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What Makes a Good PR Campaign?

Let’s look at what makes a good PR campaign.

When it comes to grabbing the attention of journalists and prospects, some PR campaigns fly. Take Red Bull’s Stratos. Or the Ice Bucket Challenge. Innovative, memorable and engaging, they created a buzz, generated headlines across the globe, and left a lasting impression.

But others fall short. Whether it’s due to blunders in the planning process, ineffective messaging or poor execution, they fly under the radar. Or worse, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Remember when skincare brand Nivea accidentally promoted white supremacy?

Let’s face it. Campaign planning is a hard slog. It can take months to nail all the elements down. The last thing you want is to see yours sink without a trace. But what can you do to ensure it hits the mark?

While there’s no cookie cutter formula for a great PR campaign, we can learn a lot from brands that got it right.

Before we look at some examples, here’s a quick primer on PR campaigns.

What is a PR campaign?

PR campaigns consist of a series of planned activities, carried out over a fixed period of time to promote a product, service or brand.

They take many forms and tend to incorporate a mix of online and offline tactics, such as:

  • Press releases
  • Press conferences
  • Interviews
  • Publicity stunts/events
  • Social media outreach
  • Influencer marketing.

PR campaigns serve many purposes. Some are designed to boost brand awareness or establish brand authority. Others are used to stimulate demand, or control negative publicity.

Campaign goals vary depending on the needs of a business, but the overarching aim of any campaign is to drive earned media in order to positively impact a brand’s reputation.

What makes a good PR campaign?

That’s PR campaigns in a nutshell. Now let’s look at four killer campaigns and the takeaways you can use to set yours up for success.

1. Take a stand: Ben & Jerry’s and George Floyd

Ben and Jerry's George Floyd Twitter

Stay out of it. Take the path of least resistance. Avoid hot-button issues. This is the mindset for many brands amidst socio-political change, division and scandal.

Not for Ben & Jerry’s. As synonymous with its social activism as its dreamy Phish Food ice cream, the brand doesn’t shy away from taking a stand on divisive issues.

The brand’s social mission is to ‘eliminate injustices in our communities’. And it forms the foundation of every PR campaign.

Take the death of George Floyd in 2020. In the wake of the killing, many brands posted black squares on their Instagram pages and used the #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeForFloyd hashtags to align themselves with the movement.

But this wasn’t enough for Ben & Jerry’s. The brand issued a forceful statement declaring its outrage and calling for the dismantling of white supremacy.

‘The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy,’ the ice cream brand said on its website. ‘The officers who murdered George Floyd, who stole him from those who loved him, must be brought to justice. At the same time, we must embark on the more complicated work of delivering justice for all the victims of state sponsored violence and racism’.

The brand also used its ice cream to lobby for change, donating a portion of the proceeds from Justice Remix’d, a cinnamon and chocolate ice cream ‘with a sweet swirl of justice’ to the Free and Safe campaign.

High praise

The impassioned campaign attracted a ton of coverage, with Fortune commending the brand for ‘its starkness amid a sea of corporate platitudes’.

It also helped the brand cultivate relationships with a new legion of socially-conscious ice cream lovers. As a direct result of the campaign, the brand saw a 20% uplift in brand loyalty.

PR Takeaway

Corporate social responsibility is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. And not just because it’s the right thing to do.

Customers expect it. According to Sprout Social, 70% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues. And, as Ben & Jerry’s has proven, taking a stand doesn’t just benefit the planet. It’s a sure-fire way to foster trust and loyalty.

A word of warning: If you go down this route, be mindful that consumers are savvy to superficial brand activism, or ‘slacktivism’. If they perceive your campaign to be inauthentic, it’ll backfire. As entrepreneur Jia Wertz says in a Forbes article, ‘social activism has to be authentic; it can’t be a marketing ploy. Customers can easily recognize brands using cause-marketing as a profit-making strategy when there is no genuine desire to actually help a cause’.

