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Positioning your brand through PR storytelling

Written by Eamonn Ryan

There’s a big difference between a branded plumbing company and one viewed more as a commodity. A commodity plumbing company is a one that someone calls in a plumbing emergency when they don’t know any good plumbers in the area.

A branded plumbing company is ‘the’ company someone calls in an emergency. It’s the company someone readily recalls when they think of having had previous plumbing work done.

The weakness for a commodity plumber is that nobody calls them in any situation other than an emergency. So how does a plumber brand his business to get regular plumbing work? How do you build a recognised brand for your plumbing business?

Branding for plumbers is a marketing concept aiming to develop the business’s perception by potential customers and the public. For example, a well-developed brand would typically reflect trustworthiness, popularity, and specialisation.

Managing your plumbing brand’s reputation

Trust is perhaps the most crucial commodity for building a brand. Up front, you want a name, logo, or slogan that everyone can recognise. More importantly, you want a reputation for quality workmanship and service to go along with the logo. The best way to build a reputation in the digital age is through online reviews. For instance, more than half of consumers read online reviews before they make a purchasing decision on a product or service. So it’s clear you need to be reviewed and what’s more, have good reviews. Your online reputation is an essential form of branding.

Here are some tips of how you can bolster and manage yours:

  • Be present on review sites: The first step is to be present on as many review websites as possible. Some of the most prominent ones include Hello Peter, Google+ Local and Yahoo! Local.
  • Ask for reviews: Most people will leave a review after a job is done if asked. Don’t forget to request feedback from your customers both online and in person.
  • Respond to reviews: These days, people expect a reply to business reviews. Over 68% of polled consumers say they expect responses within three days. Replying to reviews (good and bad) shows customers that you care about their experience and helps build trust.

There are a range of other activities that help develop and make known your brand.

Immersing your brand in your community: If at all possible, get involved with the community. Being present among the people you service (and want to service) is

perhaps the best strategy for branding for plumbers. It goes hand-in-hand with building a good reputation but is more hands-on than review management. For example, you could sponsor local sports. Plumbers all over the country use this tried-and-true method. Sponsoring a local rugby or girls’ touch team in some capacity (uniforms, equipment, food, etc.) is a great way to make yourself known in the community and network with the people who would need your services. Edenvale Football Club’s fields near IOPSA’s offices have three different local plumbers’ billboards posted.

Local activity: Getting involved isn’t just about spending money. A person’s time is just as valuable, if not more. You stand to make a great impression on your community members by being active in local activities. IOPSA and PIRB coordinate many such activities, or you could simply participate in local leisure activities.

Craft a brand persona: This step involves naming yourself or having your logo become synonymous with something that resonates with the members of your community. A number of better-known plumbing businesses have already done this. Highlight a commonality you have with the local market. This can go a long way in branding plumbers.

Establish brand values: Many companies rely on nothing more than the merits of their service to build a solid brand, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, consider what you are good at or what your company does that no other plumbing company does. Consider what you bring to the table for the customer or what makes you stand out from the competition. Some examples are expedience, versatility or luxury. If you pride yourself on your response time, Speedy Plumbers might be your motto. If you specialise in cosmetic upgrades you could tout yourselves The Glamour Plumber to emphasise your beautiful plumbing work. Some plumbers are proud of their versatility. Consider a slogan like ‘Jack of all plumbs’ or ‘Big, Small; we do it All!’

Tell your stories

The pay-offs in storytelling are numerous and when done properly, you’ll continually enjoy earned media, perpetuate your brand voice, and create brand love. Investment in storytelling is highly advised. Storytelling actually tops the list of communication tactics in modern public relations. And the reason is simple: People are becoming more aware of direct and conventional marketing strategies, such that they are now somewhat jaded to such obvious ads or even avoid reading or listening to them.

Promotional communication has gone beyond simply talking about your products or listing your offerings. More emphasis is now focused on humanising your brand, telling the ‘personality’ of your brand, and telling the unique story of your brand to build and sustain a long-lasting emotional connection with your target audience.

Storytelling. It is the art of gaining attention for and generating interest in your brand by recounting its narratives in a manner that forges relationships with your target audience. Storytelling is very powerful. But how do you harness its powers to reap all the benefits, and why should it be a component of your branding plan?

Storytelling lights up the brain

This is an assertion backed by evidence. Stories tend to light up parts of our brain which then makes us more easily influenced by the message. Stories strike some cranial cords that increase our likelihood of developing thoughts, opinions, and sentiments supportive of the storyteller’s objective. The point is that, with storytelling, you can activate more areas of the brain than statistical information or basic factual content, as your audience will immerse themselves in the subject of your story, if engaging and relatable. That becomes the starting point of attitudinal/ perception/ behavioural influence. The storytelling technique gives the audience the feeling of experiencing the story being told by the brand, getting them involved in the narrative and deepening their affinity for the brand. The interesting nature of stories is another quality that compels the use of storytelling.

Storytelling gives your brand a human feel, which is a plus because it’s an established truth that people buy into. Rather than always talking about your products and their features; tell compelling stories about the people making the product, the faces behind the brand, without losing sight of your service benefits. This gives your brand personality, builds trust, and strengthens connections with your customers. Storytelling humanises your brand as its stories are ‘human’. Consider the value which your brand offers and craft a resonating story around it. For example, instead of simply listing the features of a meeting application, build a story that markets the app as a tool that connects people, a technology that brings people together with ease, and facilitates communication. There’s a human hook to that. When creating a story, look at the big picture. Go beyond the specific service features but bear them in mind in a more holistic fashion. Your story should highlight the value of your brand in an appealing way that endears the customer. Telling the story of your brand to reflect its value in a fascinating manner. That’s storytelling.

Storytelling makes your brand stand out

You’re of course not the only brand in plumbing. Just as you’re playing up the benefits of your service, other brands are doing the same. But each brand has a distinctive story, one that unmistakably distinguishes it from others. This story should not only be told, but also amply amplified in the local media. It gives your brand a competitive edge. Your brand has a trajectory different from those of others. While other brands are hitting the media space with adverts of product features, you’re recounting influential narratives, underpinned by unique service benefits, which create an enduring equity for your brand. This is the edge.

When creating a media story, think about how it will evoke emotions. Your storytelling should stimulate the desired emotion. People won’t forget how you made them feel. Let your story appeal to their emotional side – make them laugh or cry. Similarly, be genuine in your storytelling. Use real characters for credibility purposes. Do not fake or exaggerate the brand story- tell it as it is.

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