Creating better work stories: how creative PR is doing the business

More than 190 people from across the marketing community heard from an impressive list of speakers about how creative PR ideas can achieve business goals during the International PR Forum put on by the CAANZ Marcomms Leadership Group in Auckland last Wednesday. So here’s a rundown on all the good stuff. 

The four leaders of three award-winning campaigns and agencies showcased global marcomms best practice and effectiveness drawn from their own case studies, including NAB’s Break Up, Bundaberg’s Watermark, and Fleishman-Hillard’s extensive track record.

National Bank Australia: ‘Break up’ and beyond

Opening speakers, Kevin Ramsdale, general manager brand, NAB, and Tim McColl Jones, business director at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, spoke about the thinking behind the Break Up campaign, and the simple yet brilliant steps that led to its success.

They attributed this success to the one clear idea at the heart of all communications: that “NAB is having a very public break up with the other banks”. They emphasised the value of allowing that idea to be adapted and owned by local teams, to build a core internal fraternity.

By issuing a bold statement, marrying traditional media with new media, and then bravely relinquishing ownership of the idea, NAB generated an abundance of integrated and sharable moments; moments that the public themselves “spread like wildfire”.

As they put it, NAB simply created a story worth talking about.

Lynne Anne Davis – Fleishman Hillard

In discussing the importance of creative and insights-driven ideas, Lynne Anne Davis, regional president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard Asia Pacific, highlighted the power of truly integrated communications.

She discussed the PESO approach to integration; engaging Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media channels to solve multiple business issues and real world problems. She proved this with multiple case studies, including Adidas Japan, General Motors & Chevy, Kia Motors and Gatorade campaigns.

“Traditional models of marketing have been turned on their head,” she says, and developing integrated communications with creative and contextual content, delivered across PESO channels is the best method to achieve commercial results.

Matt Bruhn – Bundaberg

Matt Bruhn, marketing director at Diageo Australia, put an altruistic spin on PR during his presentation and emphasised the value of helping local communities, using the Bundaberg ‘Watermark’ campaign as evidence.

When the floods devastated Queensland in early 2011, the Bundaberg brand rallied to lift local spirits. He explained that the team simply felt that “it was the right thing to do”, to support the local community that they were part of. Bundaberg created a commemorative bottle, and coordinated a series of simultaneous events across 16 venues attended by 7340 locals, with all profits going to flood relief.

Although the brand raised more than $930,000 for flood relief, he emphasised that the driving factor of the campaign was about the people, not the finances. “It was simply to do good,” he said.

Panel session summary

Chaired by Vincent Heeringa, publisher of NZ Marketing and StopPress, all four speakers answered questions and discussed the issues canvassed during the forum.

Integration & the power of ideas

All speakers had clearly emphasised the importance of integrated strategy across all media and the power of a single, creative idea. As Ramsdale explained, the ownership of the idea is now shared across agencies and clients; essentially agencies provide the creative spark that encapsulates what the client is trying to achieve. McColl Jones commented that despite the fragmentation and segmentation within the market, good ideas can come from anywhere and need to be nurtured throughout the entire process.

Dealing with criticism

Following a question about the other banks’ responses, Ramsdale said that if a brand’s identity is strong, criticism will offer another opportunity to the development story.

Social media and control

Davis commented that in some respects, PR does lose control of the message and instead has become the creator of content. However, through a trans-media approach, social media can be a key part of the overall conversation, allowing brands to participate instead of controlling the two-way dialogue; “traditional media is the voice, social media is the megaphone,” she says.

Bruhn agreed that social media can’t be controlled. Previously private conversations are now being carried out in a public arena. However, the power of social media lies in its inexpensive, instant and interconnected opportunities. All brands need a social media strategy and a voice and tone that suit that space; this will redefine how the brand interacts.

The value of authenticity

Bruhn discussed the altruistic motive behind the Watermark campaign, and the value that gave to the brand. However, he emphasised that is was “purely altruistic” without underlying motives or goals for band metrics. He advised that unless a campaign is absolutely philanthropic, there is no point in pretending, “otherwise you’re going to fall flat”.

While NAB did have commercial imperatives, Ramsdale said the message was still authentic. Although they were criticised by cynics, the risk was analysed and prepared for.

Bruhn advised the audience, to carefully assess the risk profiles of clients, and to “pick your battles and choose which clients will take risks”, for campaigns to be both effective and supported internally.

  • Steph McDonald is a communications executive at CAANZ

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