Your brand is what defines you as a company and influences how you are perceived by your stakeholders. But building a brand, similar to building a house, is an evolving process that doesn't happen overnight. Just as an unexpected storm can level your house, a PR crisis can destroy brands that are unprepared for the growing number of threats they face. A strong brand is built on the pillars of solid construction, constant maintenance and comprehensive insurance to protect its value.

Every house starts with a blueprint, and every successful brand begins with a plan to define what your company represents. Creating your brand's blueprint requires a close collaboration with your internal and external communications team to ensure that the final vision aligns with the goals and objectives of your firm. As you approach the end of each year, use your blueprint to build on what works and identify where you need to strengthen your communications strategy.

The foundation of your brand is your message. Building your message isn't as simple as, "This is who we are, this is what we do."  Ask yourself, what sets my company apart from the competition and what value do we bring to the table that nobody else can?  In the financial industry, your message is your curb appeal and the first impression that sticks with media, potential clients and investors. Media training ensures your foundation rests on solid ground and that every spokesperson knows your message and stays on point during interviews.

Brand building is an organic process that requires maintenance to ensure you remain relevant in a crowded landscape. Just as the needs of your clients evolve, your brand must adapt to the needs of your audience. It takes time to develop your messages and establish yourself as a valuable resource with media. Developing your presence requires a strategic plan that identifies your key audiences and continuously leverages a multichannel approach to reach them. 

As Robert Frost said, "Good fences make good neighbors." The same holds true for your brand. The evolving media landscape has made reporters, bloggers, analysts, advisors and clients your neighbors, and real-time information sharing can turn public opinion for or against you very quickly. Fences shouldn't be used to blockade your company from stakeholders. More than ever, it's crucial to stay engaged with your audience -- share your story, provide perspective and communicate your value through compelling and ownable content.

Your brand is the true essence of your business, but maintaining and protecting it does not occur in a vacuum. It takes a collaborative approach between you and your PR partner to protect what amounts to your most valuable asset. Just as a well-constructed house will weather any type of storm, a strong brand will define your firm, separate you from the competition and hold strong against any threats to your reputation.