9 Tips for Running an Effective PR Campaign (w/ Case Study)

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Every effective PR campaign out there follows a few general time tested rules that make the campaign more profitable and more likely to reap results. Putting some of these tips into practice is a good way to ensure that your campaign is more effective for your business whether it is an online business or a brick and mortar startup.

It is common knowledge that a PR campaign can do more good for your business than most other options out there. 92% of consumers trust earned media over traditional ads and 60% of consumers feel more negatively about advertising than they did a few years ago.

The same study also brought to light how a good PR campaign can improve your corporate image which means your stock price will increase by an average of 5-7%.

So, what exactly is a PR campaign?

A PR campaign is a planned list of activities on various media platforms with the end goal of achieving a specific result. A great PR campaign takes many forms but they all produce more brand recognition for the brand.

Other goals of a good PR campaign may include increasing sales for a certain product or increasing investors’ interest in a new product. A PR campaign would ordinarily invest in using their own resources (website, social media, etc.) as well as other external resources (TV, newspapers, etc.) to reach their target audience and spread the word.

Having a goal in mind when creating your PR campaign is your first step. This brings us to a couple of general tips you need to follow when creating a public relations campaign.

How to Create an Effective PR campaign? 

We have also brushed over the fact that having a goal in mind is imperative when starting a campaign. We need to know what our destination is before we can start driving. This leads us to the first (and probably the most important) tip in this list-

#1 Know Your End Goal

Not knowing the purpose of your campaign is going to mean the entire campaign has a good possibility of failing. You need to plan out your campaign from start to finish which means deciding what the purpose of all of your effort is.

Once you set a goal, you will also be able to figure out what the possible limitations of your campaign might be. You could then think of measures to combat them better. This would also mean you would be able to judge the potential success of your campaign and know what you should, realistically, be expecting. 

A few PR campaign examples to give you a better understanding of what I am trying to say would be:

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

If your goal is to raise funds for your company/ NGO/ organization, you could create a campaign that focuses on getting people to rally behind your cause. The ALS ice bucket challenge is an awesome example of this. It barely costs anything in the grand scheme of things and it went absolutely viral on social media.

Big names in the entertainment business and politicians like George Bush participated. The essential idea was either to throw a bucket of ice-cold water over your head or donate to the cause. (ALS awareness and research) The result was amazing— the ALSA Association (ALSA) raised $23.5 million. The year after that the ALS challenge brought in $115 million as well as $13 million to regional branches. That is an uptick of $100 million compared to the year before.

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

PR campaign example from Dove

According to research by Dove, only 2% of all women considered themselves to be beautiful. In an effort to end this awful sense of insecurity, Dove started placing real women within their marketing efforts instead of models with unrealistic beauty standards.

This led the company to see a sales increase from $2.5 billion to $4 billion within the first 10 years of the campaign.

#2 Focus on long-term relationships with journalists

A lot of companies fail to realize how valuable it is to have a journalist in your corner. Instead of simply sending a classic cold email pitch to every journalist you come across, take the time to find the author on the team that deals with the majority of articles within your niche.

Take some more time to personalize the email and only then send it out. This is a long-term strategy but it reaps rewards in abundance. An author that recognizes you as a good company or business is ten times more likely to quote or feature you again in the future. This is especially important because most journalists these days work on a freelance basis with loads of different media outlets.

#3 Research to the point of madness

There is never too much research that you can do for a PR campaign. This can be something as small as keyword research or something that has more effort involved such as what platforms need to be focused on.

Knowing what has worked for your competitors and trying to find the best way to invest in this campaign will not just better the end result of it—it may also save you money

Who doesn’t love an example? Here is a good one:

After 125 Careers, Barbie Gets Her Geek On—As Barbie’s 126th look voted for by the public, Barbie was a computer engineer. The Society of Women Engineers and National Academy of Engineering helped pick out Barbie’s new look which resulted in some great returns.

