Sometimes your best laid plans go astray no matter how likely they are to work. You can spend weeks upon weeks imagining every scenario possible with a PR campaign only to see it fall apart for no reason at all. Not everything can be a success, unfortunately, and you truly never know until you put it all out there.
Although every campaign can’t be a success, you can learn something from every failed campaign. Even the biggest disaster you’ve ever suffered through can teach you vital lessons about your business and the public at large. You just have to be willing to look at where you might have gone wrong in the past.
What could be different?
Though you might not have had any control over what went wrong, you still should look at how you could have done things differently. If the campaign totally failed, then you probably made a misstep at some point. Of course, you don’t know what this misstep was until it happened, which is how we learn and get better.
Try to break the campaign apart and see which aspects you could do differently next time. For example, if the rest of your idea might have hit it out of the park, but you realize the social media aspect wasn’t strong enough, then you’ve learned a valuable lesson for the future.
On the other hand, you don’t want to get stuck thinking about the past. You can only consider what went wrong for so long before you should just move on. Ruing the past can leave you spinning in circles and worrying that everything new you do will also fail.
During the fall of your campaign you were probably worried about trying to save face or set things into recovery mode. Therefore you may not have listened to your customers as you should; you might even have disregarded what they said altogether. Now is the time to go back and think about what they said.
There’s likely some real solid info in their words, even if they came off as angry or rude. Angry people often speak their minds directly, showing you what upset them. This can shed light on the real source of the campaign failure.
If nobody is around to be angry, ask. Find out what your regular customers thought about the campaign by asking them. Also, see whether they have ideas about how you can improve in the future.
Get an outside opinion
You’re probably too close to the situation to be objective about what went wrong. You’ll always view what you learn through the lens of “yeah, but I made this, so it can’t be that
bad.” This causes a huge problem if you want to move forward.
Do you have a mentor, colleague, or other trusted third party who can offer a candid opinion? Now’s the time to call in a favor. Ask them what they really think and how you can improve what you did. It’s important to get somebody who will be honest. You don’t want anyone sparing your feelings, as getting bad advice at this point could further sink your business.
What was your biggest PR failure? What did you learn from it that has served you well now?
Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases. A version of this article first appeared on the PR Fuel blog.