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The believability gap

PR is the expression of brand values through action. The pros take care to ensure the actions are not so far from the brand’s reputation or values that the association feels incongruous.

This is the believability gap: knowing the point where an activity, statement or symbol won’t ring true with your audience.

Politicians often get this wrong in their courtship of voters. At the National Party conference, Simeon Brown and Chris Bishop appeared on stage wearing hard hats. We get the intent to symbolise that National wants to build stuff. But given the location and the audience, it’s hardly believable to anyone seeing it on the news. It was too try hard.

Many organisations also fail in their promotion of corporate sponsorships because they force their values onto people in way that is not natural.

We’re reminded of this point through our work to promote Kiwibank’s sponsorship of the Local Hero Awards.

Every medallist was given the chance to speak to the audience in front of family and friends, newsrooms received media packs with specially crafted bios and photos of the winners, with a celebration cake hand delivered by a local baker. Every contact from Kiwibank to a medallist, Mayors and MPs, and journalists signalled they were part of the local community.

Kiwibank understood that brand value isn’t created by constantly telling or shouting at people. It comes from a natural alignment of values and interests of companies with their customers.

To stay within the believability gap, organisations are best served by PR that:

· Allows them to be comfortable in their own skin and act naturally.

· Shows restraint and does away with the heavy branding and empty value statements. The best PR trusts the audience to determine brand value through their own experience.

· Is prepared to a take a back seat and allow the audience to ‘breathe’ and figure it out themselves.

· Only takes a small leap from what the company is to the brand value it seeks to adopt.

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