PR Tips To Win The Fourth Quarter

Suddenly, it’s fall! That means the fourth quarter will be here in no time. Is your PR plan ready for the stretch run to the end of 2018? The summer always goes too fast, so it pays to jump in with both feet after Labor Day. The best PR teams take advantage of the calm before the storm to get their Q4 priorities in order.

PR tips for Q4

PR agencies, you’re running for re-election

Yes, we know the congressional midterms are looming, but there’s a different kind of “reelection” in the air when fall comes. Most companies plan budgets for the following year in Q4, which means they’re evaluating the current spend with an eye toward reallocation. So whether the PR is handled in-house or with an agency, it’s a good time to demonstrate its value. The PR team must continue to perform at a high level and generate measurable outcomes for the fourth quarter. That may mean flawless execution and robust reporting, but it can also mean it’s time to get creative with fresh thinking and add-ons for Q4 initiatives.

Get an early client check-in

A PR action plan needs direction, and if there’s been a summer lull, it ends now. Early September is an excellent time for a review to date, as part of a check-in meeting with the client (whether internal or external.) The idea is to compare notes on progress-to-date, Q4 goals, and priorities. It’s time to set the fourth quarter up for success with a strategic plan, because before we know it, the holidays will be here.

Nail down your holiday plans

The Thanksgiving to New Year’s period is make-or-break time for many brands. For some sectors, like consumer technology, Christmas actually starts in July, when media holiday gift guides are planned and retailers are finalizing plans for the giving season. September is the occasion to assess the company’s year-end needs and firm up all-important holiday plans that help make the year a business success. PR pros will be nailing down earned media priorities, creating seasonal story lines, and even end-of-year lists, recaps, and other content that can punctuate a successful PR season. For seasonal advice, check out these holiday pitching tips.

Dust off dormant contacts

When performing that year-to-date review, PR teams can also identify new opportunities in discarded ideas or even dormant media contacts. A visibility activity that failed to gain traction might be worth retooling for another push in fall. A slight tweak or a revamping could make a big difference. Maybe there are journalists or analysts with whom you have worked in the past, but have recently fallen off your radar. These solid contacts are well worth reviving, more likely than others to welcome a good story opportunity from a trusted source. We shouldn’t close the door on ideas and contacts that have potential to yield PR wins in the future.

Use it or lose it.

Are there extra monies on the spreadsheet for Q4? In most companies, managers don’t get credit for returning portions of the marketing or PR budget. Rather, they’re rewarded for blockbuster programs that help make the year. So it’s best to get creative and call on staff and partners to innovate with new initiatives that fill in the blanks among pre-planned tactics for the fourth quarter.

Get thought leaders mulling next year

The end of the year means recaps and 2019 forecasts that reinforce industry expertise or simply take advantage of holiday news holes. Now’s the time to enlist your best thought leaders to ponder the future and offer insights on the trends that will carry business into the next year. See this earlier post on eight tools for thought leadership.

Nike’s Kaepernick Campaign Is Brilliant — And Risky

As many in PR and politics have observed, the president has a talent for exploiting cultural flashpoints. The NFL’s battered reputation has been attributed in part to his criticism of players who chose to take a knee during the national anthem at the start of many games.

But Mr. Trump may have met his PR match. Nike, with its own unerring instinct for the big play, has unveiled a 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign around former NFL-er and activist Colin Kaepernick. The first ads broke on Labor Day, and they are striking. They’re also risky  – mostly for Kaepernick.

As expected, the campaign’s unveiling was met with backlash from some Nike wearers who are outraged by the deal. Twitter was filled with images of cut-up socks and even flaming sneakers. More importantly, the company’s stock dropped more than 10 points in early trading Monday.

But if recent history is a guide, Nike’s brand reputation will withstand boycotts. It has had plenty of time to prepare for repercussions, and it knows its core audience. As part of the campaign, the brand will donate to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” camp, sealing its commitment to his social justice mission. As NPD’s Matt Powell tweeted, “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike.” Ouch.

Yet there are more subtle hazards here. Nike is vulnerable to charges that it’s cynically exploiting a cultural divide. After all, this is a $32 billion brand that spent 20 years cleaning up its reputation for sweatshop labor and unfair business practices. Its hands aren’t exactly clean.

The real risk may be for Kaepernick’s image. Though his fans will surely cheer his gainful employment after he was essentially boycotted by the League, Nike is an imperfect brand partner precisely because it’s so powerful. It remains fully in bed with the NFL, and its labor practices continue to dog the company. A new wave of protests against it started up again last year.

And one fascinating aspect of the story is that Nike has been paying Kaepernick all along, waiting for the most opportune moment to break the news about the campaign. That fact adds more surprise – and media value – to the narrative. It also means Kaepernick’s supporters were ignorant of the deal, which may leave them feeling duped.

Overall, however, the emotion, timing and news value of the campaign make it a winner. Most marketers can only dream about a paid campaign that generates as much earned media as the Kaepernick ads. Trust Nike to spot an opportunity and run with it. As Kaepernick attorney Mark Geragos told the New York Times, “I give Nike credit for understanding that he’s not just an athlete, he has become an icon.”