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Unleash PR's new power

Anne Kendall, Cirkle
Anne Kendall, Cirkle

It is time for brand marketers to recognise that PR has advanced far beyond the generation of press clippings to become a discipline with multiplatform reach when it comes to raising brand awareness, writes Cirkle's Anne Kendall

With media chan­nels converging and marketing disciplines becoming more integrated, it’s surprising that many marketers still exhibit a more traditional point of view when it comes to PR.

‘To impress our stakeholders, we want to increase the number of press clippings versus last year.’ This is just one of the opening gambits we received when taking briefs from business prospects.

Two points arise here. First, are you increasing the number of clippings for the sake of it? Surely the starting point is: ‘What are the measurable business objectives you want PR to help achieve?’ For example, increase brand awareness – from what to what? Drive sales – by how much? Second, PR should not be pigeon­holed into just press office/press clippings. While media relations play a vital role, it is one of many communications touchpoints in the PR armoury.

With marketing and PR budgets being squeezed and increasing pressure to prove ROI, now more than ever we need to educate mark­eting teams. Poor inputs result in poor outputs – we need to help marketers formulate briefs that include a clear purpose, business focus and measurable commercial objectives. At Cirkle, we often start by writing briefs with our clients.  

We also need to continue to demonstrate to marketers that PR shouldn’t rely solely on column inches – PR campaigns need to embrace compelling, fresh strat­egies that result in added-value, cost-effective initiatives.

For FMCG brands, now is about developing meaningful relation­ships with consumers, engaging them and inspiring trust to make them come back for more. Digital/social networking amplification, for example, is fundamental for PR if consumers are to become powerful brand advocates, while credible third-party affinities can be low-cost and hugely successful in driving brand devotion beyond editorial coverage.

Clever third-party associations that hijack equity can resonate with each party’s target audience and are based on exchanging mutu­ally beneficial collateral for results beyond a purely media relations-driven PR campaign. Wins for both parties can include sharing retail environments; broadening distrib­ution; enhancing exposure and publicity; gaining visibility in previously untapped environ­ments; access to fan databases; exposure to previ­ously unaccessed target markets; borrowing brand affinity and reputation.

In the absence of an ATL budget, one of our PR campaigns, which led the entire marketing mix and didn’t rely solely on media rela­tions, was the contra-deal we created for leading beauty face-mask brand Montagne Jeunesse.
Based on the insight that the brand’s target consumer enjoyed fun, girlie nights out at West End theatres, we negotiated a free-of-charge partnership with musical Hairspray (the lead character sports a face mask during the performance). Montagne Jeunesse became the ‘Official Pampering Partner to Hairspray’, resulting in an integrated PR campaign that used media relations as just one of many amplification strands.

We engaged stakeholders – con­sumers, retailers, salesforce, head office – through beauty retailer POS with a limited-edition, dual-branded face mask, a nationwide competition to win Hairspray pampering weekends, editorial, social media ‘word-of-mouse’, in-theatre promotions and sampling, residency on each party’s website and direct-to-consumer at the Montagne Jeunesse Clothes Show stand (featuring the Hairspray cast). The activity resulted in a 55% uplift in SKU sales.
For B2B PR campaigns, consider supporting trade media relations with activities that tick all the business objectives boxes.

To amplify Walkers crisps’ biggest-ever ‘Do us a flavour’ promotion, our PR campaign included direct-to-retailer experiential and interactive warehouse tours, enabling us to educate wholesalers and retailers beyond our trade media coverage, while also providing platforms to distribute POS materials.

A holistic 360° approach ensures campaign measurability – vital to prove the effectiveness of your marketing investment. Our independent evaluation tool, Retailer Inner Cirkle, step-changes traditional ‘volume of clippings’ reporting to give qualitative and quantitative feedback from retailers on the effect that trade communications had on their purchasing behaviour.

PR teams should be constantly challenged to formulate camp­aigns built around your measur­able commercial objectives. At the same time, they should unleash innovative and inspiring ways to achieve engagement and devotion to your brands and services – that includes media relations as part of wider PR initiatives.

Anne Kendall, managing director, Cirkle

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