6 things great PR campaigns have in common

There are a few common elements that separate merely good campaigns from the very best.


When it comes to capturing the attention of journalists, experts and prospects, some PR campaigns have more impact than others. What makes the difference? There are countless factors, from the development of the initial strategy, through the details of planning and execution. Every campaign is distinct, of course, and there are no cookie-cutter solutions. However, when I think about the difference between a blockbuster PR program and one that’s merely good, there are some commonalities.

Here are some of the criteria of a top-notch PR campaign, and that most killer PR programs have in common.

They’re audience-focused. Some brands are lucky enough to have a core following of very passionate customers. Although it’s run into some reputation snags recently, apparel brand Lululemon has built its brand through a local-market campaign that recruits in-city athletes, trainers, and fitness entrepreneurs to spread the yoga gospel and indirectly promote its brand. For an art-materials-retailer client, we invite local artists, art teachers, and even artsy families with kids to store events to reinforce the company’s ties with local communities, including the press and bloggers.

They’re well timed. When it comes to the publicity aspect of a campaign, timing can make all the difference. A campaign we ran about a credit union’s advantages over banks was transformed when launched just before Valentine’s Day and added a call to action to “break up with your bank.” For three years, we ran a “Director of Sleep” job search for a mattress brand that wanted to be linked to healthy slumber. The first time was back in 2011, when jobs were particularly scarce. A key factor in the campaign’s “dream” results was its launch in May, just as new college grads were flooding a very anemic job market. We’re convinced that different timing would have yielded poorer results. They’re simple. PR professionals can sometimes overcomplicate their tactics. Something as basic and fun as sending Muppets cupcakes to prominent tweeters to promote a new Muppets movie is about as simple as social outreach gets, but it carried the movie campaign beautifully, because it was visual, it appealed to the recipients, and it was very consistent with the whimsical Muppets brand. Who could resist tweeting such a gift?

They put old ideas in new packages. It’s hard to dream up a completely new idea, but often, you don’t need to. Consider what animal rescue group Social Tees and dating app Tinder did last summer when they teamed to promote puppy adoption. Instead of another familiar appeal to the public to adopt a pet, with the depressing statistics about animals in shelters, the available dogs were profiled on Tinder to “match” them with suitable owners. The campaign generated a litter of pun-filled stories and more than 2,500 matches in its first week.

They humanize brands. Kleenex has tissues delivered to people posting on social media about the miseries of having a cold. Simple, audience-focused, and very sympathetic. One of the best ways to make a company more human is to pull back the curtain on its workforce. GE, for example, posts #throwbackthursday photos of its early leaders. It also uses “Instawalks” to invite Instagram users into GE facilities to share their experiences, offering a look under the hood of one of America’s most iconic companies.

They’re entertaining. It’s no surprise that some of the most enduring PR and content campaigns got there because they make people laugh. Mark Malkoff lived in an Ikea store for a week to show how inviting it is. GE scored again with its #springbreakit video series that takes the “Will It Blend” meme to another level. Entertaining content is compulsively shareable, and that’s one of the best-known “secrets” of great PR.

Dorothy Crenshaw is CEO and creative director of Crenshaw Communications. She has been named one of the public relations industry’s 100 Most Powerful Women by PR Week. A version of this story originally appeared on her agency’s ImPRessions blog. (Image via)

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