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Public relations spans a broad array of tactics and strategies. As such, what any two PR campaigns look like in actual practice can be vastly different depending on its goals. From old-school media placements to large-scale event planning to modern digital communication, it often requires an interesting mix of skills and competencies to do well.
And that’s probably why you’re here. You know the benefits of doing PR: earning trust, establishing valuable relationships, and building branding awareness, all while collaborating with content and social media marketing, but with lower costs than traditional advertising.
Sounds awesome, right?
Well, sure it does. But which tactics should you execute? Where do companies start developing plans? And what does effective PR even look like in real life when it encompasses so many things?
That’s what you’ll find in this post: 29 examples demonstrating what this time-tested marketing discipline look like in the real world. You’ll find basic stuff like different areas of the business you can explore, plus tons of actual campaigns to help inspire your own strategy.
This post is full of examples you can borrow ideas from.
But, what happens when it comes time to execute your strategy?
Grab these free templates to support better execution:
This is a bigger question than it might sound like. To summarize what this field is all about, here’s a basic working definition:
Public relations describes the actions a business or organization takes to shape perceptions of its brand and develop relationships with its customer base, target audience, partners, and other important stakeholders.
You’d be spot on if you read the PR definition above and thought…
“Wait a sec… the definition of PR sounds a lot like what social media, marketing, and influencer marketing do!”
Let’s spend a moment to explore how PR, social media, marketing, and influencer marketing are different and how they should collaborate..
The public relations department is responsible for communicating news and story angles to produce earned media.
Here’s an example:
Say you’re starting a new, upscale retail business, PR will send influencers or bloggers an invite to the store opening in the hopes that they write about it, post pics on their Instagram, etc.
The key here is that there is no obligation for the event invitees to write about the store opening. You are earning exposure with organic posts.
Influencer marketing is responsible for engaging with and promoting a brand’s products to influencers.
This usually entails a strategic and paid transaction where the influencer gets something in exchange for their media contributions.
Let’s use our retail business example from above. The person responsible for influencer marketing will reach out to a few strategic influencers and offer them the opportunity to promote your opening. The influencers agree to post 3 Instagram image and write one, 1,000-word review of the store on their blog. With influencer marketing, you can usually dictate the direction you would like them to focus on, provide branded hashtags, etc. They must also disclose that they were paid to post on your behalf. This is paid exposure.
Influencer marketing falls under the wider umbrella of marketing. This department can be directly responsible for influencer marketing tactics if a dedicated influencer marketing role doesn’t exist.
With regards to the store opening example. The marketing department will be responsible for all aspects of planning, producing, and promoting the store opening. This could include paid ads, content marketing efforts, TV or traditional media advertising, etc. Much of what the marketing department does is owned exposure (blogging, content marketing, social media, organic search). Although some are paid (paid ads, influencer marketing, etc.).
Social media, similar to influencer marketing, can be its own department with its own goals, which rolls up under the marketing department.
OR It can also be considered a tactic or channel that the marketing team is responsible for if a specialist role doesn’t exist.
This can be a challenge in all honesty. The PR team can feel like the marketing team is stepping on their toes if clear boundaries and responsibilities aren’t staked out before the project kicks off.
One of the best ways to clarify roles and collaborate better is to have a platform that outlines tasks and who will be doing what. PR needs to know which influencers the marketing team is reaching out to for paid promos and vice versa. Not doing this can make your brand look disorganized and like your left hand isn’t talking to your right hand.
CoSchedule is the ultimate collaboration tool to make sure the PR and marketing departments are working together in the best way.
How does CoSchedule accomplish this? Through transparency and visibility.
The PR team knows what marketing is working on and vice versa. All with one platform… no more meetings that don’t really result in anything or wasted time emailing back and forth.
Here’s how it works…
First, create a marketing project on your calendar, like “Influencer Outreach”. Then add a color label so it’s easy to tell who is responsible for it.
