The meaning of Public Relations has undergone considerable change. While most associate PR with press releases and crisis management, in reality, it goes way beyond.
Today, a public relations firm caters to a reimagination of events, collaborative pursuit with influencers and tackling fake news and misinformation. So what is PR, then? Public relations involve the actions that a business or brand takes to create and shape the perceptions of its brand.
Difference between Public Relations, Social Media Marketing and Influencer Marketing
At the outset, the definition of PR sounds very similar to that of social media marketing and influencer marketing. Although related, the three differ on various grounds.
So, what does it involve?
The primary function of a public relations firm or department is to communicate news and story angles to garner earned media. With that said, the PR outline works around storytelling.
Say you are launching a new upscale clothing store. The PR team sends influencers or bloggers an invitation about the store opening. The expectation is to get a writeup, posts or pictures on the influencers’ Instagram feeds. The point here is that the arrangement is non-obligatory. There is no mandate for the influencers to write about the clothing store. The move helps garner organic reach and following.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing engages with and promotes a business and brand to influencers. It is a paid transaction as the influencer receives something in exchange for their contribution. Using the clothing store example above, the person in charge of influencer marketing reaches out to them and offers an opportunity to promote the store launch. The influencers then can agree to post, say, four Instagram images and write one 500-word review. Nonetheless, influencer marketing can be used as a PR strategy, as will be seen ahead.
What about social media marketing?
Social media can have its goals or can be a subset under marketing. Better yet, a tactic or channel. The objective is to post content on social media platforms to engage with followers and the community. The difference is that social media posts need to be active and consistent.
Real-life Examples of PR campaigns
1. Media Relations – The changeup from KFC to FCK
The purpose of the campaign was crisis management. It all started with KFC, the fast-food brand, terminating its relationship with Bidvest Logistics and going with Quick Service Logistics and DHL. This change led to a supply chain fiasco, and KFC ended up shutting down hundreds of its stores across the UK. The losses were substantial and amounted to £1 million in revenues daily.
Thanks to its PR campaign that enabled KFC to get out of the water. The PR team allied with humour and wit. The campaign involved wordplay, wherein the acronym changed from KFC to FCK. Not only did this flip the narrative, but it also gave considerable praise to the brand – over 700 articles spoke about this campaign. More so, the wordplay garnered positive sentiment. The case study also got featured among the Newsworks award winners in 2018.
2. Community Relations – Logitech Business Speak Detection Product
In 2018, Logitech, the computer peripherals and software brand, took to pranking its community of followers on the occasion of April Fool’s Day. Here is how it panned out. Already every marketing publication comes up with spoofs and stunts to distract everyone at work on that day, so they knew they had to do something different. A video gave the product a punny name and poked fun at the overuse of clichéd catchphrases and jargon at the workplace. What is more is that it mimicked a real product overview, making it even more hilarious. Logitech was bang on with its relatability with the community.
3. Corporate Social Responsibility – The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
In 2014, ALS Association came up with the Ice Bucket Challenge. It involved people dumping an ice water bucket over their heads. The tactic went viral with 2.4 million videos, and it made for an excellent campaign for raising awareness of the neurodegenerative disease – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS.
Furthermore, the idea was a massive success and raised over $115 million, of which nearly $80 million went towards research. People giving themselves that brain freeze helped save multiple lives.
4. The Public Affair – When SpaceX sent a Tesla to outer space
In February 2018, Elon Musk attached a spacesuit-wearing dummy, Starman, to one of his old Tesla roadsters. The roadster, through SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, was launched in space. Upon the launch, it made some headlines. What transformed this into a magnanimous PR stunt was the David Bowie “Life on Mars?” 1971 classic hit.
The campaign served as a reminder for current and future generations to reach for the stars. Also, it garnered a positive reputation and image for SpaceX and Falcon Heavy.
5. Influencer Marketing (Partnership) – Lyft and David Ortiz
In September 2016, Lyft, the ride-hailing and sharing brand, partnered with David Ortiz, a retired pro baseball player, to amplify the brand awareness and reach. The campaign showcased David Ortiz doing something surprising and unexpected. You do not expect David Ortiz to be a driver, would you now? This is what he did in this video, and it worked wonders for Lyft. Let’s say it lifted Lyft’s brand image and reputation.
The examples above are evident that PR can take several forms and that there is a lot to PR than what meets the eye. There is no one way to get right with PR. Much depends on the kind of business and brand and the demographic of the target audience and customer base.