I was reading an article about the London Fire Brigade’s public relations prowess in alerting the public to the risk of a certain Beko fridge freezer model. I have to admire a campaign that gets for free what some companies pay millions for in ad spend. LFB’s campaign had it all: public safety, customer rights and an authoritative, uniformed fire officer able to charm BBC breakfast viewers. 65,000 fridge-freezers were recalled and Beko fielded 328,000 calls in one day. Not bad for a small budget – such is the power of well-planned PR.
Not every brand has the media allure of the London Fire Brigade. Since public relations campaigns live or die by media allure (and good timing) we have to create the allure where it doesn’t naturally exist. So, what makes a successful campaign? Are there key ingredients that can be sprinkled into the mix to make it rise up out of the plan and onto media pages and TV screens and airwaves?
Unfortunately no, there isn’t a single secret formula that will guarantee success, but there are some vital ingredients for a successful campaign:
The Basic Ingredients
Aim: The overarching reason for the campaign. This depends on the nature of your campaign, but could be along the lines of ‘to increase public awareness of…’
Objective: Breakdown of what the aim will deliver. For example, in the case of a product recall, an objective might be to ensure that the customer helpline is promoted to consumers who then return the products.
Message: Without the right message, the campaign will flop. It has to be authentic and meaningful. Incorporated early within any messaging will be the problem or challenge you’re facing. In a product-recall it will be something like unsafe fridges or fire hazard in flats. The messaging will also encompass how this problem can be overcome. A clear call to action, eg contact JoBlogsCo on this number now, will get results.
Know your Audience: Identifying your audiences and their favourite media – print, TV, radio, online – will enable you to target and give your campaign the right flavour.
Social Media: It’s now progressed into a key component of public relations. Think of social media as another channel to get your message across, with the advantage of being interactive and giving instant response to your campaign. Just as you would research and identify your print and broadcast media and make sure they are consumed by your audience, you need to do the same for social media. Find out which ones your customers use and then build activity around them. Do some background research on communicating with online communities to ensure you are following the appropriate etiquette – there is a wealth of resources on the internet.
Evaluation: You need to know what works and what doesn’t. Tracking and measuring your campaign will help you with future plans and budget decisions. Look at inputs, outputs and outcomes – test these against the original objective. Who did you engage with/influence and what does this mean for your business? What’s your next step?
The Special Ingredients
News Hook: If you are charged with breaking a true news story, lucky you! However, most often we are challenged to increase awareness of a well-documented issue, products or services and that’s where the creative talents of the agency and in-house PR team come into play. Creating a news hook is a vital ingredient for a great campaign.
Appealing Spokesperson: Ideally a voice of authority but also vitally someone that the public will empathise with, someone who will inspire confidence and action. If this person is an instantly recognizable household name so much the better. But credibility and appeal is far more important than fame!
Timeliness: Even the most expertly planned media story can be gazumped by a nation-gripping event. However, you can be (albeit only partially) prepared for this by making sure you are aware of any external events which directly or indirectly affect the story.
As you can’t make scones without breaking a few eggs, sometimes we have to be prepared to take calculated risks with campaigns. I bet the Beko team was none too pleased on first hearing the London Fire Brigade’s announcement, but to give them credit they responded responsibly