10 New Year’s Resolutions For Better PR Campaigns

The beginning of a new year brings a turning-the-page feeling of renewal. While we had a wonderful 2018, now feels like the right time to refresh and refocus our efforts for an even better 2019. In PR, we’re getting ready to clear an ever-rising bar. Sometimes you just need to remember the fundamentals. Other times, it’s good to take things into fresh directions.

10 resolutions for better PR in 2019

Keep it real

When the PR team is deep in brainstorming mode, it’s easy to lose one’s grounding. When conceiving a new PR program, resolve to make sure it’s built on substance. Formulate the program in a way that is not only creative and original, but that can actually move the needle for the most relevant audiences. Build a program that does something real, and the publicity around it will be generated more easily.

Get experiential

A study by event success software provider Bizzabo indicates that 62% of senior marketers plan on investing more in live events in 2019. We also know that Millennials (and all consumers) prioritize experiences over things. But, as noted, an exciting and enlightening business event that’s highly customized to your target audience may work better than a stunt that’s forgotten within a day.

Phone a friend

In 2019, we resolve to leverage our friends in mutually beneficial ways in our PR programs. Flexible, evenly weighted partnerships expand the bounds of so many elements of PR campaigns, and these collaborations tend to have exponential returns on investment. Partner up with a distribution company, key customer or a not-for-profit partner. Be bold in coming up with creative extensions to make the joint effort as big and successful as you can. Make the ideas irresistible and reap the rewards, jointly.

Reuse, recycle, re-tool

When brainstorming that shiny new program, don’t be afraid to look into the nostalgia file for winning tactics from the past. There’s no shame in adapting a proven idea for another purpose.

Do some real good

We resolve to incorporate activities that are designed to better society in 2019. A little thoughtful, sincere socially responsible PR can round out a successful program. But make sure the idea doesn’t come out of left field; it can and should come from a place of authenticity and be relevant to the mission and ethos of the company.

Dig into your data bank

Agencies that do a lot of tech PR have executed plenty of research, so they generally have a lot of data lying around ready to be collated or reinterpreted. When gearing up to craft a new PR program, why not scour your market research data for newsworthy nuggets for the tech press always hungry for data-driven stories?

Bring in fresh perspectives

We resolve to inject fresh voices into our campaigns. It pays to have quarterly brainstorm sessions that involve people unfamiliar with the project. Agencies should call in team members from other clients or other departments to brainstorm ideas. A fresh pair of eyes can offer a unique viewpoint that enlivens a brainstorm session and freshens up a plan.

Amp up the newsjacking

Reactive news opportunities come and go in blinks of an eye, so eyes must remain peeled to catch them. Most PR teams have their heads on swivels for the ever-important newsjacking chances, but may not have any formal processes set up. Perhaps 2019 is the time to set up a rapid-response protocol to avoid losing out on any chances to join a relevant conversation. See this earlier post for tips on reactive media pitching.

Start an executive blog

If your insightful, eloquent founder isn’t blogging on a regular basis, there may be a great PR new year’s resolution worth taking. Executive thought leadership exposure through original content requires some time and thought, but it can return dividends in the form of visibility, credibility, and brand voice. But be sure to blog regularly and consistently, adding real value for audiences. See this earlier post for tips on making a great PR-friendly blog.

Use targeted video

It’s no secret that video is king when it comes to targeted content. We resolve to use the well-documented power of video to drive engagement and provoke emotions. Video enhances SEO, keeps consumers engaged longer, and is more shareable than many other content forms. See this earlier post for 7 best PR uses for video content.

The Perils Of Patriotic PR And Marketing

Scanning the annual Brand Keys list of 50 Most Patriotic Brands in America, you might get the idea that America is synonymous with fast food, fast cars, whiskey, and blue jeans. Who can argue with that? Yet it’s one thing for a brand to have earned an association with all things USA, but another for it to be pandering to patriotism in hopes of riding a red, white, and blue wave. To complicate matters, the polarized political environment has made it more challenging for brand marketers to hit the right notes when it comes to national pride.
Here are some brand marketing/PR campaigns that prominently feature American iconography… for better or worse.

PBR Stays Woke

Pabst Blue Ribbon has a progressive interpretation of independence in its “American Dreaming” campaign, which is co-produced with Vice News. A pair of six-minute documentaries features the first-person narratives of a group of Americans that includes the daughter of an undocumented immigrant, a drag queen, Latinx, and others – all meant to express that “the most diverse generation in American history is redefining the American Dream.” Patriotic PR campaigns The videos emphasize the themes of freedom and opportunity while using patriotic imagery like uniformed service members, western landscapes, and a nightclub rendering of the Star Spangled Banner. Unlike Budweiser’s recent “America” beer campaign, PBR’s resonates. And there’s a PR twist; the brand invites people to call in to share their own American Dream experience. The videos are well produced and offer a powerful take on a very inclusive patriotism that clearly targets Millennials.

