How PR Insights Drive Great Marketing—and How You Can Get in on the Action


Most agencies create ideas based on audience insights and what motivates the target audience to take a desired action. In fact, knowledge about buyers and influencers is critical to every aspect of marketing. But how can we find meaningful insight, especially when traditional focus groups may not be an option?

Fortunately, insight can take any form and come from anywhere. In fact, some of our richest insights come from the PR team. PR has a deep understanding of brands and their audiences because it is so close to trends and news in the media. It also regularly engages with the brand’s community via social media. As PR’s role expands with the technology available to it, PR professionals are even more equipped to use the understanding gathered every day to drive ideation. Several examples illustrate this point.

A global provider of ingredients to the food and beverage industry tasked us to help it relaunch its stevia sweetener to manufacturers. As teams met to come up with ideas, they realized there were few insights from the global company that truly differentiated this stevia from others in the market.

During an integrated session, the PR team mentioned discussion points synthesizing trending topics related to stevia. Among the points it made were functionality and cost as hurdles for innovative food and beverage ingredients. Cost concerns were not just a matter of the price of the ingredient, but also how well that ingredient would work with other sweeteners.

The PR team said the client’s stevia works well with other sweeteners, so that no other ingredients would need to be added to cover the bitter aftertaste that some sweeteners leave behind. As one PR team member simply said, “You don’t need another ingredient to mask the aftertaste.”

Creative immediately picked up on this statement, and it resulted in being the insight that drove the creative campaign concept. In fact, creative used masks in the ads.

Other examples of ideas from PR professionals that helped lead marketing campaigns: A highly targeted awareness-building campaign was created for Hobart to resonate and engage with professional bakers and chefs, the company’s key decision-making audiences. The PR group’s research and social media engagement allowed it to observe the culinary community’s excitement surrounding fresh ingredients. It saw a need for a single source dedicated to the passion behind the preparation of food made from scratch. This desire for community became the ignition point for an award-winning campaign strategy.

Social media also played a large role in Scotsman’s advertising campaign, Luv the Nug, which celebrated the legions of fans of chewing ice—specifically, the nugget ice found at Sonic, Pilot and other outlets. Scotsman Ice Systems leveraged this consumer passion on social to ignite sales.

These two instances demonstrate that PR practitioners are not only the messengers, but also the gatherers and planners. PR pros’ versatility and position as liaison to account teams, clients, press and communities put them in the best position to bring an integrated group together.

For PR practitioners who want to play a larger role in marketing campaigns, the takeaways are clear:

  1. PR needs to be sure it is included in the development of the creative brief and in integrated planning sessions.
  2. PR pros should specify a consistent way of reporting what is happening in the social media space. Sharing real-time insight demonstrates PR’s added value.
  3. PR needs to ensure it is reinforcing the findings and insights it’s brought to the table. Demonstrating value is about reporting not only on media impressions but the quality of the message the PR team developed, based on insights it found. The team should give itself credit for the outcome of the stories and share the results.

Consequently, when brand managers are seeking insight to inform the next campaigns, they shouldn’t overlook the PR team.

CONTACT: Adryanna Sutherland is president of gyro Cincinnati. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the August 21, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.