2. Newsjacking: IKEA piggyback on Ronaldo

Ikea Ronaldo glass bottle on Twitter

Familiar with newsjacking? A form of reactive PR, it’s when brands piggyback on big news stories, in real-time, to generate media coverage.

When done well, it’s an effective way to boost brand awareness, drive engagement and generate media coverage.

A prime example? IKEA Canada’s Cristiano campaign.

During a press conference at the 2020 UEFA European Championship, football icon Cristiano Ronaldo caused a furore when he moved two bottles of Coca-Cola out of the view of the cameras. He then picked up a bottle of water and mouthed the word ‘agua.’

Within hours, Ronaldo’s snub made global headlines, and Coca-Cola’s shares dropped 1.6%, lopping $4 billion off the brand’s market value.

Spotting a PR opportunity, the Swedish furniture giant launched a savvy newsjacking campaign. The brand promptly renamed its KORKEN reusable glass water bottle CHRISTIANO noting that it was designed ‘for water only,’ and promoted it on Instagram and Twitter, using the #Euro2020 hashtag.

On the ball

IKEA’s quick thinking resulted in a PR win. Users took to social media to heap praise on the brand. And the campaign netted them a ton of coverage and a coveted One Show award.

Well played, IKEA.

PR takeaway

As IKEA demonstrated, pitching a PR campaign right after a major story has broken, when journalists are scouring the web for more information, is a surefire way to get your brand noticed. But you want it to be noticed for the right reasons.

Follow these tips to avoid a newsjacking fail.

Stay on top of the news

You can’t piggyback on emerging stories if you don’t know they’re happening. Use Google Alerts and trending topics on Twitter to stay in the know.

Act quickly

If your campaign hits people’s social newsfeeds before they’re aware of the story, you’ll add serious value to your content. So be ready to strike while the iron is hot.

Ideally, you want to get your campaign out within an hour.

Choose your story wisely

Don’t newsjack unless there is a legitimate connection between the story and your message. If it’s tenuous, your campaign will tank, and your brand could hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

For more on newsjacking, read: How to Achieve PR Glory with Newsjacking

3. Be disruptive: Red Bull pushes boundaries with Stratos

Red Bull Stratos on Twitter

Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘with great risk comes great reward.’ He could have been talking about Red Bull.

The energy drinks brand is renowned for its risky, adrenaline-fuelled marketing campaigns. But Stratos was, by far, the biggest risk Red Bull has ever taken.

The stunt saw the brand launch Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner into the stratosphere and livestream his 128,000-foot, 800-mile an hour freefall back to earth.

It could have gone horribly wrong. But the gamble paid off. Big time. Not only did Baumgartner make it back on earth in one piece, he smashed three world records and the sound barrier in the process.

Red Bull didn’t fare too badly either. 52 million viewers tuned in to watch the stunt through a network of 280 digital partners, making it the most-watched live streamed event in history.

The brand also bagged tens of millions of dollars in earned media, buckets of kudos and tons of new fans.

No wonder the media dubbed it the best marketing stunt of all time.

PR takeaway

Stratos captured the world’s attention as it was bold, daring and innovative. These are three hallmarks of a good disruptive PR campaign.

For the unfamiliar, disruptive marketing is a strategy that involves implementing ‘out-of-the-box strategies that catch your target audience off guard, getting them to pay attention by presenting your content in a different and unique way from what they’re used to.’

Needless to say, you don’t need to launch someone into space to be disruptive. You could also:

Do something unexpected

If you want to catch your audience off-guard, do something unexpected, like Nissan.

In 2014, the Japanese car manufacturer disrupted the way cars were sold by listing 100 of its new Versa Note hatchbacks on Amazon. The cars sold in three days, and one lucky shopper had their brand-new car delivered to their door in ‘the biggest Amazon box ever made.’