Hardee’s tastes like America?

Hardee’s has a different take. In April, it launched its Tastes Like America campaign as part of a rebranding effort. A one-minute video evokes summer in the heartland, with pleasing images of trucks and farms under a (terrible) soundtrack that mashes R&B with country vocals. The ad doesn’t address issues like freedom and opportunity like the PBR campaign, but it’s a soft sell that links the brand with classic American pastimes like fun with friends and gleeful consumption of fast food, of course. The brand is clearly using patriotism to sell burgers, but unlike the PBR campaign, it doesn’t feature much diversity and there’s no real message beyond enjoyment. The jury is out on this one, but it’s fun.

You can’t spell sausage without USA!

Another comfort food company, Johnsonville, has established itself as a light-hearted, accessible brand with humorous “member commercials” campaign – a conceit in which TV spots are conceived by customers. This summer, Johnsonville has partnered with the American Cornhole League (ACL) – yes, you read that right – as part of its “You can’t spell sausage without USA” campaign. The aggressive PR program involves the ACL sponsorship, a 12-minute documentary “A Bratwurst Story”, a limited time Firecracker Brat offering, a “Made in the USA” TV spot, and t-shirts for sale on the website. It’s a quirky campaign light on sentimentality and large on humor, and it works.

patriotic PR campaign

Harley Davidson’s #FreedomMachine
patriotic PR campaign
Burgers, beer, and sausages are foods we may consume proudly, but linking them to “freedoms” can be a stretch. One brand that more naturally represents American independence is Harley Davidson. Harley’s alignment with American ideals stems from the idea that its bikes are the very vehicles of freedom, or at least mobility.
Harley is currently running a campaign called #FreedomMachine along with a cool music video touting the brand. Additionally, it’s offering special discounted riding lessons for military and first responders — a nice touch. To Harley’s credit, the video and the website make spare use of the flag, and the only overtly patriotic image is a bald eagle. The brand’s American flavor feels more authentic than the others, since its messages of freedom rise above lip service.

Unfortunately for Harley, its current marketing campaign is being overtaken by a very public dispute with President Trump. After a tweet calling the president a “moron” was falsely attributed to CEO Matthew Levatich, Levatich responded on Twitter in dignified fashion, debunking the fake post. Apart from that, the Harley PR team has been quiet as Trump lashes out. He has repeatedly blasted its decision to move some production overseas in response to retaliatory tariffs by the EU. Presumably Harley has too many real business problems to escalate the war of words — or tweets — and has wisely opted to take the high road.

Brands like PBR and Harley Davidson can market national pride because they are iconic and have been linked to American culture for years. For Hardee’s and Johnsonville, the link is less intuitive. A campaign that oversteps, like the Dodge Ram Super Bowl TV spot that used Reverend Martin Luther King’s words as a voiceover, will experience a media and public backlash. When wrapping your brand in the flag, it’s best to make sure the link is a strong one, and that it whispers rather than shouts.

Latest And Greatest PR Tech Tools

How can top B2B and consumer tech PR professionals boost productivity and squeeze more out of the average workday? With new tech tools, of course!  The best tools eliminate some tedious tasks, make others more efficient and improve overall PR output and results. Today we take a look specifically at tools to improve research, events and content creation and distribution.

Mention. Billing itself as “Google alerts on steroids,” this service takes monitoring to the next level. It provides real-time scrolling updates – in one feed – including all traditional and social media mentions. There’s a free trial and monthly service beginning at $29.00.

Hound. Move over, Siri. The progress of voice recognition technology can be frustrating, but Hound promises and delivers, according to reviews from beta users. This masterful app gives you fast and deep results, but there’s a catch. It’s for Android phones in the US (with iOS coming soon) and is only available by invitation through the website.

Eventsage. With more PR pros creating and booking launch events, panel discussions and other press get-togethers, Eventsage is the soup-to-nuts site for selecting and booking venues and suppliers. Simply enter your event details and receive recommendations. A few more steps and you have proposals and estimates to make informed choices. The site also features an “inspiration” section in case you’re stymied on creativity!

Prezly. Allows PR teams to set up dedicated, online press rooms for their company. These customized press rooms house rich content press releases (that look great on all devices) as well as media list development and management including Google Analytics integration to track the number of visitors and the online sources they came from.

