These days, the marketing discipline of public relations is increasingly stepping into the spotlight. With growing social media platforms and new generations of audiences, the looming wave of cancel culture is keeping a close eye on every single decision your brand makes, and for a good reason. As we discussed previously, the slightest misstep in an advertising campaign can send your brand into a tailspin with consumers. So, how can you keep your fingers on the pulse of your campaign to ensure your message is coming across the way you intend? In this edition of Plain Talk, we’ll talk about why you need to keep your PR team off the sidelines and your brand out of trouble.
Build the Right Team
Public relations is a critical part of any good marketing strategy, ensuring your brand is seen in the best light possible. Because it lives in a world of earned and shared media, public relations fills a gap on your marketing team that paid media and owned media (your website) don’t. If we continue with the sports team analogy, no PR team means you have a hole in your lineup that needs filling. Your PR team isn’t there just to represent the voice of your consumer like your account planners are. Instead, they are there to also represent the voices of the media, current culture and society as a whole.
Start With Offense
In public relations, we always like to say that it’s better to be proactive than reactive, which is why it’s crucial to jump in as soon as you see any sign of a PR crisis on the horizon. You want to avoid being caught in the final quarter with an overworked, exhausted defensive lineup, and you need to get ahead of the crisis before it gets ahead of you.
With cancel culture alive and thriving in the last few years, companies and public figures can’t afford a misstep. According to 2022 data from Consumer Goods Technology, around 75% of consumers parted ways with a brand because the brand didn’t align with their values, and it doesn’t stop there. Word-of-mouth communication also contributed to the separations, with 28% of customers talking to friends and family about their concerns and 15% of them taking to social media. It’s now more important than ever to listen to your audience and keep your brand image authentic.
From the infamous failure of Pepsi and Kendall Jenner to Samsung’s smartphones feeling the heat (literally) and lighting ablaze 30,000 feet in the air, we’ve seen fumbles from brands who may not have thoroughly checked with their PR team before running a campaign.
In 2022, the Balenciaga blunder was a prime example of a campaign that may not have been fully vetted by a PR professional. The high-dollar luxury fashion brand has been building its image for more than 100 years. After unleashing a controversial campaign depicting child exploitation, the brand was officially called out and faced with a social media and public relations disaster – a crisis that impacted its sales, popularity, investors, partnerships, and celebrity endorsements.
While not all campaigns come with a neon sign reading, “this is a very bad idea,” your PR team can look for possible missteps or concerns during the concept phase to save you from spending time and resources on a campaign that may blow up in your face. In addition, your PR team can add value to how you plan your brand image – from your daily social media posts to how your CEO represents the brand in interviews. Your PR team should be involved in every decision to avoid Pandora’s Box of cancel culture unleashing on your brand.
While there are those PR disasters that have us refreshing social media to see when the brand releases a statement, plenty of brands have also had wins along the way. The brands that are crushing the PR game have their public relations professionals sitting at the creative table throughout an entire project, allowing them to be well-versed in the decision, and if/when it goes awry, they are prepared to tackle the problem.
One inspirational advertising campaign that had people talking was the Fearless Girl sculpture in 2017. The day before International Women’s Day in March 2017, State Street Global Advisors, a large asset management company, commissioned Fearless Girl to advertise for an index fund that comprises gender-diverse companies that have a high percentage of women among their senior leadership. Standing in a power position firmly in front of the iconic Charging Bull statue across the New York Stock Exchange Building, Fearless Girl’s plaque read. “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” While “SHE” is not only referring to the pronoun, it’s also referencing the State Street Global Advisors’ NASDAQ symbol. This stunt not only brought attention to the lack of female leaders on Wall Street, but it also celebrated the women advocating to change that.
While this stunt was celebrated by many, it also faced controversy. State Street Global Advisers haven’t always been clear on making gender diversity a priority, which is where practicing what you preach is crucial when it comes to PR.
A brand that also sees more touchdowns than fumbles is the beauty brand Dove, which is in a league of its own when it comes to promoting body positivity. In 2021, Dove’s #TheSelfieTalk campaign highlighted the pressure women face starting at a young age to look and act a certain way. In this age of social media, Dove shines a light on the real pressure girls face. It was an authentic campaign at a time when women felt more empowered and real than ever before.
Include Your Entire Team in the Huddle
When used correctly, public relations holds a vital position on the team by keeping your brand where you want it to be in the minds of consumers. When you include public relations as part of your campaign process, many mistakes will be intercepted before they see the light of day, and you’ll earn a growing fanbase of customers ready to support your brand. If you want to chat about building the right PR game plan, drop us a line or give us a call at 502-499-4209.