The new Barbie was covered by publications like CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and more. According to PR News, the campaign resulted in a 144% increase in sales!

Research (125 different careers and tons of customer opinions) led the brand to make a decision that benefited them to no end. This is not as costly or time-consuming as you would think. Take something as simple as customer opinions. You can use a service Jot Form’s free survey maker to create the survey for free and then send it out to your email list for responses. 

#4 A/B Test the night away

You aren’t going to start with a winner. Sorry, but that is the brutal truth. 

If you are sending out an outreach template to journalists, you should be taking the time to track open rates and lead generation rates.

Testing out your pitches and testing out which industries are most likely to pick up your story are good ways of seeing what is producing the best results for you as a brand. You can track opens for pitches by using an outreach software tool. 

Something as small as using a chat acronym in your tweet or outreach template, ending with your phone number, or addressing the person by their first name can make a difference. 

It is a small investment and it is one worth making.

#5 Think Local

As the internet expands, we often get caught up trying to please everybody, everywhere all at once. This is especially damaging for businesses like restaurants, museums, salons, and more that may benefit from a more narrowed down approach. 

Focus on what is going to garner attention locally as well. This could mean making a reference only people in your neighborhood would understand or something more technical like targeting an ad on Facebook only towards people in your locality.

This also applies to the type of media outlets you approach. CNN or Fox News may be hard to get a hold of or simply out of your budget but a local newspaper could be a good investment to make if you are looking for a feature.

A good example of this is what Target did with their campaign, 50 States of Target. The company picked one story about how they are helping the local communities in each state. 

Image source / PR campaign example from Target

#6 Holidays are PR magnets

Holidays like Christmas or Easter are amazing times to invest in PR campaigns. People are in the festive spirit and if you manage to tug at their heartstrings, odds are they are going to be pretty generous. 

The holidays in general mean people are likely to spend more money (which means businesses make more money) and an effective PR campaign will make sure they spend that extra money on you. Here is a good example:

Image Source / PR campaign example from Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has repeatedly used Santa Claus himself as their brand ambassador whether that is true their signature colors or their amazing Christmas campaigns. You could do the same.

#7 Consider using influencers

Gymshark is a sports clothing brand that has grown exponentially through the power of social media and influencers. It is currently valued at $1.3 billion and the founder, Ben Francis, has a personal net worth of $1,015 billion as of 2020.

This comes as a surprise to people since the majority of their PR strategy relies on Instagram and influencers. It is a testament to how ignoring social media in your strategy can be detrimental to your end goal.

A lot of Gymshark’s strategy is focused on finding influencers that have a good follower count within the fitness industry as well as good engagement. The company will then partner with these influencers and their brand gets to reach a whole new audience of possibly millions of people.

PR campaign example from Gymshark

This is also a far more suitable marketing strategy for the younger generation that prefers ads that are non-intrusive and subtle. The reason Gymshark is so successful is not just because they are present on social media but because of the way they are present on social media. It is much more natural than most brands. They also pay attention to smaller things like their schedule, the times they post, and which influencers they are engaging with from their main account.

Their clothes are promoted by athletes that would wear sportswear anyway and the audience that the influencer is interacting with is already interested in their life. So, the ad is not pushy or annoying for the user. They are seeing what an influencer they adore is up to which also includes what they are wearing.

It is an affordable, subtle, and effective way of improving brand recognition. If you are in a more visual industry (clothes, makeup, home decor, interior design, food), influencer marketing could change your PR strategy for the better. 

If you do not have tons of time to invest, you could even consider using an influencer marketing platform to get the work done faster.

#8 Create a PR calendar

A PR strategy is nothing without a schedule. You may have a dozen ideas in the works but if you do not have a definite plan of action, they are not going to be very effective. Using prioritization techniques to create a good PR calendar will help you mark out all the important aspects of your campaign which helps your team stay on track and remain productive.