Next, you can make comments to other departments (like the PR team) so they’re in the know about what the marketing team is doing.
Finally, add tasks to the project with due dates so everything gets completed on time.
Here’s what a fully populated company calendar can look like. You’ll see all department campaigns, projects, and associated tasks. So PR, social media and all aspects of marketing can collaborate better, get more work completed and lessen the chance of duplicate efforts, miscommunication, and dropped balls.
If you’ve got a job in this field, or if you’re responsible for executing any part of it, that could mean a lot of different things. Some of this might seem basic, but it’s worth reviewing because it’s possible there may be work you’re doing (or could do) that you didn’t even know fell under the PR umbrella.
Old-school landing placements in reputable news outlets and publications. This is all about building relationships with reporters and editors and securing favorable coverage. Most often, this involves cold pitching, distributing press releases, and connecting on social media.
You want to keep corporate investors happy. That’s what investor relations is all about.
Companies and organizations that interface with government agencies have a need to manage those relationships well.
And conversely, governing bodies need to manage relationships and perceptions with their constituencies and stakeholders, too.
Companies, organizations, and nonprofits often have a need to manage the connection they have with their surrounding communities. This can also extend to online communities and community management.
Beyond just customer support, how do companies shape perceptions and build relationships with their customer base? Strong customer relations can go a long way toward building brand loyalty without relying on advertising or content alone.
This one is a hot topic these days, but it isn’t often openly discussed as a PR tactic. That’s a good reminder that PR is dictated by its goals, and not just the tactics and channels used.
Bad things happen. When they do, it’s someone’s job to manage the fallout, ensure that the right information gets out fast to people who need it, and stop problems from spiraling even further out of control. That’s where crisis communications come in.
In the modern era, people expect companies to act responsibly and to be good stewards of natural resources. CSR helps businesses show what they’re doing to make a positive impact (and in turn, build goodwill with potential customers).
Companies sometimes put PR into a limited box of tactics without stepping outside those lines. But, doing so might be limiting your opportunities and ability to connect with audiences. Here are some obvious (and not so obvious) tactics to try.
This is the tried-and-true, bread-and-butter media relations tool.
Relatively speaking, press releases are a cost-effective outreach tool. That’s worth keeping in mind, considering “65 percent of communications leaders said the tightening of budgets” is a top-three challenge.
Plus, 92% of consumers trust earned media. Placements in news publications, blogs, websites, and magazines are viewed as trustworthy, and building trust is a key goal here.
Here’s a press release example from Patagonia which aims to increase awareness of the brand’s new documentary about the high cost—ecological, financial and cultural— of fish hatcheries and farms.
From small fundraisers to major conferences, events are an effective way of growing your community, getting your brand out there, and developing partnerships. Those are all essential goals of public relations.
The Inbound Marketing Conference by Hubspot is probably one of the larger conference put on by a brand to grow its community and foster partnerships.
One way to grow your audience is to leverage someone else’s.
Here’s an awesome PR partnership example. Online mattress brand, Leesa, partnered with West Elm to give people the chance to try their mattress in real-life before ordering. This also meant that people had to go to West Elm to try them, which increases foot traffic for the furniture brand.
If building support for a cause or issue is part of your organization’s goals, a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (or newspapers in areas you serve) can be highly effective. These can be written on behalf of your organization, or by members advocating for your position.
Here’s an op-ed example penned by Google’s CEO which was published by the New York Times. The PR piece discusses privacy and privacy concerns among its users.
Pop-up shops aren’t just an effective way to capitalize on cheap retail space or seasonal shopping trends. They can also be an effective means of earning media coverage.
For evidence, take a look at this example from the 2016 Honest Tea campaign, where they set up unstaffed pop-up stores that let people pay for tea on the honor system. It’s an interesting story, and a lot of news outlets thought so, too:
Good, old-fashioned print collateral still has tons of value. If you have a physical presence, leaving people with information they can take with them is a useful way of ensuring they come back.
