiving as long as we trust what we are hearing.”

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