Tara Reid
Tara Reid

It’s a new year, which means nearly every brand in the country will be leveraging some variation of the “New Year, New You” theme for earned editorial, viral buzz and increased awareness. It makes sense, as many people view the start of a new year as a chance to refresh and set goals designed to improve their lives.

However, while brands are busy trying to capitalize on a popular topic to get a burst of impressions in an increasingly crowded space, they should focus on following their own advice and using the new year to take stock of their place in the market.

While only about 40 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, research shows making resolutions is one of the best ways to facilitate change and turn goals into action. So, consider making at least one of these six resolutions this year to help your brand live the “New Year, New You” mantra:

Assess your marketing priorities. Before developing and executing a PR plan, be sure to determine your brand’s goals. If it’s a newer brand, the focus of your program may remain the same: building awareness, establishing credibility or forging a connection with your target consumer. If it’s an established brand or one that needs a jumpstart, objectives may have shifted. Either way, the new year is a great time to take a fresh look at your brand priorities and identify the PR strategies and tactics to address them.

Analyze your target audience. You can’t be everything to everyone. But as a brand, you must be something to the right one, meaning, the right audience. Once you land on your marketing priorities, analyzing your audience is a key next step for success in the new year. First, it would be worthwhile to dig into the latest research and insights to see if or how your current audience has changed. Has there been a demographic or psychographic shift? Then, ask yourself if the current audience is still a fit based on where your brand is today. Are you skewing younger? Older? Has a new audience subset been introduced in the last year to consider? Once you work this out, you’ll be able to craft a narrative that is most meaningful to your target audience.

Evaluate your brand positioning and narrative. Storytelling is the foundation of every PR program, and every brand has a story to tell. But brands evolve as a natural consequence of a fluctuating marketplace as well as industry change. Going into the new year, take an honest look at your brand narrative. See if it’s resonating with and influencing your target audience. Are the key messages coming through in earned editorial? Do you need to make them more ownable or revise the tone? Now is the time to ensure how you speak about your brand and how your brand comes to life align.

Just say no. This year, feel empowered to say no. Say no to the same thing just because it worked last time (and maybe even the time before that). Say no to safe, because brave is a little scary. Say no to complacency, because something is better than nothing if you fail. Instead, try thinking differently and even taking a few risks, which is essential for brand growth. Take a press release, for example. Just because this is a traditional PR vehicle used for announcing news, it doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. Before moving forward with any tactic, ask yourself if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If it does, say yes.

Embrace the PESO model. Everyone talks about the changing PR landscape, but what does that really mean? It means gone are the days of traditional public relations plans consisting of only earned editorial efforts measured by the number of impressions they yield. People consume their news in different ways, so a brand’s narrative must be shared in different ways. This year, to achieve even more success, activate against a more holistic communications plan consisting of paid, earned, shared and owned opportunities. It doesn’t mean doing away with traditional earned press outreach. It just means you might include a supporting influencer campaign and even an editorial integration to bring your story to life. The program is sure to be richer, more comprehensive and more impactful.

Take a stand. Brands are more transparent than ever, and that transparency has evolved into activism. Last year, influential brands like Nike and Levi Strauss & Co. took a stand for what was perceived by many as a controversial cause. Nike made it clear that it backed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been criticized by many for taking a knee in peaceful protest during the National Anthem, while Levi Strauss went public surrounding its support for gun control. What would have been taboo just a few years ago due to the threat of losing sales and alienating customers — namely making public declarations about a societal issue — has become more commonplace. While this resolution is the boldest of the bunch, inserting your brand into select conversations when it makes sense can elevate it. 

Before preparing another “New Year, New You” campaign just because it’s the thing to do, consider taking a different approach to win the hearts and wallets of your brand’s audience in 2019. And make this year the first you actually stick to your resolutions.

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Tara Reid is vice president of Havas Formula’s Chicago division.