6 Most Impactful PR Campaigns of 2020/21 (And A Guide To Help You Achieve Yours)

SparkAmpLab Editorial Team
August 6, 2021

PR campaigns are ubiquitous, and perhaps you might have a favourite or two in mind that you still have stuck in your head. Successful PR campaigns can be said to be those that are the most impactful. In recent memory, one notable one would be when the movie Avengers: Infinity War surpassed Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2018 to have the biggest opening weekend of all time, after which the Star Wars Twitter account tweeted this photo to congratulate the passing of the baton (or lightsaber, in this case). 

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In this post, we’ll share several valuable tips about how to create a successful PR campaign, as well as our top PR campaigns during the 2020/21 period.

What Is A PR Campaign?

You’ve definitely seen PR campaigns while you’re out and about. A PR campaign, or a public relations campaign, is a piece of communication meant to promote a product or service, though as HubSpot’s definition adds, can include dealing with a brand’s reputation. If you’re still unsure what it is exactly, fret not as later in this article there will be a few examples for reference.

Why Are PR Campaigns Important?

Public relations is absolutely crucial to any business. It’s about sharing to your target market and audiences what you do, why you do it (your story), and why people should be invested in what you’re doing, so that you can grow further. This is why it is important to cultivate and maintain a positive and ideal brand image of your choice through PR.

8 Tips and Strategies To Create A Successful PR Campaign

We have taken the best and most noteworthy PR campaign tips and strategies from HubSpot, Prowly, and Forbes, to help you achieve campaign success. This is a non-exhaustive list of tips to create a successful PR campaign - so much work goes into creating one that there is truly an endless list, but these are good starting points to work off from.

1. Set Your Goal(s)

A key part of a successful PR campaign will be goal-setting, as is with many other things. You will need to define what ‘success’ looks like for your campaign - the metrics of success. Perhaps this can include sales figures of the product you want to promote, or to cultivate a positive brand image among your target audience. This has to be specific so that you know you’re getting the results you want and need. For instance, what would this positive brand image be, and how do you determine if this has been created?

Setting PR campaign goals will ensure that your plans are on the right track with a goal in mind, and that you will meet the aims of your campaign. 

2. Understanding Your Audience

Your target audience is a vital part of your PR campaign since they will be the receivers of the messaging and ultimately the role as a judge falls upon them. In order to effectively reach and relate to them, you will need to understand their demographic and what makes them tick. This would mean they would be a factor in determining the time and messaging of your campaign, and perhaps even the platforms it will be on. Immerse yourself in their world, and you’ll likely get better reception.

3. Campaign Platforms

Of course, you will need to choose which platforms your PR campaign will be visible on. In this day and age, apart from your traditional billboards and public spaces, you have the whole internet at your disposal. This means a whole host of social media platforms with differing audiences and demographics. 

Say you’re stuck between Instagram and Twitter - both have varying ways of messaging, with the former being more image-based while the latter is text-based and involves snappy messaging. They require different presentations so you would have to decide which is most effective for what you want your campaign to do. Either way, you can exploit platforms to heighten your campaign, as you will see in some PR campaign examples below.

4. Getting The Message Across

To ensure your PR campaign gets its ideas across to audiences, messaging is a huge part that needs your careful attention and consideration. Just like how there needs to be a consistent goal across your campaign, the messaging needs to be like that too. As Cutting Edge PR suggests, to start in your message developing process, go back to the drawing board with your goals and strategies - your messaging needs to be aligned with these. Your messages should also be concise, compelling, and memorable, so that audiences are able to form brand associations quickly every time your campaign surfaces. This is something many huge businesses have, and truly what makes them stand out.

Additionally, as your target audience may still be a fairly large group of people that could be further segmented by demographics, your messaging should also be flexible - being able to be tailored according to each group while maintaining the core message that’s the same across the board.

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5. Having A Smashing Press Release

Just as much as you want your campaign to be attention grabbing, you’ll want to achieve this with your press release as well. It is a known fact that journalists have endless amounts of PR emails making their way into their inboxes every week, which means you have to make sure yours stands out. A captivating headline means a better likelihood of your email being opened and your press release being read. Establish credibility through quotes from employees or industry experts, and make sure all information needed is included so journalists have something to work with from the get go. Check out our article on writing a killer press release here.

6. Building Relationships With Journalists

Working off from the previous tip, journalists should be your best friends in your PR campaign endeavour. They are the mouthpiece through which your campaign will  get precious exposure, thus getting your message far and wide. Get to know journalists that specialise in writing for your industry focus - this way you’ll be able to pitch to them directly rather than competing with the masses. This will require a longer process as you foster relationships with them, but will likely have valuable payoff for your PR campaigns in the long run.

7. Using Influencers

Influencer marketing has been extremely popular these past few years, with the monetization of social media personalities. They are particularly useful for reaching younger audiences, since they are more likely to be familiar with such influencers. The influencer market has been a consistently multi-billion dollar industry, and in 2021 has been forecasted to hit a new high of US$13.8 billion. There are no signs of stopping the trend of influencers and their ‘influence’, so they could be a wonderful spokesperson for your PR campaign. Do note that research should be done on their persona and profile, to ensure that you are reaching the right audience and the influencer is a right fit for you.

Related Article: A Guide to Building An Influencer Outreach Strategy

8. Following Holidays

Holidays are the times of the year when people are likely to be in a more relaxed mood, and in the case of campaigns wanting to increase sales for a product, this could be the perfect time to do so. It is of course limited by a specific time period, and for certain PR campaigns only. Nonetheless, holidays are worth considering when planning your PR campaign, in terms of themed messaging and timing. 

The holidays could be beneficial for your campaign and brand, just like how people of the UK look forward to the John Lewis Christmas advertisements in the winter months, to drive the Christmas Spirit. Make sure to exercise caution when dealing with holidays though, depending on their nature and focus!

