The book “Pitch Perfect” by Srimoyi Bhattacharya is the must-read bible on brand-building, engagement, and amplification for anyone interested in the power of PR.
With more than 25 years of experience across three continents as a top publicist and strategist, Srimoyi is the founder of Peepul Consulting, one of India’s leading brand relations agencies. Respected for her depth of experience, she is an expert at helping brands find their most effective story, find their niche positioning or scale up, build conversations and amplify that message.
In this book, Srimoyi parts with every insider secret to help you pitch your brand just right. Plus, she’s brought in the finest names in luxury, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, media, social media, communications, and PR to give you valuable advice on building a brand people can’t stop talking about.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, the only way I saw a brand communicate directly with its customers was through advertising— print, radio, or television. Iconic ads were burnt into our minds, and we still remember those brands for a jingle or a tag line or a model. Now, however, communicating with your customer is a 24/7, 365-day exercise, and it’s non-negotiable. Whether someone follows your brand and/or team on Instagram, likes your Facebook page, subscribes to your YouTube channel, visits your website, or signs up for your newsletter, you have to find a way to stay in conversation with them at all times. Which is why voice and messaging are so key to brand-building in this day and age. It is part and parcel of your personality and identity.
BACK TO BASICS
So let’s make this fun. Take a minute to think about what your favourite brand sounds like and what it says. With too many brands swimming in my head (professional hazard), I asked my husband Sourabh. He thought of Paul Smith, which he feels is clear about its stand towards colour. It is edgy but humble, and while slightly irreverent, it still is a classic brand. Paul Smith has fun with fashion, and its clients do, too.
And this is what Lulu Raghavan of Landor had to say when I chatted with her about it. ‘Voice is the unique way in which you express the personality of the brand. In today’s cluttered communication landscape, a clear and distinct brand voice helps you stand out and connect emotionally with your audiences. I love the IndiGo voice—it is there everywhere from their airline code (6E—how brilliant is that!) to “Nut Case” their box of nuts sold in flight! If you don’t have a voice, you risk being bland and being lost in the sea of sameness.’
With your voice, you tell your potential or existing customer what you stand for and what they can expect from you. You can communicate your message and your ethos, which are both essential for you to find and build the right client base for your brand. One way to do this is to hire a professional or engage with an agency, which can then guide you, work closely with you, and sharpen the voice until it’s perfect. This is one aspect of brand-building for which I actually highly recommend working with a third party because you will benefit from their expertise and impartial point of view. It can feel difficult to wade through this process on your own simply because you (and your team) might be too close to the brand to stay objective and separate the good from the bad. I have found over the years that nine out of ten times, the most clever, articulate brands have worked with professionals at some point to get their branding right.
That said, if you are starting out or rebranding and just don’t have the time or resources or intention to work with a professional person or agency, here’s a simple solution. Think about these questions. What if your brand was a person? What would they sound like? What would their personality be like? For example, Disney is happy. Nike sounds like a go-getter. Apple inspires confidence and efficiency.
How would you like to communicate? Who are you talking to and why are people listening to you? Think about other brands in that genre or category and what they sound like. What can you do to stand apart? How do you want to make customers feel with your voice? What does your brand have to say for itself? Try different ideas on for size and run them past a small, trusted group of people who can give you clear and honest feedback.
WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
When the idea for Peepul came to me, I was with my mother in the countryside outside Kolkata, in a simple homestay. I’d just been part of putting together a hugely publicized, high-profile wedding. My cortisol and adrenaline were sky-high, but I felt drained and completely uninspired. Taking me away to a calmer place had been my mother’s idea, and after a few days, I felt relieved of that sense of doing too much but not doing enough at the same time. I knew I had to change how I worked, and build something for myself, but ideas evaded me. And, I am not kidding, I was lying under a peepul tree, with my head in my mother’s lap, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had to start a PR agency of my own and I wanted to call it Peepul. I could not have made up a better origin story had I tried, I promise you.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me to meld my Bengali inner life with my transcontinental professional journey, and create an agency that worked with Indian brands which were trying to create a niche for themselves in the US market. That was Peepul’s first iteration. And the name made sense—like a tree, I wanted my company to have deep and solid roots that supported lush growth. Plus, I liked the pun, which worked as a nod to the fact that publicity is people-centric in every way. Finally, when I tried the name out on friends, they found it to be a conversation starter. From there, the voice I developed was strong but unafraid of fun or whimsy—a bit irreverent but always professional—and rooted in the Indian experience while spanning cultures and countries.
Over the years, of course, Peepul’s voice as an agency has evolved, but I am proud of the fact that it still stays true to the core idea that came to me that afternoon.
CHANGE IS CONSTANT
This is an important point to remember—the voice will grow and change with time, but it needs to always align with your brand’s DNA. It also needs to lend itself to storytelling and messaging across mediums. Because every brand now has the luxury of speaking to targeted audiences, making sure you sound appealing to them is even more important than ever. Your brand’s voice cannot just sell a product or service—it has to sustain values, conversations, long-term relationships and be versatile enough to navigate all mediums. In a noisy, crowded world, online and offline, it has to hold its own and attract an audience that is interested not only in listening to you but also buying from you.
Here, I want to talk for a quick minute about a niche brand that I think uses its voice to tell stories very well. Peter D’Ascoli runs his eponymous handcrafted textile business out of India, working and retailing with some of the most respected and select outlets across the world. On his Instagram, he not only shares snippets of his work but also a ton of interesting information about history, art, culture, architecture, etc., which are part of his universe.
‘The D’ASCOLI brand is an outgrowth of an aesthetic sensibility that has been cultivated over the past thirty years and represents the personal vision of the creators of the company,’ said Peter, when I spoke to him about how the brand’s communication and voice have evolved. ‘There is no science or guide to inform us as to what is and is not an appropriate direction for our design and marketing material, this aesthetic “filter” is established each day with the creative direction administered by the design studio when deciding on colours, designs, graphics, and the ideas driving product and marketing materials.’
He cautions entrepreneurs to make sure they are ready on all fronts to launch a brand: ‘Don’t do it without the requisite experience and understanding. All too often, we see young people launching companies before they have formed a strong opinion or inner knowledge of what they want to say. A brand reflects the personality of whomever is managing it, and this personality, this vision must come from within. Without clarity and depth, one cannot create a strong brand.’