Your brand in the crowded maritime marketplace

Ben Pinnington from Polaris Media shares an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Public relations strategies to transform your maritime business.

The starting point for a PR campaign is the brand values. The company brand or ethos is the soul of the organisation, the life source from which PR messaging grows. Often businesses do not truly understand how to harness or communicate their brand. They do not think it matters or it is PR puff or a flashy logo. But is it so much more.

Find higher purpose

A brand at its best will inspire with an ethos and an attitude. It often comes from the founder or owner – what is motivating them. It is usually much more than making a living. There is passion, drive and determination there and that is what you want to dig into. The best brands are often built around a higher purpose that drives the business. Perhaps there is a will to tackle a big problem and in maritime there are massive issues to throw your brand weight behind such as decarbonisation and pollution of the oceans or perhaps you have a product or service that makes people safer at sea. The point is that if you can find a higher purpose and make that part of your brand it can become a philosophy that is so contagious, so powerful it can inspire. If you are making a positive difference think how that could make your clients, workforce and stakeholders truly believe in you and become passionate about you. The best communications always puts people first – showing you are sensitive to and care about your team, your clients and your community. Businesses that fail to prioritise people in their communications will almost certainly become unstuck while those that do are at a considerable advantage.

Once you have a clear idea what you stand for you can start telling your stories with this ethos shining through. You want to find the blood and thunder stories in your company – the triumphs and adversity overcome. This is when the fire in your belly, your authentic company story, can really come alive.

Here are some ideas and commentary on brand:

During a 1997 presentation at Apple, Steve Jobs gave the following advice: “To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”

Apple famously created the ‘think different’ marketing campaign whose films are really worth checking out on YouTube. The campaign championed rebels and misfits like John Lennon, Mohammed Ali and Gandhi. Apple saw ‘genius’ in these people saying: ‘The ones crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do’. This edgy uplifting campaign was about more than Apple products. It inspired people with Apple’s disruptive, entrepreneurial, world-changing attitude.

Richard Branson meanwhile is another passionate believer in authentic marketing. He said: “Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence their brands acquire no texture, no character.”

I am sure when you think about Virgin you have an idea of what the company stands for – fun, adventure, customer service, entrepreneurial, outlandish. That is the power of a strong brand – it communicates an outlook.

Being laudable has no power

When you look around the marketplace how often do you see businesses talk earnestly about having reliability or integrity. And while this is laudable it has no power, these are the values most businesses would trot out without thought. You have to think about what will make you different, what will make you stand out, what is true to your character and what is your higher purpose – what is the big change you want to see in the world or the maritime industry.

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