A good calendar will also allow you to see how your PR campaign works alongside other business plans. So, you could plan out different media appearances or different blog post pieces for your company. It will also take more minute steps into account so, for example, that might be a follow-up with a journalist or a meeting you have with a certain team in your office. To do this effectively, you could consider using calendar software like Woven

Once you have selected a tool to manage your PR calendar, you can decide what sort of content (and where) you want to publish as part of your campaign, as well as the publishing schedule that will go with it. 

The great part about having a calendar is it gives you a bird’s eye view of everything that is going on. This means you are going to also be able to notice parts of your campaign where a different idea would work better and you can then switch things around to make it work for you.

#9 Partner Up

We often look at other brands as competitors but joining forces is a great idea in a lot of cases. You are bringing two teams together to bring out the strengths in both of them. Some examples of brands that have partnered up with success include:

1. Infinite Recovery, a drug rehab center, partners with insurance companies to give their customers the best service they can. Each company will promote each other and everyone benefits, even beyond the PR effect.

Image Source

2. The Mastercard and Apple Pay PR collaboration was not just good for the brand’s PR but it was also simply logical. The launch of the Apple Pay app meant users could store the debit card information on their Apple products and use it to make payments. 

This means that you can make payments even when your card is not on you. For this to happen, you need card companies to allow integration with the app.

MasterCard became the first company to pair with the Apple Pay app which meant Apple could start letting their customers make secure transactions (no card needed) and MasterCard showed their customers that they are constantly moving with the times.

However, partnering up with other companies and running an effective PR campaign while doing so works on a much smaller scale as well:

3. One of my favorite examples regarding partnering up with other companies is iNECTA, a food ERP software.

Image Source

Why? Because their timing is perfect since “food safety and sustainability” is something every modern company is interested in and that topic is just perfect for good PR.

Partnering up with another brand can often do you both good (especially from a PR perspective), and not seeing every other company as competition is the first step.

PR campaign: Case study

The PR campaign used as the focus of the Q&A case study below worked toward increased social media traction, brand trust, web rankings, and a meaningful campaign message.

It was produced by the team behind Get Blogged for Design Bundles, a digital design marketplace offering resources for crafters, families, and businesses: with a specific focus on premium and free svg files.

Here’s how it went.

A brief overview of the “share the love” 2021 PR campaign and the results

Rachael Nicholson, Creative Copywriter @ Racheal Hope Media: Can you tell us a little about the February 2021 Valentine’s Day campaign? What inspired the “share the love” theme of the campaign, for example?

Emma Sivess, Digital PR & SEO @ Get Blogged: When looking at the activity for February, we aimed to be relevant to the theme of Valentine’s whilst going a step further. We’ve all experienced a journey and a half over the past year, and we wanted to do something to help spread a little bit of light, to help combat loneliness, and spread some smiles. Whether to a partner, friends, family, or your neighbor Joe, we wanted to make a positive impact.

With this in mind, we worked with Design Bundles to uncover some of their epic Valentines packages – SVGs, files and templates for crafters and creatives to get inventive. We used these products as inspiration for a press box to send to targeted groups, including influencers, bloggers, and content creators. 

The box included all the materials needed to get creative, making decorations, cards, and baking. We sourced products from a range of small, environmentally conscious retailers and built the ultimate box of smiles!

We encouraged our targets to talk about how they share the love – whether that’s: 

  • decorating a doorway to give a grin to a passer-by, 
  • baking for a family member, or another act of kindness.

 We also shared details about charities that aim to stop loneliness and provide resources needed for those struggling. Sharing. The. Love. 

R: What were the individual goals for this campaign? What did the initial planning stages involve? And how did you prepare for campaign success?

E: The quantifiable goal for this campaign was to achieve ten new links to the Design Bundles website. I also wanted to get brilliant social traction as this campaign was close to my heart and use some boxes as outreach to various traditional press targets.

