Transformational PR: When Campaigns Become the Product

December 14, 2022

The best PR and marketing campaigns are more than just promotional. Many have been transformational, and reflecting on the lasting impact of these programs helps provide insight into what ultimately makes for great PR.

The Michelin Guide is a perfect example. Initially created as a way to stimulate travel – and therefore, the sale of car tires – le Guide Michelin has become the de facto bible for fine dining enthusiasts around the world. Michelin stars make or break culinary careers, and the company’s visibility is now part of the public consciousness after so many years. In fact, Michelin rankings have become such an important part of the culinary scene that California recently spent some $600,000 for a state guide.

Similarly, the Academy Awards began as a way to publicize “talkies.” The motion picture industry’s annual fete started as a modest award ceremony and has morphed into one of the biggest events of the year with a life of its own.

Car companies have also ingrained themselves in the culture. The now-defunct Saturn brand called itself a “different kind of car company” thanks to ad legend Hal Riney. They created a massive brand activation event in the form of the Saturn Homecoming, drawing the faithful to their Spring Hill, Tennessee, factory for a festival celebrating the joy of owning a plastic-bodied subcompact car built in America.

To this day, German sports car company Porsche sponsors a more luxe event, the Rennsport Reunion. It is a semi-annual fete that celebrates the company’s illustrious racing history and functions as a large-scale selling exercise that continues to build the brand’s mystique.

Making Your Campaigns Great

This kind of transformational marketing greatness is also within your grasp. Great campaigns begin with open-minded brainstorming where nothing is off limits. Wild ideas are fine when you’re considering news hooks and activations, and cooking up crazy events like the Red Bull Flugtag is worthy of your consideration. As long as there’s still some good taste involved, embracing total creative freedom in the ideation stage will net you a bunch of interesting ideas that could result in an iconic campaign.

For example, creative approaches to original research can serve as the foundation for a memorable campaign. A survey about holiday shopping gave us proprietary data that the media accepted eagerly and netted our client – a logistics and shipping company – national news and significant mindshare around becoming the “go-to” resource for small businesses looking to streamline operations for the holiday retail season.

Recognition and award programs similar to Michelin’s are also a way for companies to showcase their customers and position them as leaders for using a given product or solution. Positive recognition is welcomed by nearly everyone, and awards programs can help companies achieve industry thought leadership positioning and create a significant halo effect around the brand.

And no matter what program ideas you come up with, boldly presenting them is key. We have found that marketers are highly receptive to a broad spectrum of concepts and offering clients a “mild to wild” range of concepts will stimulate dialog and debate. Whether clients love or hate those ideas, the resulting conversation will likely be productive and show that the agency is “in the game” and engaged – and that together, you’ll probably land on some potentially transformative program ideas.

Because after all, putting our best ideas into the world is what PR is all about.

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About the author

Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association. Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.



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