Of all marketing disciplines, PR people are—in a sense—the luckiest. Our challenges, opportunities and successes need not always be tied to budgets, but rather to the quality of our insights and ideas.
As communications specialists we will always be in a position to add value—whether it’s for awareness, advocacy or anything in between. The question then becomes: How can our skills add the best value?
For Brands with Little/No Media Budgets
With no paid media support, those working on PR-lead campaigns or brands need ideas that are worth sharing. As Seth Godin summarized so succinctly:
“Every fast-growing social movement, non-profit and brand of the last decade has grown because people have chosen to talk."
"Not shelving allowances, coupons, A/B testing, Super Bowl ads, dancing tube men or Formula One sponsorships. Each can be a productive tool, but at the heart of real growth is a simple idea: People decide to tell other people.”
With no guaranteed media placements, these are the situations which really need consumers to do the talking. Somewhat ironically, these high pressure situations are those which are most likely to benefit from taking a risk.
As the Dianne Arbus quote goes, “I recognize that which I’ve never seen before.” This is the time for world firsts and bold, memorable statements. You’re likely to be going for awareness so you need to be noticeable.
At Klick Communications, we were tasked to fill the rooms of a new boutique hotel in Sydney, 1888 Hotel, using only earned media tactics. Some desktop research showed that 1888 was the year Kodak patented its first box camera, a sign we couldn’t look past. Travel and photography have long been inextricably linked, and in today’s age of social media, this means Instagram.
So here we have it: the World’s First Instagram Hotel, complete with a selfie frame in the lobby, a hashtag digital mural and neighbourhood Insta-Walk maps to transform your evening stroll into an Instagram success.
This creative launch strategy attracted editorial coverage in five continents, from the LA Times to ELLE India and The Telegraph in the UK. More importantly, the hotel was at 98% occupancy within three weeks of campaign launch, and soon thereafter the number one Sydney hotel on Tripadvisor.
We were able to meet their business objectives because the limitations we had around budget were complemented by free reign over creativity. It was a big idea, not a big media budget. This can be a tough approach to get over the line with some clients, but as PR professionals, it’s our role to communicate the opportunity that creativity affords.
Big Media Budgets
In some ways, this is the toughest category of all. These brand keepers are not easily impressed with a campaign that might get them lots of coverage—they can guarantee that awareness (and the key messages) with advertising. Many of these brands have internal reporting systems that rely on traditional measures (e.g. reach or impressions), so they discount PR as a consequence of our numbers being smaller than those from paid media.
Here, PR people have to prove value beyond visibility. It’s a qualitative measure that must be measured in shifted opinions, elevated perceptions or positive brand engagements.
American Express does this brilliantly. The American Express OPEN Forum found a very specific audience (small businesses) with a very clear and troublesome issue (60% fail within four years). By creating a content-driven platform that is committed to helping this audience find success, they are not only engaging consumers in a way that advertising never can, but also helping to solve their problems.
As this example demonstrates, brands that aren’t fighting for awareness are often more free to narrow their audience and make a big difference within a niche group. If you’re in this position, use your advantage to create meaningful work that really challenges and changes.
If you’re fortunate enough to work with or for one of these brands, use it to your advantage. Suggest integrated campaigns that will increase the impact of your PR idea. You’ve found your audience—now you can give them the experience that will transform them from customer to advocate. And most importantly, don’t pitch your idea based solely on potential reach or impressions.
For Those Somewhere in the Middle
Most often, a well planned campaign will have room for a bit of everything—though perhaps not too much of one single thing. This is when the agencies and disciplines need to work together to divide and conquer.
Klick was one of the agencies working on Durex’s inaugural “30 Nights of Nookie” campaign in Australia. This was a (free) one month program designed by the experts to bring couples closer. As the first execution of its kind, we needed awareness and engagement for the program to succeed, so a cleverly integrated media approach was undertaken.
Partnering with Women’s Health Magazine and Men’s Health Magazine, Durex was able to guarantee awareness amongst their target audience, as well as benefit from their expertise and credibility. This media partnership also helped cover our bases, while the PR and social media built on the engagement and conversion within the program.
Most significantly, this is an example of how paid media partnerships can be leveraged for more than ad space. Unless you have an unlimited pot of cash, or perhaps even if you do, your media budget should be planned to elevate your campaign—whether it’s content, new ideas or different executions. This is a win/win situation for media buyer and media seller, as many publishers are also interested in an integrated or native approach for the benefit of their audience.
If you’re working with an “in the middle brand,” invest significant energy and consideration into the initial channel plan. Collaborate with the other agencies and discipline heads to clearly identify the most valuable strength of each activity for the project. Make sure you are supporting and amplifying your marketing partners—not doubling up on tasks.
Making it Happen
When you receive your next brief, make sure you ask the right questions so you know which problem you are really trying to solve. Ensure you have a thorough understanding of other media elements, and develop your plan according to the challenge most suited for your discipline.