Public Relations combines the art of storytelling, writing, communications, and digital media to create a public image for a company or brand. The industry focuses on conveying important information to the consumer base or public regarding new products, services, and promotional events.
Public Relations requires a brand to think outside the box and hone in on its creativity. A campaign comes in many different forms, whether through print, online, or television. If successful, the campaign should be impactful. Still, it entirely depends on understanding the target audience, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, what message you want to convey, and setting goals (both big and small). No matter the cost, any firm or brand can achieve a successful campaign because it’s all about the connection (Gerber, 2021).
We’ll be looking at some of the most impactful Public Relations campaigns (both good….and not-so-good). First up? Airlines. Airlines are an excellent example of utilizing PR campaigns to rebrand. After the pandemic, airlines had to think outside the box and convince people that leaving their comfort bubble to travel would be safe and clean. The heads of communications and Public Relations essentially had to go back to the drawing board and square one and answer the question, how do we make flying fun again?
Alaska Airlines produced an ad campaign for the spring and summer season of 2021, a remake of The Safety Dance, which is pretty entertaining and creative. The airlines knew they would connect better with their audience if they had a level of relatability, so no actors were used. Everyone featured in the ad is an employee of Alaska Airlines, including pilots, flight attendants, and other personnel. The video plays while facts about the upgraded safety and air filtration of the airplanes are featured. The ad took three days of rehearsals in the Seattle aircraft hanger (which was only 40 degrees, brrr!) with choreographer Anna Matuszewski and director to the stars like Dua Lipa and the Weekend, Warren Fu. The video has gone viral and surpassed 4 million views (Alaskan Airlines, 2021). To say this campaign was a success would be an understatement. Since then, they have expanded the campaign, and it has become a movement. From a performance at the San Francisco Giants game to a “behind the wings” video of how employees practiced for the video, themed safety dance videos featuring seasonal sweaters, and now thousands of TikTokers joining in to promote the campaign.
Dove is one of my favorites when discussing excellent PR campaigns. They consistently hit their goals, they know who their target market is and how to expand their reach with their message, and they can sell their products while addressing current beauty industry issues. Dove owes most of its advertising success to the “global communications firm,” Edelman, which they partner with. In 2004, Dove and Edelman successfully launched the #RealBeauty campaign, the first of its kind to brand the term “going viral,” which wasn’t a thing until the late 90s and early 2000s. It has since become one of the most massive and expansive advertising campaigns to this day and is still earning success ten years later. The campaign has won numerous awards, and the company’s profit has skyrocketed from 2.5 billion in the first year to 4 billion in 2014 (Neff, 2014). The campaign’s goal has been to change the status quo around the representation and conversation of women’s beauty standards. Sophie Galvani, Dove’s Global Vice President, says the campaign has been successful because they have been able to keep the same mission since 2004 while still acknowledging changes in the beauty industry (Unilever, n.d.).
The campaign still features real and diverse women in hopes to inspire women everywhere”(Unilever, 2017). Dove claims that all images are #Real without photoshopping and are approved by the women in the photos. EVP Esi Eggleston Bracey, Unilever’s North America Beauty and Personal Care Business COO, says the campaign’s success has continued because it is no longer a campaign, “It is an ongoing mission and commitment”(Fromm, 2021). The ongoing mission and commitment have brought a plethora of expansions, including the #SpeakBeautiful campaign in 2016 (Edelman, 2015) and an ongoing partnership with Shonda Rhimes in Dove Real Beauty Productions in 2017.
We can’t talk about Public Relations without discussing a (maybe) well-intentioned ad that completely missed the mark. That’s right; the world will never forget the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad that aired on the fateful day of April 4, 2017. What started as a PR campaign to reach and understand the millennial generation turned into a Public Relations nightmare that required crisis management ASAP. The advertisement’s purpose fell flat when supermodel Kenner Jenner, mid photo shoot, notices a group of very cheerful protesters, proceeds to join them and then gives a can of Pepsi to a police officer. Pepsi released a statement shortly after, apologizing and clarifying the ad’s goal.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout.”
Pepsi was accused of making light of the Black Lives Matter movement and attempting to profit from social issues to sell its product. Of course, social media went wild, bringing attention to the misleading ad and encouraging others to protest Pepsi products. I definitely agree that the ad was inappropriate, and I don’t understand how it did not occur to anyone in production that it may not be received well.
However, this wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last time that a Public Relations campaign is not well executed or received. That’s why all aspects of the PR and communications departments are essential! Join us at BlueTickSocial in celebrating all the large and small Public Relations, digital media firms, and their teams that work around the clock to produce the best results possible. At BlueTickSocial, our team dedicates ourselves to the PR industry to amplify your online presence and brand voice. Contact us today!
Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/music-sound-communication-audio-2235/