Tubechop. With this service, you have to ask, what took so long? If you’ve ever found a YouTube video and needed only a few seconds from a long video to illustrate a case history or jazz up a presentation, use Tubechop! Add the link to the YouTube video and use a sliding bar to “chop” the piece you would like to use.

Pixlr. Photoshop may be the standard for software photo editing, but if you’re looking for a free alternative, Pixlr is very useful. It features a lot of advanced tools and options and there’s a mobile app, of course.

Coverage Book. The best way for a PR team to show off its earned media outcomes? A beautiful coverage report! Between working on PR campaigns and conducting interviews, it’s hard to find the time to produce a quality report that will wow the C-suite. Simply upload the clips, and Coverage Book does the rest, including providing customized images and metrics.

What’s In A (PR) Name? Think Wisely What To Call A Campaign

Given what it’s been through, it’s easy to understand why Malaysia Airlines would be looking for a little positive PR. Recently that took the form of what was no doubt meant as a “feel-good” campaign built around reward travel. Also understandable is the urge to jump on a word that’s trending.

So, maybe the PR team thought the “My Ultimate Bucket List Campaign” an essay contest where entrants can win a trip to a destination on their bucket list, was right up there with the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” A natural.

Not so fast. A “bucket list,” of course, is what we plan to do before dying, and given the airline’s calamitous year, the new campaign was quickly and resoundingly criticized. The airline has since apologized. (It’s also rebranding, which is probably a good idea.) There are some lessons here around witty and clever names for any PR campaign.

Timing is everything. Marketers can work for weeks or months on a campaign, but news events can give terms new meaning. That’s why a promotion that could have been clever – a show called “Sleepy Hollow” promoting its DVD with a series of “headless” memes – had to be scrapped when it launched the day of the brutal execution of an American journalist. Sometimes there’s a reluctance to quash a campaign over a sudden event that no one could have foreseen, but, in reputation terms, it’s better to cancel early than to apologize later.

Can it trend without being too trendy? As quickly as we see a hot topic rise in Google searches or on Twitter, it will fall. Don’t pin a campaign on a word that will be over before it has a chance to trend.

Make it meaningful. This should go without saying. The campaign’s name should say exactly what it aims to do without making the intended audience work too hard to “get it.” It’s not a good idea to fall in love with a meaningless moniker just because it will read great in a press release or headline.

Make it visual. How many memes, posts, videos and Instagram pix have you clicked on today? When christening a campaign, it’s best to think about how the title can be depicted visually. Sometimes, a visual is all that’s needed. Look at the recent Volkswagen ad touting its “park assist” feature, beautifully illustrated by a prickly hedgehog between plastic bags of goldfish.

Are you offending anyone? Surprisingly, it happens often.  A “Woman-proof” car campaign from the UK did its share of shackle-raising without many people even viewing it. However, for those who subscribe to the “any PR is good PR” school (Spirit Air, are you listening?)  please ignore the above, and we wish you all the best!

5 Reasons To Hire A PR Firm Today

Thirty thousand new products are launched each year and 95% fail – for reasons as varied as bad timing, a cluttered market or just a poorly conceived idea. But one thing many successful new products have in common is a focused, well executed marketing plan that includes public relations. A good PR plan is never a panacea, but a sound, strategic campaign for a new product or service can help build brand awareness and positive word-of-mouth as well as help fuel trial. Here are five reasons companies need to consider hiring a PR firm today.

PR can tell the most in-depth story.  A typical article on a news website is about 800 words. A radio or TV interview might be three minutes. Each illustrates the rich and varied opportunities a PR placement provides to get into the fine points of a new entry and help explain how your product is different from the competition.

PR can turn on a dime. Got breaking news about your product or service? Nothing can move more quickly than PR person with a pitch and a press release! Unlike advertising with its multiple iterations, often lengthy approval and purchasing processes- once the client and the agency have approved the message and direction, the good, well-worded query to a reporter can produce results in the time it takes you to read this post!

PR begets more PR. Once an effective PR angle catches fire with one media outlet, others will want to cover. Yes, this is an open secret among professionals. So it follows that the savvy PR person takes the first coverage and tweaks the accompanying pitch to broaden the interest. For example, broadcast outlets may not be interested until a story hits print and a good vertical hit can often presage more general market media.

