What’s the secret to crafting a great public relations campaign? The key lies in understanding your target audience, so that you can customize a message that’s meant for their eyes and ears alone.

But that message should never come at the expense of brand integrity.

With so many PR disasters dominating the headlines, it can be hard to notice the brands that are doing PR the right way. But for every crisis at the forefront of the news media, there are even more brands quietly celebrating PR wins.

Consider the lessons some of these winning PR campaigns have to offer.

Burger King: “Explains a Lot”

In 2018, when self-styled rap god Kanye West gave a shoutout to McDonald’s on Twitter, McDonald’s competitor Burger King UK responded laconically by tweeting, “Explains a lot.

That tweet went on to become the most “liked” brand tweet of all time, shared by more than 1 million Twitter users.

Looking to reinvent itself as a franchise with appeal for hip young Millennials, Burger King repurposed a social media clash as a PR campaign. The campaign won an enormous number of awards as well as youthful new customers for the venerable fast-food chain.

Lesson to be learned: Your social media accounts are a digital goldmine for building strong customer connections, especially with younger customers.

Another important takeaway is to understand your target audience and the type of messaging that appeals to them. Burger King nailed their message, and got it across to the right audience.

Kellogg’s Black and White Cereal Boxes

In 2019, the cereal giant, Kellogg’s, designed their most popular cereals on black and white boxes, and partnered with Crayola to encourage buyers to ‘color and win.’ Consumers were encouraged to color the cereal boxes and submit them to the company to win prizes.

“When brands are looking for ways to set their product apart from the other choices on the shelf, it’s clever to think of a PR campaign that will not only make them stand out, but will also engage the consumer,” explains Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics.

Lesson to be learned: Promoting customer engagement can have a positive impact on PR. By incorporating experiential elements to your PR campaigns, you can boost engagement, and thus create a deeper connection with your audience.

Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich

2019 was a killer year for fast food, Twitter and PR. When the Miami-based fried chicken chain Popeyes brought out a chicken sandwich, that business, too, delved deeply into their social media presence to promote its new product.

Popeyes got into a playful tweet war with Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A, two competitors already in the chicken sandwich market. The #ChickenWars storyline bandied about endlessly in Twitter and Instagram accounts was effortless—and free—advertising.

Disaster threatened to hit at the end of August when the restaurants ran out of chicken. Popeyes was able to transform this into another PR bonanza, though, by lightheartedly making fun of itself and directing customers to download an app, which would let them know the minute the sandwich was put back on the menu.

Lesson to be learned: There are no mistakes; there are only opportunities. If you find yourself in the midst of a PR crisis, or potential crisis, be transparent, own up to your mistake and communicate with your audience.

By using the potential crisis as an opportunity to improve customer service, through the mobile app, Popeyes scored another win in the eyes of potential customers.

FAA #FlySafe Campaign

The FAA and the General Aviation (GA) community launched a #FlySafe campaign in 2015, that gained even more traction in 2019, following the Boeing 737 PR crisis.

The campaign is aimed at pilot safety, including loss of control, powerplant failure, and controlled flight into terrain.

Although this campaign didn’t make it to the mainstream, it did make an impact on pilots and get everyone talking about safety, which was the goal in the first place.

Lesson to be learned: Know your target audience. Trying to generate mainstream awareness or a viral PR campaign, doesn’t make sense for every business.

By targeting your PR campaigns towards your primary audience, you stand to gain much more traction in your industry.

World Wildlife Foundation

The World Wildlife Foundation piggybacked on the #10YearChallenge craze to raise awareness about the impacts of deforestation.

The #1oYearChallenge trend involved people comparing images of themselves on social media, one from 2009 and the other from 2019. Some people had drastic changes and some none at all. During this craze, many advocates for the planet used the opportunity to raise awareness over the protection of the earth.

Lesson to be learned: By keeping up with current pop culture trends, you can earn PR success by inserting yourself in the story. Better yet, you can use current trends to garner media attention and promote a good cause.

Kayleigh Ogley of Gradient Consulting further reiterates, “Brands need to capitalize on opportunities that have the maximum positive impact for the brand. ”

Nike: Air Force 1

Influencers come in all shapes, sizes and demographic flavors. For the popular athletic shoe manufacturer Nike, Colin Kaepernick was the perfect brand ambassador because he harkened back to the type of maverick appeal that was behind the brand’s memorable rallying cry: Just Do It.

Nike’s sneaker collaboration with the NFL quarterback-turned-activist superimposed Kaepernick’s silhouette over the company’s own familiar logo. The coup de grâce, though, were the numbers “08 14 16” on the right shoe’s sole. August 18, 2016 was the day Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem.

When Nike made its intentions known to tap Kaepernick for a promotional role, a lot of analysts figured it was a bad move. Kaepernick’s actions had stirred controversy; some of it was positive, but a lot of it was negative. What if shoppers decided to boycott the sneaker?

But Nike knew its audience. The Kaepernick Air Force 1 sneakers sold out completely in a single day.

Lesson to be learned: Find the right brand spokesperson, and half your battle is won.

Secondary lesson? Realize that not everyone is in your target demographic, and that sometimes it’s okay to create waves, if it means standing by your brand values.

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