1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.
Lately in our industry there has been a lot of debate on what is the role and definition of a public relations expert. I think PR representatives often get a bad rap for being “Spin Doctors” but there is so much more that we accomplish within our respective industries. We engage the community, play the role of marketing and business strategist, of event planner, of traditional and non-traditional media consultant and social media manager. We bring together expertise across consumer, business and industry categories to highlight companies, brands, individuals and products. Crisis Communications and personal publicity is a small portion of the industry, but it doesn’t define our business as a whole.
In the world of consumer awareness, often it is promotion gone awry that gets recognition simply because it hits newsstands first. From oil spills to Lindsay Lohan’s latest trip to rehab, it is generally the less glamorous news that the public relations industry is associated with. But there are so many amazing case studies highlighting the successes of PR industry representatives.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently announced their national Silver Anvil awards winners. While there were several entry categories ranging from Global Communications to Public Affairs, one winner in the Community Relations category really stood out to me. The PepsiCo Refresh Project organized by Edelman and Weber Shandwick showcased great work in Community Relations, Social Media and Social Responsibility. These PR representatives were able to leverage a business product in the food / beverage category while simultaneously supporting local communities throughout the U.S. with a “Doing Good” proposition.
Positioning itself as the optimistic catalyst for idea creation, the Pepsi Refresh Project (PRP) invites the public to Do Good. An exercise in digital media democracy; using social and earned media to engage and empower consumers, Pepsi has made the process engaging and asked those with ideas to harness the power of their networks – over 12,000 projects to date having motivated and received more than 76 million votes from the American public. The Project drives conversation and builds credibility in the social enterprise and innovation arenas through a dynamic, real time “campaign” which democratizes the process of turning ideas into reality, earning more than 3 billion audience impressions to-date positively enhancing the Pepsi brand. Recent data from Marketing Evolutions reveals that knowledge of PRP (36%) remains high compared to comparable social innovation campaigns.
Often, with cause marketing campaigns, it is the public relations expert behind the scenes who is helping with community engagement through message creation, by pushing out news and ensuring that events, statements and corresponding media coverage remain focused on the cause and its broader impact.
Red Sky is currently promoting Avery Dennison’s Give Back to Schools campaign, where the global office supply company is celebrating the second year it has implemented this cause marketing program. Last year we worked with Avery Dennison to stage a Guinness World Record-setting event in New York City and for the national contest, over 745,000 votes poured in from across the country, resulting in 15 schools being awarded with much-needed Avery school supplies. This year, Avery is expanding the promotion to award 30 schools with much-needed educational resources and offering cash benefits through Avery’s partnership in Box Tops for Education®.
While charity-driven brands such as TOMS shoes might be a household name (with the average person aware of the one-for-one work they are doing to donate footwear to children in need), others like Clothes Off Our Back are less familiar. Even with actress Jane Kaczmarek tied to this non-profit organization, I am still surprised to find that more people are aware of Charlie Sheen’s latest mishap than the fact that this organization spent the past ten years auctioning off celebrity award show apparel to earn substantial funds for children’s charities.
Whether it’s consumer product or government or entertainment or tech-focused, I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to completely overcome this definition as “Spin Doctor,” but hopefully the case studies above will shed some light into the more positive campaigns that inspire us within our jobs and the businesses that we work with and the industries that we are involved with. So here’s my spin…Let’s take a second out of our day to stop and look a bit deeper into the companies doing good, before re-tweeting the latest celeb gossip. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to judge. Hey, even us do-gooders of the world need an occasional Perez Hilton fix!
– Samantha O’Lea