10 creative PR ideas to try

Have you ever tried partnering with another brand, or getting inspiration from kids? Here are some new campaign ideas to consider.

Few ideas take off on the first try. Sometimes ideas flop, but we tinker, tweak and try them in new ways.

Reinvention is a PR strategy. And so, from perhaps several dozen posts on creative ideas published on Sword and the Script since 2009, I offer some of the macro-level takeaways I’ve observed:

1. Make a sweet team.

Google recently partnered with KitKat to name the latest version of its Android operating system after the candy bar. The software proved to be a good flavor for KitKat, too. The unlikely partnership with the tech company raised KitKat’s visibility just prior to the Halloween candy rush.

You can find a detailed case study here: “Seriously Fun Analysis: Google’s Android KitKat PR Stunt.”

2. View the economy as an evergreen trend.

The economy is an evergreen topic because it’s so central to our way of life.

Burger King literally dropped cash when money was tight, the NBA’s New Jersey Nets linked the unemployed with its sponsors, and Gap got Wall Street businesspeople to dress down for a day.

These are essentially publicity stunts (but with real value) tied to other marketing efforts and riding the coattails of an economic theme. Whether the economy is up or down, you can usually find a trend.

Read about these and other creative PR ideas here: “Seven Creative PR ideas.”

3. Make the usual unusual.

Grasshopper claims to be the phone system for entrepreneurs. You can regularly hear the company’s advertisements on conventional radio stations, but it wasn’t always that way.

The company was once known as GovVMail. In 2009, the company rebranded as Grasshopper. To mark the occasion, the company sent chocolate-covered grasshoppers to 5,000 influential bloggers and reporters. It seemed as if you couldn’t open a Web browser without seeing a reference to the campaign. From The Wall Street Journal to Guy Kawasaki, anyone with a finger on the pulse of promotion wrote about it, posted pictures online and dared people to take a bite.

I caught up with the people behind the campaign for this Q&A: “Unconventionally creative: a non-PR PR case study.”

4. Provide an interactive social experience.

In late 2009, brands started to experiment with ways to incorporate offline marketing mediums with the communities they served on social media. Today, the forward-thinking take this for granted, yet there are still many organizations that struggle to integrate traditional silos, let alone bring in a community and give it access and a share of voice.

Publications started soliciting guest posts as well as photos and other forms of media, perhaps mirroring the success of CNN’s iReport.

Businesses started to do it, too. A casino started shelling out big bucks to put its Twitter handle on billboards, airlines started asking customers for travel destination reviews and consumer businesses started segmenting social media accounts for specific interest groups.

Read more here: “Seven Creative Social Media Marketing & PR Ideas.”

5. Combine contests and events.

It’s one thing to have a contest, but it’s quite another to tie it to an event.

LG hosted a National Texting Championship and incorporated these two principles beautifully. Again we see elements of a partnership—the event coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Blogger, which claimed, “Every minute of every day, 270,000 words are written on Blogger.”

A quarter of a million people entered the contest, and a 13-year-old girl won by texting “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” on her phone. You can find an analysis of the event and contest from a PR perspective here: “Creative PR ideas: contests.”

6. Make people feel good.

Holidays are annual events, and the key is what sets one campaign apart from the others. Everyone has a pitch for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Mother’s Day, and while it’s probably out of fashion to run a Christmas tweet-up, there are ample opportunities to put a jingle in your pitch and find a warm story to tie it to a good cause: “‘Tis the season: 7 creative PR ideas for the holidays.”

7. Give gifts to your community.

A team of mine once had a program where three of us would send a note to two people who gave our brand shout-outs on social media. We often had a stack of books to give away, so we’d take a screenshot of the social media post, write a short handwritten note, place the note and screenshot inside the book and send it off by mail. It never went viral, but we earned a lot of new fans over time.

Kleenex took this to another level in January 2012. The company monitored social media for anyone mentioning he or she didn’t feel well. Within an hour or two, Kleenex sent the first 50 people Kleenex Kits to alleviate their ailments. It didn’t go viral, but it did provide base hits. And it’s why Kleenex, amid dozens of brands selling tissues, has more than one hundred thousand fans.

