Monday, 5 November 2012

The Devil is in the Details

Ask anyone you know and chances are that they have heard this idiom on a number of occasions. Illustrating the importance of paying attention to details is equally valid in a reputable PR campaign.

In class we have been told that as PR professionals we must be mindful of details. However every class we are reminded of how important it is to pay close attention to details. Key concepts such as understanding your audience, formulating your key messages and creating a meaningful strategy all infer a need to pay attention to the particulars.

When developing a strategy, for instance, you are deciding on the overarching plan of how you want to accomplish your goal. Within your strategy you then develop a comprehensive checklist of activities that will help you unroll your strategy. This checklist, more accurately referred to as tactics, may include such examples as organizing a press conference, writing an article in Time magazine, reaching youth through social media etc...

Considering al of this, you decide to organize a PR campaign to help raise awareness for human trafficking. This problem of modern day slavery seems to be better understood by younger Canadians and less so by seniors. You know that seniors would be equally outraged by the crime so you decide to reach out to them. Your team is very experienced in reaching youth and less so with seniors. Without going any further in this scenario, you can foresee some serious problems.

After you reuse an old strategy from a previous campaign, you reuse your old tactics. For instance you decide to reach out to seniors by:

- creating a social media campaign
- seeking a pop star celebrity endorsement
- organizing several interactive online town hall meetings

This may seem like an obvious failure from the beginning, however there are real life examples of campaigns that miss the target completely. What’s worse than your target audience would not being reached? Having them find out about your obvious blunder and losing your credibility.

Let’s look at a real life example where a PR campaign went awry. posted a PR gaffe titled Coca-Cola Passes Blame for Graffiti Campaign. Essentially Coca-cola hired an ad agency to advertise for the cola company leading up to the NCAA final four matchups in New Orleans. The ad agency stencilled ads for the Cola company on flagstone sidewalks in the French quarter of New Orleans. Unfortunately they did not seek the required approval to do so from city council, causing a national flap and bad coverage for Coca-Cola.

Although this may on the surface seem like an attractive tactic for Coca Cola, the ad agency failed to check city by-laws and cultural sensitivity. Every PR professional must understand that different cultures view advertisements differently. Before going into a French neighbourhood that is completely surrounded by English speaking Americans, you need to consider the potential reaction.

Not being privy to the inner workings of this campaign I can only speculate as to what happened. However all strategies should involve basic elements like cultural outreach and local advertising laws. This would then trickle down into the detailed tactics where team members can research the needed information.

You can find this Coca Cola incident at:

That’s all for this week, join me next week as we discuss the ‘C’ in the RACE model. If anyone has anything to add, please feel free to comment. Perhaps something related to the US federal election?

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