Gini Dietrich

Brand Awareness: A Phrase to Banish from Your PR Vocabulary

By: Gini Dietrich | December 5, 2016 | 

First Day of Christmas: Brand AwarenessWe are back with the 12 Days of Christmas!

And, yes, I know technically the 12 days don’t begin until December 25, but we are closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I have zero plans to be blogging during that time.

(Though we will have guests taking my spot, including this awesome team of mine.)

Besides, who says we can’t have a little fun, even if we don’t technically follow the rules?

I love this feature and it makes my job even more fun this month.

So here we go…

The First Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you: One phrase to banish forever.

I imagine there are lots of phrases you would like to banish—thought leadership, leverage, circle back, key learnings—but the one we’d like PR pros to stop using in 2017 is this:

Public relations is only meant to drive brand awareness.

Yes, I will give you that is one of the jobs of PR, but to end there is completely short-sighted.

Some of you may have already heard this story, so bear with me.

A few years ago, I was kicked out of a LinkedIn group for PR pros.

The moderator felt like I was selling snakeoil because I challenged PR pros to measure their efforts.

He told me the sole purpose of PR was to build brand awareness, which couldn’t be measured.

And he kindly asked me to leave the group.

At first, I was really angry.

How dare he?

Over time, I’ve begun to realize I really should look at it as a badge of pride.

If you truly don’t believe PR can do more than build brand awareness, I’m clearly not going to change your mind, so I’ll be on my merry way.

An Example

When Marketing in the Round was published, we did what we do best and we marketed the heck out of the book.

We had 562 bloggers, podcasters, and journalists feature the book.

A friend of mine even said, “I can’t open the internet right now and not see Marketing in the Round featured.”

It sure did feel good and, from an old-school PR perspective, we were killing it.

Everyone knew about the book and brand awareness was extraordinarily high.

But it didn’t sell.

Well, that’s not true.

It did sell.

But we didn’t make the New York Times bestseller list, which was our goal.

I don’t think we even came close (the publisher can’t share that kind of information).

Today, you can buy a used hard copy of it for $0.01.

Some people are even selling their signed copies (which, as an author, is always really hard to take).

That launch was a great example of really high brand awareness with very low return.

I know I wouldn’t have hired me again, after that experience.

Now imagine if you are a business owner or leader and you are paying a PR firm or a PR team to help you drive sales and “all” they’re doing is building your brand awareness.

Brand Awareness is the Beginning, Not the End

It was a tough lesson to learn, and I’m willing to bet every one of you has at least one experience like that to speak of.

If I were to do it again (and I’m not doing it again, so don’t ask!), I would focus on different tactics.

Tactics such as email marketing, brand ambassadors (which we did with the Spin Sucks book launch), social media advertising, and video.

I would include media and influencer relations, to be sure, but it would be integrated into the plan, and not the only thing I did.

As you prepare for 2017, I challenge you to think about your PR programs differently.

I challenge you to consider brand awareness as only the beginning, not the end.

Consider the other tactics you need to employ in an integrated PESO model.

Think about the goals you need to set to truly measure your PR efforts.

Consider joining the Spin Sucks Slack community so you can get help.

And kick 2017 off with a bang that proves we are investment, not an expense.

Are you ready?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • heidicohen


    First–I love the idea of moving the 12 days of Christmas to celebrate your audience on your timetable when they’re still focused on work! Note to readers: Add this to your 2017 plans for December. (BTW: If Gini’s doing it, it’s worth considering!)

    Second–I totally agree with you regarding the issue of brand awareness. It’s a BIG issue!

    In my opinion, brand awareness is a metric marketers and PR professionals use when they can’t find more concrete, action-oriented metrics that yield measurable results.

    It’s like the John Wanamaker quote, “I know 50% of my advertising is working, I’m just not sure which half.”

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • But you know why I had to make the disclaimer, don’t you? Because every year, someone emails me to say they don’t officially begin until Christmas Day. 🙂

      I wish I had used that quote in the blog post because it sums it up perfectly!


  • Brand awareness is very important. After all, if there’s no awareness of the brand there isn’t hope for much else. To think that PR can’t help move people from awareness to purchase is pretty shocking. And, in the digital age measuring this is pretty easy. Thanks for taking a stand on the issue.

    • It drives me CRAZY that our industry doesn’t see it that way, Steve (gross over-generalization because there are people like you who clearly do). It IS ridiculously easy to measure today.

  • I think we should do the 12 days of Christmas all year. The math may not work, but everything else about it does.

    I would never, ever sell a signed copy of your book. Possibly related: I DON’T HAVE A SIGNED COPY OF YOUR BOOK!

    I’ll trade you for a signed copy of my book 🙂

  • I’ll always remember, not long after I first started working here and I turned in a strategy document for you to review, in which I said “spread brand awareness,” and you commented, “Spread it? Like grape jelly? Yum, I love grape jelly.”

    • LOL!! I must be a real pain in the butt to work with.

  • paulakiger

    My wheels are turning re: how we can apply more metrics to Lead Change. Now that we have a sponsorship model, I need to be able to demonstrate to potential sponsors why it’s worth their investment to sponsor us for a month. “Top leadership blog” isn’t specific enough. Thx for the motivation…..

  • YES, I am ready!

  • PhyllisAnnNichols

    My background is sales. Every single little thing is measured. Often, to the detriment of progress. (That’s another rant for another day)
    To think that PR isn’t measurable? I can’t even get my head around that.
    Perhaps you should push the phrase Brand Measurement – the happy combination of awareness with metrics.

  • So I was banned from commenting by Mashable, Blocked on Twitter by Brand Innovators (Ted Rubin), Brian Fanzo and Guy Kawasaki.

    You were banned from a LinkedIn Group.

    You are my sister from a different Mother.

  • Rich Ackerman

    Wow you got licked out of LinkedIn Group – that’s an honor.