Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

When there is no News, Think of a Campaign

PR campaignApart from Strategy another heavy weight, most used term in the world of PR is ‘Campaign’, seems to have derived from the French word “Campagne” meaning ‘open country’. Couldn’t figure out the connect though.

This word comes alive in two distinct scenarios, first when you have to launch a new product/service, where PR is part of the overall marketing campaign. Second is when you have nothing new to say at all but also want continued media visibility.

In the first scenario since you often work along with the marketing department, you have a fair idea about the objectives the campaign is aimed at achieving, tools that you need to use and messages you need to propagate. So you accordingly strategize and draft a list of tactical activities that needs to be initiated in order to achieve the PR goals. The real challenge is in the second scenario when you have nothing new to announce or there is no new product or service to be launched around which you need to craft a campaign idea. All of us go through such phases for almost all our clients, there are times when nothing new is happening but at the same time you as a communications practitioner have to do something that will keep the buzz alive rather than waiting for client to come up with news for you to share with the media. In such situations experienced PR Pros will device a PR campaign focussing on industry issues to stimulate debate that has relevance to your client or company.

In my earlier role at Adfactors PR, I used to service mid to small technology companies, where I and my team used to often face this no news situation. Being in the B2B space, there was no scope even for a big bang marketing blitz to create buzz. Hence the only option left to us was to scan the environment, identify upcoming trends and come up with a campaigns primarily focussing on interesting and upcoming trends. The client need not necessarily have any direct services to offer and neither the campaigns were planned to hard sell any product or services of the client. The objective of the campaign was to position the company spokespeople as thought leaders in their domains.

The campaigns  had a central theme around which we used to create content, which was then utilized as concept/pitch notes for generating industry stories, by-lined articles targeting op-ed columns, sometimes the client also used to help us in generating case studies and whitepapers, which were trade media favourites. This content was then pitched to over sustained period of about 2-3 months depending upon the relevance of the theme or trend selected. These efforts used to pay off very well keeping the client happy and always appreciative of our proactive way of working.

Moving to the corporate side as a Marketing Communications Manager at Tata Housing, a real estate development company focusing on the B2C space, I have enough opportunities to have a sustained media visibility through on-going project launches across the country and many marketing lead initiatives. But there was something that was missing, we were not being able to focus more on the corporate brand and all our efforts were primarily focused on project specific communications. We didn’t want to be just another developer, we wanted to establish the leadership team as opinion leaders, we wanted to stimulate debates and discussions and be thought leaders in the sector.

Hence the brief to our communications partners – Rediffusion Edelman, was to think beyond project launches and come up with a strategy that achieves the above stated objectives. The servicing team came up with series of campaigns ideas to achieve the desired objectives. One of the campaigns suggested was based on ‘Urban Aspirers’ with the tagline – roti kapda aur makaan (food, clothing & shelter). While Urban Aspirers is a social phenomenon coined by The Boston Consulting Group, roti kapda aur makaan reinforces the desire for every Indian family to own a home. Urban Aspirers are characterized by their urbaneness, higher income levels (annual Rs. 4 Lakhs to Rs. 10 Lakhs), a higher spending power and willingness to spend compared to their rural counterparts.  This particular segment was fast growing and was forming one of the key consumer segments that the company could focus on.

The objective of the campaign was to enlighten the audiences on the dearth of affordable homes in India. Encourage conversations with influencers, government officials, thought-leaders and research agencies that evoke a sense of responsibility amongst developers, eventually leading to a movement towards value and affordable homes for all.

In-depth qualitative research sparked the planning of this campaign and the team chose to stick to an approach that would appeal to all Indians.

•       The team created story ideas based on various industry trends about ‘Urban Aspirers’ backed by insights from various reports and pitched to media thereby getting exclusive and industry stories

•       Associated the company with key demographic, economic and lifestyles trends around which the company executives commented thus resulting into quantum of coverage (larger Share of Voice for the company)

•       Created bylined articles in line with our Urban Aspirers campaign and pitched in top-line media

•       Facilitated regional centers with content to adapt and localise in the regional languages and engage with media

•       Designed a media roundtable along with key industry leaders to discuss the evolution and impact of growth of urban aspirers or new Affluents.

