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The Brand Making it personal

Public relations pros are going well beyond stirring up and managing buzz for businesses. They also serve as spin doctors for the company’s executives.

Reputation marketing is increasingly important, and public relations pros contribute to creating and protecting corporate and individual brand images.

“CEOs and those in the C-suite are becoming much more aware of their personal reputations and their organizations’ reputations,” said Bob Zito, founder of Zito Partners in Warren. “That now factors into almost every plan we do for a company.”

Zito said times have changed.

“(In the 1980s), companies were driven solely by the bottom line,” he said. “A company’s return to shareholders was the only thing that would make a story. People were judging companies on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

“Over time, CEOs have realized then need to take a longer-term (view).”

The CEO and the organization’s reputations play increasingly important roles for both employee and consumer decision-making. And PR reps are tasked with helping to manage that reputation.

Scott Marioni, a vice president at R&J Strategic Communications, agreed.

“Consumers and stakeholders have lost their trust in corporations and other institutions,” he said. “Meanwhile, good public relations practitioners have found new, credible and more resonant ways of connecting our clients to the public.”

PR pros have to evaluate how that C-level executive is reaching out to employees, customers, investors, legislators and the media. Today, the picture of a successful CEO is painted as much by public opinion as it is by quarterly earnings reports.

“What is true about most successful companies is they realize their reputations are assets that has to be managed,” said Bob DeFillippo, a senior executive at Zito Partners. “Like any other asset, you have to figure in reputational risk, but mostly you have to be authentic. The stakeholders to most companies look for authenticity, and that will never change no matter what technology we are using or what platform we are using.”

E-mail to: dariam@njbiz.com

Daria Meoli

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