6 Most Impactful PR Campaigns of 2020/21

Without a doubt, 2020 (and likely 2021) was a perplexing, challenging time for many people worldwide. The world came to a standstill for a while, presenting all of us with an unfamiliar environment. Even so, businesses had to find ways to keep afloat, whilst maintaining sensitivity towards the global situation.

There are two main types of PR and marketing campaigns in this period of time - the sentimental ones, meant to conjure up our emotions, and the humorous/joyful ones, giving some light in an already dark time. Here are just some of the most impactful PR campaigns that came out during the pandemic in 2020:

KFC: “It’s Good” Campaign

KFC's 2020 pr campaign during the pandemic

One of the greatest takeaways from the pandemic was the importance of keeping your hands clean, since they are a main point of contact. However, as we know, KFC’s slogan “it’s finger licking good” implies a rather-unsavoury action in this time. Apparently, the Advertising Standards Authority received 163 complaints from people about KFC’s advert showing just this.

To curb this and prevent anymore criticism, the fast food giant in mid 2020 went on to cleverly blur out the middle two words, leaving the slogan to read “it’s ****** ****** good”. Relying on brand recognition with a tinge of lighthearted humour, it was a pretty smart move on KFC’s part, shaving off any assumptions that their PR team would respond to the complaints in a typical corporate cold manner.

Expedia: Let’s Take A Trip

A heavily impacted industry during the pandemic, for obvious reasons, was the tourism industry. With people not allowed to travel as much as they used to, most were stuck indoors while breeding wanderlust. Of course, to stay afloat, online travel retailer Expedia had to think of other ways to maintain brand recognition among the public.

Taking inspiration from the many creative, crafty endeavours people explored during lockdowns, Expedia’s “Let’s Take A Trip” video advert featured two people in their house, replicating getaways and holidays in their living rooms through household objects. This includes: a car made out of a combination of a table and some kitchen tools, climbing a mountain made out of various cloth found around the house, and a hotel bed out of a sofa. With 8.7 million views on YouTube and counting, it’s safe to say the ad has been a hit. It’s a fun take to the whole ‘stay home’ message that had been spreading.

Thai Airways: #StayHome Miles Campaign

If you’re an avid traveller, you’ll be more than familiar with travel miles - and drowning in the sadness of not getting any in this time. Thai Airways, as an airline carrier, would be the last company you’d think would be telling you to stay home, but they did. Instead of miles for air travel, they started awarding miles to people for staying at home.

According to the instructional video released by communications agency Wunderman Thompson, users would have to download an app and enter their home address, to which a 100-metre radius would be set. All users had to do was stay within the radius for as long as possible (hence likely staying at home) and watch their miles collate. What happens if you do need to leave the radius? The count will stop, and subsequently resume upon your return.

Seems like a pretty genius campaign to get people to stay home for as long as possible, for their own safety, while in some way preparing for when leisure travel returns. It’s helping to divert some of the wanderlust energy to something useful and beneficial.

Dove: Courage Is Beautiful

Healthcare workers saw the pandemic unfold firsthand - from hospital beds to ICUs filling up. They became the forefront of attention, and Dove decided to step in to highlight and recognise their efforts. 

In addition to making donations towards efforts to provide more PPE and products to help these workers, Dove released a video advert with portraits of several healthcare workers on the job, and the hardship they have to go through during this period. It was an emotional ad, showing gratitude towards the workers and their tireless work thus far. For a beauty company, they are helping to redefine what is classified under ‘beautiful’ - in this instance beyond aesthetics, but in action. It’s also a different take to other brands advertising during the pandemic, who tend to focus more on telling people to stay home, while this shifts it towards the people who have to deal with the consequences of the virus spreading. 

Google: Thank You Healthcare Workers

Last but not least, we have Google on this list. Their campaign, like Dove’s, brought healthcare workers and their efforts to the spotlight. The video ad starts off with several popular search terms via the search engine, all connected to healthcare workers e.g “how to help medical workers”. The ad also consists of self-taped videos of different people thanking healthcare workers - and it is this personal rallying together that makes the video ad touching and emotional.

The point of the campaign? To direct people to a Google page where they can find COVID-19 resources for just about anything. From COVID-19 vaccine information to distance learning resources for teachers, Google has cleverly used the ad to make their brand stand out as a human one, willing to help in any way they can using their expertise, thus leading people back to their own website. The video stands at 6.2 million views at the time of writing, and hopefully some of these views come from healthcare workers themselves, showing them that they are not alone.

Paralympic Games: WeThe15

2021 was the year the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games could finally take place, albeit in a tricky situation given that COVID-19 was still well and truly around. Nonetheless, we turned our attention to the many hard working athletes and their talents. A joint effort between the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization, with the help of communications agency adam&eveDDB, a 10 year long campaign ‘WeThe15’ was launched. It’s aim? To improve the integration of disabled people into society.

The campaign’s title makes reference to the 15% of the world’s population that is disabled - a rather significant percentage. However, unlike igniting sympathy for this group, the campaign instead wants to show how ordinary disabled people are. Strategy director Sarah Benson states that after speaking to a number of disabled people, they realised that they would have the campaign’s focus be on this demographic’s ‘ordinariness’. While success is hard to track given how new the campaign is, it is a hope for a better future, even if it is just one decade-long campaign (or maybe they’ll want to extend it?).

Final Takeaways

In order to understand how to create a successful and effective PR campaign, there are plenty of tips and strategies you can learn and integrate into your venture. However, besides the theory behind the practice, it is also useful to look towards what other companies and businesses have done so far and learn from these examples. To retain audiences’ attention and loyalty, what you need to be aiming for with your campaign is to relate to and connect with them.

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