PR can extend a modest marketing budget creatively and with flair.  A good PR campaign can attract attention through so many cost-effective vehicles! The best campaigns have some combination of  kick-off “event” (though it may not be a physical press briefing) or clever deliveries to media as well as ongoing outreach that “slices and dices” business, trade, and consumer angles to extend coverage. Of course, the bloggers warrant their own PR efforts and a campaign targeting lifestyle, tech or other bloggers can be implemented very reasonably.

PR is the gift that keeps on giving. Every new line extension, company expansion or customer acquisition can be a reason to communicate to the right press. But the catch here is that earned media coverage can have a long gestation period. So, it pays to start early, and the benefit is that coverage often continues after the program concludes. A forward-thinking PR team is always looking for the next story and knows how to continuously “reboot” and give media a new angle to cover a company story.

Are we biased? Of course! But look around, there’s plenty of evidence that, with the right strategy and the proper team, PR is a wise marketing investment.

Declare Your Independence From These PR Misconceptions

It’s our nation’s birthday, and July 4th is a good time to take a step back from the 24/7 PR madness and re-examine some widely held notions that may hamper an agency or a client’s efforts to conduct business and leverage the true value of public relations.

Break free of some of these accepted “truths” and see if doing so helps focus on true priorities!

PR = advertising. One would think that informed clients would completely reject this false equivalency, but you’d be amazed how many do think PR can accomplish the same things that advertising may, such as reliably driving sales. Without being too pedantic, use select client interactions to demonstrate what PR does and doesn’t do.

PR is “cheap.” Yes, PR campaigns can be more cost-effective than advertising, but it’s a matter of apples and oranges. And the “work” is not cheap. Successful implementation often requires a team of specialists, as well as a healthy and realistic out-of-pocket budget. Often successful case histories are the best tool to illustrate value and what it takes to secure meaningful results.

PR is easy. No, it isn’t. But many clients feel that their story is so compelling and media are so easily won over that agencies should actually “guarantee” their placements. We have even had a potential client ask if we’d agree to a refund if our team didn’t produce the earned media they expected. While it’s always a positive to show confidence in outcomes, the point is the PR often sacrifices message control, in exchange for credibility.

PR has been replaced by content marketing. Content marketing is a terrific means for disseminating thought leadership and extending the reach of any PR campaign, but it is not a replacement for PR. The creation of great content that can be re-purposed for speaking opps, white papers, blogs etc. is a necessary addition to any successful plan.

Don’t hire a serial “job-hopper.” Today the adage of “stay in each job at least a year” is no longer realistic or even a good idea if said job is holding you back! Each candidate needs to be assessed individually and seeing more jobs than years on a resume should no longer mean automatic rejection. What is of more value on a resume is whether the candidate advanced with each move and what they can tell you about the factors that precipitated them.

Just give the social media to an intern. Unbelievably, some practitioners and clients still haven’t “gotten the memo” that social media is a major marketing force for B2B and B2C brands and must be managed as strategically and professionally as any other aspect of a PR campaign. While it may make sense for interns to be part of a social media team, the strategy and content should be handled by account pros.

A Beautiful Noise: Five Tips for Better Brand PR Messaging

by guest blogger George Drucker

When it comes to brand public relations campaigns, consistent and compelling messaging can mean the difference between a successful PR campaign and an “also-ran.”

You have to make noise to be heard above the clutter. But that noise, in essence, your messaging, must be carefully, thoughtfully and creatively crafted so the end result is distinctive and unique to the brand.
So, how does a brand public relations team accomplish this? Here are five tips to consider:

Audit the brand for its best, most saleable points. Look at those aspects of its history or identity that help tell the brand’s story, and then get it into the most powerful words. Create “proof points” that demonstrate why your brand messages are true and authentic.

Be inclusive. I’ve had success hosting an ideation session to vet the best and most effective (i.e., memorable) brand messages. Consider every possible point of difference for every audience that’s relevant to the brand. Pay special attention to those areas where you can “plant the flag,” or offer an ownable selling proposition.

Filter. You then need to winnow down the great from the good from the bad, while still meeting the needs of every potential target. Ultimately cull down to the three or four points that best paint a clear, compelling and consistent picture of the brand.

Screen for the “4 C’s” to ensure that messages are effective. Vet each message point for the following: Is each clear and concise? Is the wording and imagery distinctive? Do the messages collectively convey a picture of and for the brand? Are the messages compelling? Can the points be used consistently across all platforms and with all audiences?

(Don’t) get comfortable. Throw out old brand associations and start fresh. Look at other communications across a wide spectrum – old media, digital media, memes, and blogs etc. and use great imagery and clever verbiage to help get the juices flowing.

Take the time to do it right and get the most out of your brand PR messaging.