Three PR techniques that can be very powerful are celebrity, media outreach and events. There is one campaign that used both very well in its launch. Product RED is a huge cause project created by Bono and Bobby Shriver that raises money for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by donating a portion of profits from a range of branded products. American Express, Converse, Giorgio Armani and Gap were the initial partners in the program. GAP ran a lot of advertising surrounding the launch, but they also used a lot of media outreach for a cause made newsworthy because of all the celebrity support. Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Garner, Chris Rock, Maria Shriver and Steven Spielberg all promoted and represented various Product RED goods. For the launch event Bono, Winfrey and other celebrities shopped in downtown Chicago in an effort to enlist support followed by a full episode of The Oprah Winfrey show dedicated to the cause campaign.
But you don’t need celebrities to have a powerful PR campaign. General Mills is using a contest to make their cause campaign newsworthy. “My Hometown Helper” is designed to link its Hamburger Helper brand to community involvement. In 2006 it gave $133,000 in grants to 33 towns and cities for various projects from installing lights for a football field, cleaning up a local river and purchasing ambulance equipment. It is a national story because of the contest. Applicants are asked to write a short essay describing how the grant would help with a community project. Awards range from $500 to $15,000. But the company also picked up press coverage in small communities such as Franklin, PA, whose newspaper ran a feature story about the local Rotarians renovating a theater giving credit to Hamburger Helper for the purchase of the chairs by participation in the company’s My Hometown Helper program.
Another way to garner PR attention is simply by aligning yourself with a hot news topic. Citizens Financial Group may be accused of green washing, but they are picking up attention for their new program called Green$ense which rewards customers who use their debit cards instead of writing checks. It started out refunded 10 cents for each electronic payment they make, up to $10 per month and $120 per year, but the company plans to double these rewards. Besides simply being green, this program is also attractive because it invites consumer participation. People are attracted to small, everyday things they can do like reducing paper transactions that can have a big impact on the environment. To the eco-consumer and eco-press anything tied to green will get attention.
How can you use these tactics to grow your brand?