The result was outstanding and we received sustained media visibility in the form of industry stories, exclusive stories, and by-lined articles in various languages across India for over the period of 3 months. You can read the detailed case study here This is just one example of good PR and I am sure there are many in everyone’s closet, if we decide to shed our inhibitions on sharing case studies on good PR, we can build a great resource for all of us to learn and grow. I will be more than happy to feature them in and on all platforms of Indian PR Forum.

Below are some more good international PR case studies, which you may like reading.


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Categorised in: Public Relations, Vikypedia Exclusives

8 Responses »

  1. Liked your article, Vikram. The idea of campaigns to keep brands visible as thought leaders emphasizes the importance of content and perspective in those who front these initiatives. In a sense, it brings content back to the fore in public relations, which has been missing for some tine now.

  2. Another Good article. Every PR knowns about this, but reading your article and case studies gave me fresh perspective, positive reflect. :)

  3. Corp Comm is a field that has immense scope for innovation.One can come up with just any innovative idea to improve brand visibility and build a brand. A campaign is just one of these. A corp comm professional usually faces the challenging task of building a mansion out of nothing.Yet, the very people who want the mansion for themselves show little or no faith in the professional’s innovative ideas and act penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to spending a couple of lakhs on corp comm and PR. But they pour crores into buying advertising space and don’t even bother to evaluate the results/benefits of it; while the corp comm guy is held accountable and has to show ‘measurable’ results, which is hardly practical and possible. Results that cannot be measured go towards building a brand in the long term.

  4. Vikram, absolutely agree with you. Rather I always try to practice this method in my organisation during a lull in the activities. This approach also makes sense for creating the larger picture of an organisation. In the growth trajectory of a company the projection of the ownership or the people at the helm as opinion makers/ think tanks/ trend setters in their space makes for a holistic image of the organisation and also benefits the brand image as that of an ‘Intelligent Brand’ rather than as one which follows a usual ‘tread upon trail’…the beaten path..

  5. There is nothing new in what you set out here. That’s not a criticism. Just an observation that the fundamentals of our business have not really changed in many years.

    ‘Thought leadership’ and ‘content marketing’ as alternatives/adjuncts to ‘news management’ may be relatively new terms in the PR business but they are not new concepts.

    What is new is the range of tools which give opportunities for engagement and interaction. Previously, PR was mostly about ‘pushing’ messages because there was limited scope to close the communications loop. Now stakeholders of all varieties (and people who are not stakeholders at all) can ‘join the conversation’ – because there is now a conversation and not a monologue.

    What’s more, people can participate in that conversation almost immediately and they then expect the organisation to be as swift with its response. So although the fundamentals have not changed, the way we implement them has. Or it should have done so – some organisations are still struggling with this.

    It is an interesting time to be in our business!

  6. Once BBC was asked as to what do their journalists do when there isnt much to report?
    The reply was: we do our home work on other stories.

    The same should be applicable to all of us – think like journalists, as former IDBI Federal Life Insurance MD and CEO told his PR team!

  7. I don’t agree…why not think like the READER…imagine you are the reader and think of what will interest you…and make you sit up and take notice…homework then should be on these kind of stories…
    Alas, all journalists don’t think like this…exceptions are there, ofcourse.
    This way Journalists too would become more CREATIVE !!
    After all communication is all about what our TA will be interested in…and make them respond …!! Writing and advertising are only some ways of communicating with the TA…

  8. Vikram, I read this piece last month when you uploaded it, but have only got an opportunity today to comment. An excellent piece indeed and something all PR professionals can use and learn from. The overall approach needs to be strategic, with management of key messages, positioning of the corporate/product brand and use of creative and innovative PR campaigns. All too often we rely and are looking just for news triggers.

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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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