Press conferences remain an effective means of getting a message out to a large group of reporters all in one shot, and not just for pro athletes in post-game interviews, either.
Journalists love to cite original research in their own work. So, doing your own research on a topic and sharing that content can be an excellent way to position your company’s expertise.
So, what does absolutely awesome PR execution look like in real life? That’s what this section will take a look at. And not only that, it’ll look at some un-flashy but effective work you can emulate too.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was more than a viral video sensation. It was also started by The ALS Association and raised an incredible level of awareness around the need to find a cure for an extremely serious illness.
What made this campaign work so well? Here are a few thoughts:
Those three things together added up to one of the most effective viral campaigns in recent memory. While social media was the medium it used, its goals were rooted in pure PR.
Book promotion takes a lot of work. Tons of books get published every year, and standing out isn’t easy.
Another example of leveraging partnerships and issue-driven messaging, the Google Impact Challenge connects the company with nonprofits, lending funding and the help of Google volunteers to winning organizations.
This campaign drives awareness and engagement by:
Another example of corporate social responsibility, Apple goes to great lengths to communicate what they do to benefit the environment.
Not only do they build a simple landing page highlighting their efforts, they produce an in-depth annual report:
Here are some tips to emulate this approach:
The last CSR example this post will examine comes from Microsoft. Similar to the Apple example, Microsoft also puts their annual CSR report into a well-designed PDF:
The way they’ve broken out some key stats below the CTA in the header graphic is a nice touch:
Some tips to emulate this example:
Want to amplify your brand’s exposure? Partner with someone who can help you reach new audiences. In this example from Lyft featuring retired pro baseball player David Ortiz, they were able to generate tons of exposure by doing something surprising with a well-known celebrity.
You can replicate this idea even if you don’t have a huge budget or the clout to partner with a professional athlete. Here are some ideas to consider:
Products and places that are universally loved are easy to promote.
But, what if you’re promoting something with, well, charms you could argue are hidden?
Do what the state of Nebraska did and use some self-deprecating humor. Since outsiders don’t consider the state an exciting tourism destination (according to research, and the opinions of literally anyone who has driven through Nebraska), the Nebraska Tourism Board ran an anti-tourism campaign owning the fact that “it isn’t for everyone.”
By being brazenly honest, they’re able to show people what makes Nebraska worth visiting, instead of trying to tell people the state is something that it’s not. While this is an ad campaign, there’s an earned media component too, with the campaign generating tons of media attention.
So, how do you make this approach work for you? Consider the following:
People love a story with a local angle. So, with their 50 States of Target campaign, the national retailer picked one story to tell about what they’re doing to help local communities in each state. It’s a win-win for Target and their beneficiaries:
Doing something similar could be as simple as this:
What better way to get people interested in a product, other than to let them try it? Well, when it comes to mattresses, that can get a little tough.
So, IKEA partnered with Havas Media to create apps that helped people envision what their perfect bedroom arrangement could look like. They also sponsored slumber parties inside IKEA stores. The results? Increased awareness of their bedroom product lines and tons of earned media.
This one is worth including because it’s one of the most well-known and long-lasting marketing messages ever created. The result of a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council, the goal was simple: get people to care about stopping forests from burning down.
There was also a national security angle there, too:
Today, he even has his own Twitter profile:
What could be the secrets to the staying power behind such a simple message as, “Only you can prevent forest fires?”
Investor relations doesn’t have to be dry and stale. Sure, it isn’t the time nor place to get too cute or creative. But, you can still put time and effort into making investor relations materials visually engaging.
Never underestimate the power of a well-written press release, backed by strong distribution.
If you’re tired of messy PR and marketing collaboration, give CoSchedule a try. It’s the best way to increase visibility for all your marketing and PR efforts.
This post was most recently updated on Aug. 26, 2019.
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