The delivery drew the attention of a bystander, who took a picture and posted it on Reddit, with the caption ‘what’s the largest item you can have shipped from Amazon? Because I think my neighbour just got it.’

Within hours, the post had generated 60,000 Reddit upvotes and 4,000+ comments. And it quickly spread across the rest of the internet, catching the attention of the media in the process.

Challenge the status quo

Another surefire way to disrupt your industry and get people talking is to challenge the norm.

Dove did this brilliantly with its Real Beauty campaign.

In 2004, the beauty brand set out to challenge traditional beauty standards with a billboard campaign that featured images of ‘real’ women. Not the flawless, size six models seen in other beauty campaigns.

The interactive billboards posed questions to passersby, such as ‘fat or fit?’ ‘flawed or flawless?’ and invited them to join in the beauty debate by texting their response. The results were displayed on the billboard in real-time.

A radical departure from the norm, the campaign sparked conversations worldwide about beauty norms and the representation of women in the media.

It generated so much buzz that Dove received media exposure worth 30 times their initial spend. And the brand emerged as a champion for body positivity and self-esteem among women.

4. Make it personal: Coca-Cola celebrates a summer of sharing

ersoanal cocca cola bottles on Twitter

Angela Ahrendts, Former SVP of Retail at Apple once said, ‘personalization is the key to cutting through the noise and making a meaningful connection with customers.’

She was bang on. And it’s evident from the success of Coca-Cola’s Share-A-Coke campaign.

In 2011, the beverage giant launched an innovative digital PR campaign to strengthen [its] bond with young adults.

The campaign, which initially launched in Australia, saw the brand replace its iconic logo on bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero with 150 of the nation’s most popular names.

Fans could pick up a pre-printed bottle at the supermarket or personalise a bottle with a name or phrase of their choice at a dedicated Coca-Cola kiosk.

To foster engagement, fans were encouraged to share photos with their personalised drinks to Twitter, using the hashtag #ShareaCoke for a chance to be featured on Coca‑Cola billboards and theShareaCoke.com gallery.

Unprecedented success

In the first year, the brand sold a whopping 250 million personalised bottles. 500,000 people took to social media to share selfies with their drinks, bagging Coca-Cola an avalanche of user-generated content.

The campaign also generated over 18 million media impressions. Seeing it was on to a good thing, Coca-Cola rolled the campaign out to the rest of the world, resulting in a 2% global increase in sales.

PR takeaway

Coca-Cola got a lot right with Share-A-Coke. The campaign was unique, exciting, shareable. And it harnessed the power of personalisation. By tapping into the emotional connection people have with their names, the brand transformed the simple act of enjoying a Coke into a personal and meaningful experience.

In doing so, they turned consumers into raving brand ambassadors who willingly shared their Coca-Cola stories with the world.

The power of personalisation

Personalisation can be a game-changing strategy. But as Krishan Arora says in a Forbes article, ‘…personalization extends far beyond addressing customers by their first name in an email. It’s about leveraging data and analytics to understand each customer’s unique needs, preferences, and behaviors, and using those insights to create bespoke experiences that increase engagement, loyalty and, ultimately, conversions.’

This is exactly what Coca-Cola did.

The campaign was backed by research and two key consumer insights.

  1. 50% of teens and young adults hadn’t tasted Coke.
  2. Personalisation was the way to reach them.

As per Stuart Kronauge, Vice President of Coca-Cola North America, ‘for teens and millennials, personalization is not a fad; it’s a way of life. It’s about self-expression, individual storytelling and staying connected with friends. ‘Share a Coke’ taps into all of those passions.’

The campaign had the desired effect, as young adult consumption increased by 7% during the campaign, making 2011 the brand’s most successful summer ever.

Want the lowdown on the secrets behind Coca-Cola’s PR success? Read: Coca-Cola PR Magic: How to Stay on Top for Over a 100 Years

Want to join the PR revolution? Call me now on +44 (0)77604 70309

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