PR has changed. And we’re glad it has, change is good. Change signifies growth, evolution and if we’re lucky, transformation.
A culmination of digital media exploding, newsrooms shrinking, shortened news cycles and the epic rise of “everyone” as a publisher, there is no going back for PR.
PR has always been about influencing public opinion, and it still is about that. However, how we do this has changed. Content now sits centre stage within our strategies, and the way we incorporate content into these plans is changing rapidly.
Media releases are no longer the default go-to. Whilst they continue to remain useful to support the brand’s storytelling, they are not the only way to influence. It is crucial that news generation is now supported by solid content plans.
So how do you navigate through this unfamiliar territory? What tools do you need? Here is the process we follow at FORWARD when we are integrating content into our communications planning.
Identify the Content SweetSpot
Before you start any strategic or creative thinking around content, we recommend identifying your Content SweetSpot. FORWARD has created a planning tool which helps determine the most impactful content and whether it can meet your brief.
It will help you understand “the story”, assists with crafting the narrative, prompts you to consider what will grab people’s attention and ultimately change people’s attitudes and behaviours.
Through this process, you can question the uniqueness and originality of the content and how purposively it’s linked to your brand. We have four filters to identify how relevant and newsworthy content is:
1. Category & Brand Messages
This is effectively the pure brand and product message. Previously there was likely to be interest if you had a ‘newer’, ‘faster’, ‘better’ model. However, these messages alone no longer hold much weight in the earned space. Consider how your product is better and different to any others in your category.
What is the most important thing you are trying to convince people of as a marketer? What is your most persuasive and compelling message? Why would I want to try or buy or buy any more of your product?
2. Target Audience Interest
What’s it about what you’re doing that will make the consumer sit-up, care and want to take action? What’s in it for them? What insights are you connecting with? What triggers or barriers are you addressing?
3. Cultural Relevance
Look at the bigger picture, including research. Are there any meta trends that you can use which will influence and enhance your campaign?
Depending on your category this could be a nutritional, popular culture or even environmental trend for example.
4. Leverability & Reach
Why will media, bloggers or consumers think about and want to share your content? What is different and shocking about what you are trying to do? Remember they have an audience too!
Why will this be interesting to their viewers or readers? You may need to carve up your content and tailor it to the different outlets. It’s unlikely that everyone will be interested in the same angle or story.
Using these filters consider how informative, useful and entertaining the content is:
– Will people learn something different?
– Will it make them smarter?
– Will it make them feel inspired, happy or moved?
If they are not left feeling enlightened, entertained or enriched then sadly it is unlikely you have identified the Content SweetSpot.
The Dumb Ways to Die campaign is an excellent example of what can happen if you successfully identify the Content SweetSpot. The campaign received unanimous applause from the creative community not only here in Australia but across the globe.
No doubt one of the most popular public service announcements ever created. It’s not surprising that it went on to become the most awarded campaign in the history of Cannes.
Why it worked?
- Category & Brand Messages – the message was brought to life in an offbeat, unexpected and unconventionally funny way. It worked because it was innovative and fresh – a must when entering the earned space.
- Target Audience Interest – the campaign song was super catchy smashing into the top 10 charts of iTunes within 24 hours and then was later developed into a game.
- Cultural Relevance – ‘death’ is almost as big picture as it gets. So what better way to engage a hard to reach target audience with a safety message around ‘death’ than with humour and fun loving sharable content (video, games and music).
- Leverability and Reach – we couldn’t get enough of those covetable little characters, what was not to love! The campaign also had legs ramping up its messaging at key times of the year. Recently the stars of the campaign dawned ghoulish outfits to warn Melbournians about the recent dangers of Halloween – it’s the campaign that no-one wants to die!
Greenpeace hit the Content SweetSpot jackpot when it created its ‘Save the Arctic’ campaign. The campaign called on LEGO to end its longstanding partnership with Shell.
Why it worked?
- Category & Brand Messages – this was simple Greenpeace wanted LEGO to call quits on its 50-year relationship with Shell. After all Greenpeace believed Shell was leading the charge in exploiting the Arctic’s oil supplies.
- Target Audience Interest – the video parodied the hit song “Everything is Awesome” from the LEGO Movie to amplify its message.
- Cultural Relevance – tapping into the love affair with LEGO, Greenpeace where careful not to vilify the much loved brand and created a beautiful yet hard hitting video which pulled on our heart strings and inspired people to take action.
- Leverability & Reach – The emotive video was picked up by every major news desk in the UK and then spread like rapid fire across the world, clocking up 6 million+ views which accompanied the petition of 1 million signatures.
If you feel more comfortable embracing a tried and tested approach, just make sure you add a new spin on it. Capitalising on an existing trend can work but you will need to make it relevant to your audience to drive interest and ultimately sales for your brand.
Mobile fashion forward boutiques are quickly becoming all the rage. You could go as far to say they are tipped to be THE hot ‘vehicle’ being rolled out to revitalise the retail experience.
One of our favourites has to be Henry Holland’s Mobile Ice Cream Van probably the first ever roving fashion flagship store!
Why it worked?
- Category & Brand Messages – launching a new fashion line is news but how can you make it really stand out in a very cluttered market? Well the team at House of Holland created a ‘first’ – a simple concept which often gets people to sit up and take notice of what you are doing.
- Target Audience Interest – House of Holland tapped into the fan’s love of 50s vintage, the general fascination with pop-ups and extended the idea into a full-blown fashion truck tour of the British Isles – creating (most probably) the first ever. Not only did this campaign produce awesome content for his brand but it also provided his team with insights around potential new spots to open a store whilst building relationships with different high streets across the country.
- Culture Relevance – Mr Whippy ice cream is a household name in the UK, loved by the masses and sold predominately in ice cream trucks. Inspired by this, fashion designer Henry Holland used this cultural quirk to form the basis of his summer collection providing excellent content for his PR campaign. Launching his first flagship store in a truck named Mr Quiffy (named after his infamous hair) Holland transformed a traditional ice cream van into a roving capsule wardrobe which returned to London just in time to create hype at London Fashion Week.
- Leverability & Reach – amplified across the robust Henry Holland network, content was seeded to the most influential fashion bloggers in the industry, such as Susie Bubble – alerting fashionistas that they could purchase a limited item from the new range.
It’s a wrap
Don’t lose sight of the importance of audience, messaging and the general nuts and bolts stuff but do reassess how you include content into your wider planning and strategy. Content is here to stay.
Hopefully, this has helped demystify how you can approach content and weave it into your planning and strategy.
We’ve been telling stories in PR since day dot, and we still need to do this. The new world of PR, packed full of influencer campaigns and content seeding, can and does work side by side with the established art forms of traditional media.
Content is merely another way that communications professionals can influence habits and behaviours.