When it comes to capturing the attention of journalists, influentials, and prospects, some PR campaigns have more impact than others. What makes the difference? There are countless factors, from the development of the initial strategy, through the details of planning and execution. Every campaign is distinct, of course, and there are no cookie-cutter solutions. But when I think about the difference between a blockbuster PR program and one that’s merely good, there are some commonalities.
Here are some of the criteria that fit a top-notch PR campaign, and that to some degree, most killer PR programs have in common.
It’s audience-focused. Some brands are lucky enough to have a core following of very passionate customers. Although it’s run into some reputation snags recently, apparel brand Lululemon has built its business in part by wooing core yoga and fitness advocates. It runs a local-market influencer campaign that recruits in-city athletes, trainers, and fitness entrepreneurs to spread the yoga gospel and indirectly promote its brand.
For an art materials retailer client, we employ a similar strategy, leveraging relationships with local artists, art teachers, and even artsy families with kids at store events to reinforce the company’s ties with local communities, including media and bloggers.
It’s well timed. When it comes to the publicity piece of a campaign, timing can make all the difference. A solid but unexciting educational campaign we ran about a credit union’s advantages over banks was transformed when launched just before Valentine’s Day as a call to “break up with your bank.” For three years, we managed a “Director of Sleep” job search for a mattress brand that wanted to be linked to healthy slumber. The first time was back in 2011, when jobs were very scarce. A key factor in the campaign’s “dream” results was its launch in May, just as new college grads were flooding the worst job market in years. We’re convinced that different timing would have yielded poorer results.
It’s simple. We PR professionals can sometimes overcomplicate our tactics. Something as basic and fun as sending Muppets cupcakes to prominent tweeters to promote the new Muppets movie is about as simple as social outreach gets, but it carried the movie campaign beautifully. Why? Because it was visual, appealing, and consistent with the whimsical Muppets brand. Who could resist tweeting about such a gift?
It puts an old idea in a new package. It’s hard to dream up a completely new idea, but often, you don’t need to. Consider what animal rescue group Social Tees and dating app Tinder did last when they teamed to promote puppy adoption. Instead of another familiar appeal to the public to adopt a pet, with the depressing statistics about animals in shelters, the available dogs were profiled on Tinder to “match” them with suitable owners. The campaign generated a litter of pun-filled stories and more than 2,500 matches in its first week.
It humanizes a brand or company. Kleenex has tissues delivered to people posting on social media about the miseries of having a cold. Simple, audience-focused, and very sympathetic. One of the best ways to make a company more human is to pull back the curtain on its workforce. IBM, for example, posts #throwbackthursday photos of its early leaders, a subtle but terrific way to remind us of its heritage. GE uses “Instawalks” to invite influencers into their facilities to share their experiences on Instagram, offering a look under the hood of one of America’s most iconic companies.
It’s entertaining. No surprise that some of the most enduring PR and content campaigns got there because they make people laugh. Mark Malkoff lives in an Ikea store for a week to show how inviting it is. GE scores again here with its #springbreakit video series that takes the “Will It Blend” meme to another level. Entertaining content is compulsively shareable, and that’s one of the best-known “secrets” of great PR.