Planning stages initially included the boxes themselves – an exciting step sourcing lots of lovely small companies to bulk out the box. Along with this, I contacted the charities in question to ensure we could use them on the campaign and built out a hitlist of box targets, including: 

  • Influencers
  • Bloggers
  • Content creators
  • Press
A picture of the press parcel sent out to influencers, bloggers, content creators, and the press

Prepping for ultimate success, in my eyes, is preparing for all possibilities: preparing for everything and anything to go skewed and take time. To combat this, coming up with a quick-fire action plan to get the campaign back on target and get that message out there! 

R: What were the most significant hurdles? And how did you overcome them? 

E: One of the biggest hurdles for this campaign (and recent past ones!) has been logistics. Most people are working from home, and many targets have their personal workload at the forefront of their working minds – understandably – but it can be tough to break barriers. 

Along with this, I find press targets are especially impactful when: 

  • 1 – you have a great, meaningful message (check!) 
  • 2 – you get to showcase this by sending out physical examples or press parcels. 

Who has had a parcel sit on their desk and not open it? I didn’t think so! The latter has been challenging since the shift to home working, as people (of course) rarely give out their home details, and offices remain closed for the most part. 

In short, actually getting things in front of people has been especially hard. This is a work in progress and very target-dependent when looking at overcoming the barrier. 

In this campaign’s instance, the main driving force to reach targets was to shout a huge focus on the meaning at the heart of it. Being open and having something that actually matters/resonates with people and makes them double-take; it’s relatable.

After all, I’m sure most of us can say we have experienced some sort of loneliness and struggle throughout the pandemic. It’s very satisfying being a part of sharing positivity. This attitude helped achieve high-quality targeted links and over 110,000 impressions across social media platforms. 

R: Did you have a personal campaign highlight (or highlights)? 

E: One of my personal highlights was seeing the campaign discussed on a family vlogging YouTube channel (The Ingham Family), with a cool 1.33 million subscribers. They were actually one of my more aspirational targets – of course, with this large platform, you can be a needle in the haystack. They were really impressed by the box, and it was great seeing the feature on my evening YouTube binge!

A screen-shot from The Ingham Family YouTube Channel: who received one of the press boxes and opened it on their channel

 Along with this, seeing the sheer amount of people taking inspiration from the campaign and sharing the love truly warmed my heart. A few family social media accounts shared their young children dropping off home-baked goods at family member’s doorsteps and chatting with their loved ones from a distance – so sweet I could burst!

R: What do you think were the biggest successes of the “share the love” campaign from Design Bundles’ perspective?

E: The predominant successes from this campaign – from Design Bundles’ perspective – are the targeted backlinks and social media traction. (Plus, they definitely love the warm squishy feeling of being a part of such a positive movement!) All new links were aimed at specific set pages for relevancy and to benefit SEO. 

We have seen hugely improved SEO metrics from the work we have run company-wide, including PR activity and other outreach from the wider team. They rank first in search engines for a wide array of targets and have continually increased traffic.

The social media buzz around this campaign has helped funnel more traffic through to the website, along with brand building the company in consumers’ minds. So when the time is right for key customers to shop for digital designs and templates, they’ll know where to head first.

R: What would be your one piece of wisdom/advice for other PR professionals working on a client’s campaign in a creative niche like Design Bundles? 

E: Advice I would give to other PR professionals working in the creative niche, with a client who is not yet a massive name, would be to integrate something you really believe in into the core of your outreach. 

It is much easier to discuss something that strikes a chord with you that you would discuss outside of work. Plus, it comes across as far more legitimate, too. Look for a need that hasn’t yet been met. An itch that hasn’t yet been scratched. And integrate it into the essence of your campaign and strategy.

Final Verdict

Every effective PR campaign is different but these few basic tips can be applied to pretty much any campaign that wants to see growth. Knowing what tips to keep in mind when creating your campaign’s foundation will help you reap the best results in the end and get some amazing organic business growth or your brand.

What tip made it to your notepad?

Cover photo by Tyler Nix for Windows on Unsplash