Read about this and five other ideas—including some novel ideas for press releases—here: “5 Creative PR and Marketing Ideas.”

8. Blend different types of media.

A company I once worked for ran a contest. It was simple enough: Use our press release service for free in a contest and document the results in a blog post. The winner, based on page views (which we could verify), got free service for a year.

Later, someone in marketing got the idea to use the winner in a paid advertising campaign across the Web. It later turned into a successful cooperative story pitch for a marketing trade publication.

While the advertisement was coincidental (a marketer on his or her toes), it reinforced the effectiveness of running organic campaigns and backing them up with paid media, which in turn earns more media.

There are several companies that do this effectively. I’ve documented six solid examples here: “6 Creative PR Ideas for Blended Media.”

9. Informally partner with other brands.

If there’s one underlying theme in many of the creative ideas I’ve spotted, it’s that 1 + 1 = 3. That is, partnering with other brands raises the stakes and newsworthiness of an idea.

The partnership doesn’t always have to be formal. In a post called “7 Sexy and Creative PR Ideas,” Jeep and Burger King made an informal play post-crisis:

“Earlier this year both Burger King and Jeep’s Twitter handles were hacked. Those stories, just months ago, may well seem long forgotten given the velocity and plethora of news in social media, but it was quite the buzz for a week or so. The creative part is when the dust had settled, both brands recovered with grace.

@BurgerKing tweeted @Jeep “Glad everything is back to normal.”

Whoever was managing the Jeep handle didn’t miss a beat and responded, “Thanks BK. Let us know if you want to grab a burger and swap stories—we’ll drive.”

MediaCupla has screenshots in a post titled “Burger King and Jeep turn Twitter hacking into PR opportunity.” The lesson? Social media has brought an age where people strive to be brands and brands strive to be human. Mistakes will be made, but how brands manage them often turns a crisis into an opportunity.”

10. Take a cue from kids.

Kids have so much creativity. They say things with innocence and clarity, often out of curiosity and the struggle to understand new things by associating them with what they already understand. (They do this to a degree that most adults cannot.)

For businesses that pay attention, children’s advice is free, unfiltered and often valuable.

It can lead to new talent acquisition:

“The National Railway Museum in the UK hired a six-year-old as it’s “director of fun.” The boy had sent a letter to the museum after learning a recent retirement had left an opening. The BBC took note.”

And it can lead to proper rebranding:

Sainsbury may be the oldest retailer in London, but it’s clearly open to new ideas. According to The Telegraph, Sainsbury renamed it’s fresh baked bread from “Tiger” to “Giraffe” after a 3 year-old, with parental help, responded to a Facebook campaign aimed at re-branding the product. Reportedly the little girl felt the delicious spots on the bread bore a stronger resemblance to a giraffe’s spots than tiger stripes. The company has enjoyed positive coverage in trades, the HuffPost and at least 145 comments in one Reddit thread. Add Sainsbury’s efforts to similar campaigns, like well-conceived contests, to the line up of especially effective and creative PR moves.”

These two anecdotes are from round up posts here and here.

If you’re looking for more creative ideas, try these 10 posts:

  1. A creative press release you’ll love
  2. Tapping White Space for Creative Blog Ideas
  3. Content Marketing: Five Creative Ways to Repurpose Content
  4. 10 Unconventional and Creative Ways to Find a PR Job
  5. Content Marketing: Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
  6. Five Clever Ideas for Savvy PR pitches” (former employer)
  7. Five Creative PR Ideas for Launches” (former employer)
  8. Five Effective PR Stunts for Cyber Monday Marketing” (former employer)
  9. Five PR and Marketing Lessons from The Book of Business Awesome” (former employer)
  10. Seven Timeless Books for Every PR and Marketing Pro” (former employer)

A version of this article originally appeared on Sword and the Script.

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Topics: PR

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