A look inside the surprisingly creative world of public relations
At EPIC Creative, and at most agencies, the public relations department usually sits close to the social media department. Compared to social media, however, PR definitely falls under the umbrella of “traditional media.” Some would say it’s tried and true, consistent and hasn’t changed for decades.
But I wouldn’t, and I like it that way.
In their most unflattering and misleading stereotypes, PR professionals are considered spin doctors or email spammers. We hound magazine editors and reporters to get them to tell our stories, and we craft messages to deceive the public. Well, not only is that not true – at least not with the PR people I know – but PR is so much more than that.
Sure, we send out a lot of press releases. We share our clients’ stories with relevant media members who will find value in these stories and share them with their readers. Public relations, though, is about finding ways to impact your clients’ audience in a positive way, helping them learn about and remember your clients’ brands, and there are all kinds of ways to do that.
Find Brand Ambassadors
Influencers are a huge trend across social media, and they’re popping up in nearly every industry. Fitness, fashion, fishing, fencing (maybe) – seriously, name an industry and there’s probably someone on Instagram with 10,000+ followers who is an enthusiast in that industry. Where PR fits into this world is finding them and helping them tell their story.
The key here is their story. Not yours. It’s easy to spot a fake in the influencer world. Say you’ve been following a nutrition blogger for months, and then all of a sudden they’re talking all about a certain brand of bottled water. What probably happened is that the company showed up to their door with a burlap sack full of cash and said “post some nice things about us.”
Money is easy. What’s more challenging – and more fun – is finding an influencer who already uses and loves your product. Then, work with them by giving them more opportunities to tell their story to their fans. Let them be them. You can certainly give them products to test, invite them to your events or even pay them, but if you let them do their thing, they’ll reach their audience in a genuine way, and you’ll be a part of it. That’s a PR win.
Prepare for-and Manage-a Crisis
If you work in PR for a long time, you’re eventually going to have to deal with a crisis. This could be an executive scandal, a product recall, or God forbid, an accident or tragedy. What happens immediately after the “crisis” can change everything.
As PR pros, we work with our clients to make sure they’re prepared in case something bad happens. We’ve found that the key is to be transparent, be human, and offer up a solution to the problem. When something goes wrong, people want answers, and that’s what we help our clients provide. I wouldn’t say it’s fun to handle something like this, but it’s rewarding to help make the best of a bad situation.
Get Out into The Real World
If you want to engage with the public, you’ve got to meet them where they are. And press releases often don’t cut it when it comes to getting people’s attention.
Take a look at this installation from the UK, where a giant dragon skull “washed up” on a beach. It turns out that it was a PR stunt from “Blinkbox, a United Kingdom-based video-on-demand company trumpeting the arrival of Game of Thrones’ scintillating third season to its service.”
This works for several reasons. One, it gets people’s attention in an unexpected way. Two, it’s visual and creative and it’s something that’s easy for media to capture and cover. And three, most importantly, it doesn’t try to do too much or be too salesy. It’s a soft sell, and they can be some of the best PR efforts.
Make News When There Isn’t Any
That dragon skull had a direct purpose: Game of Thrones was coming back, and they needed to hype it up. But what if you want to bring your brand some buzz and you don’t have a big event coming up? Well, you can make an event!
For our client, RYAN Turf Renovation Equipment, we found that most people aerate their lawns in the fall. They either rent an aerator or they get their lawn care service to do it for them. But, there are a lot of homeowners who don’t aerate. They don’t know how, or they don’t know why it’s important.
To educate homeowners and empower lawn care professionals and rental dealers, we created National Aerate Your Lawn Day in 2017 on the third Saturday of September. This is a day that we promote to customers and the media as a way for people to get together and rent aerators, or for lawn care professionals to sell aeration services to their clients.
This is just one of dozens of creative ways you can bring meaningful attention to your brand without having to confine yourself to a simple press release.
Be creative and strategic, and PR can end up standing for “pretty rad.”