Getting the word out: Storytelling lessons from winning brand campaigns

These past PR Daily Award winners stuck with us for their creative engagement methods.

A great PR campaign gets an organization’s message across creatively and interestingly. While the goals of increased awareness and calls to action remain similar across the board, there are many ways to get there.

We’ve selected several winners from last year’s PR Daily Awards to highlight what an exemplary campaign looks like. Be sure to apply for this year’s edition of the awards by the June 28th deadline as well.

Food and Beverage Campaign: Popeyes, “Blackened Chicken Sandwich”

The background: If you’re attuned to internet food culture, you might remember the “Chicken Wars” from a few years back, a moment when popular fast food restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes released social marketing campaigns to build hype around their chicken sandwiches.

Popeyes spotlighted its newly-released blackened chicken sandwich with the “Copy This” campaign, directly challenging its competitors to make a better sandwich by giving the exact ingredient list out publicly. Bold move!

The campaign was a runaway success for the chain, earning 580 media placements and over 2 billion impressions.  Forty-four percent of social mentions leaned into the “Chicken Wars” terminology too, adding more drama and excitement for audiences to engage with. Major outlets and programs covered the program as well, including “CBS This Morning”, “Access Hollywood” and USA Today.

The takeaway: A little bit of humor, confidence and drama can create a story that others want to talk about and be a part of.

Hospitality and Tourism Campaign: The Palm Beaches, “The Golden Age of Travel”

The background: A great vacation destination is known for its hospitality. When The Palm Beaches, the tourism board for Palm Beach County in Florida, wanted to set out to encourage travel after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it leaned into its reputation as one of the original American getaway spots, a destination for 125 years.

With its campaign, “The Original. The One. The Only. The Palm Beaches” campaign, The tourism board sought to hearken back to a time when hospitality reigned supreme while mixing in the social marketing tactics of today that make campaigns stand out. The campaign sought to target travelers in colder markets, including New York and Chicago, through interactive experiences in New York’s Grand Central Station and Chicago’s Union Station that allowed users to upload photo booth shots alongside an informational installation for a chance to win a trip to The Palm Beaches.

The campaign earned 220 million impressions across all platforms, including 3.4 million coming from the followers of 58 influencers who attended the activation events. Additionally, visits to the campaign’s tourism site increased 35% month-over-month and 104% year-over-year.

The takeaway: Leaning into your past with a futuristic touchpoint can make history feel personal and experiential.

Thought Leadership Communications Campaign: Mindgruve, “First Horizons Bank Corporate Communications Campaign”

The background: . While awaiting regulatory approvals during a potential acquisition, First Horizons decided to get out ahead of things and hire comms agency Mindgruve to help expand the scope of the bank’s leadership comms efforts so employees and customers alike could hear from the organization’s heads.

Though the proposed acquisition ultimately didn’t go through and was called off after 14 months of limbo, First Horizons’ leadership comms campaign helped stabilize stakeholders. Efforts included a LinkedIn campaign involving seven leaders at the bank providing their expertise and showing face to the public, and media training to help the leaders easily handle external media placements.

The strategy was a success, earning over 165,000 placements between thought leadership articles, social posts, and media interviews. Media coverage for First Horizons rose 56% year-over-year, and highlights of the campaign included appearances by leaders in The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.

The takeaway: Your leaders have personalities and nuance — a well-executed storytelling campaign humanizes them and positions them as protagonists in the process.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.


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