Nobody understands people (the USER!) quite like a PR practitioner.
We anticipate needs and emotions and weave a complex story to appeal to them.
An all too common problem I have had when working with clients is that they bring PR into a project far too late. Commonly mistaken beliefs in the first steps to building a product and subsequent business are that: a logo is a brand; and a website is what makes your company ‘established’. Sadly they are forgoing the crucial, in-depth conceptualisation stage.
When to Create
This means asking the all important questions of: who are we?; what are we doing?; who are we doing it for?; and WHY?. This then leads to building the TRUE foundations of your brand and subsequent business: vision, mission, core values, key messages, target markets and bottom line business objectives. Only then, when you have absolutely NAILED these points, should you move on to any kind of planning or execution.
From my experience when working with both web developers and graphic designer to update existing websites, there are often so many problems standing in the way of a fantastic PR campaign. This includes: a lack of integration with other channels; mind-bending navigation logistics; generally just non-user friendly; and worst of all, when anything beyond a simple text edit can only by a web developer (all communication channels need to be consistent and up-to-date at all times!!!). It takes unnecessary time and money to go back and fix these issues, when all that was needed was PR involved from the get-go.
Piecing Things Together
Even when working together from Step One, problems arise when all the different components involved in a project are disconnected. They are developed independently to each other and when it comes time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, some of them just will not fit!
These general PR principles scale down to both product and feature design. It is somewhat similar to building a house. If you will, consider the web developers the builders/tradesmen, the graphic designer as the interior designer, and the product designer as the architect/project manager.
The ‘builders/tradesmen’ are the absolutely crucial step to creating a house. They know what building materials to use, how the nuts and bolts all fit together and ultimately create the actions that turn and idea in an existing, tangible object.
The ‘interior designer’ takes this tangible object and transforms it into something beautiful. They add colour and texture to appeal to the senses, luring the user in and making them want to touch, feel and experience.
BUT, once users have have experienced the product, have their illusions been shattered, or has the satisfaction of a fulfilled need kept them coming back for more?
It is the job of the ‘architect/project manager’ to anticipate these needs. Why should this house exist in the first place? Who would want to use it? And WHY would they want to? This multi-faceted question is the most important of all and requires a broad range of skills to answer: lateral thinking; a great communicator; thorough research; broad knowledge; and details orientated, yet able to see the bigger picture. Who better to oversee the execution than the person who put together a blueprint of every detail?
But will the architect’s vision of an expansive hanging balcony actually align with the physical possibilities in reality? And will the sharp lines mesh well with the interior designers goal of a soft, dreamy look/feel?
The Storyteller’s Design
Braden Kowitz of Giacom says that “the best way I’ve found to get around this confusion is a technique called story-centered design. The idea is to create a series of narrative use-cases for your product that illustrate every step in the user’s journey through it. I’ve used this technique with dozens of startups and it always helps teams move past the surface visual details to make better decisions on what really matters: how their product finally works.”
Collaboration is key, and by having all components working together from the conceptualisation stage, you can figure out the beginning, middle and end of the story — before it has even begun. Post-launch, all the pieces of the puzzle are more likely to have fit together smoothly.
Sadly for many startups, budget constraints and an eagerness to ship means they can only start with the base needs — a developer to code their idea into reality. But as companies grow, having a great idea is no longer enough. Copycats WILL follow, and if you rest on your laurels they will surpass you. It is important to be constantly at the top of your game. By intimately understanding the ecosystem you survive within, you can instantly detect environmental changes. If you can accurately anticipate their effects you will be prepared ahead-of-the-curve for the needs of the next phase in evolution.