Unconventional Public Relations
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Unconventional Public Relations
Generating interest by defying convention in public relations.
Curated by Sean Carnell
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Going Viral: A low-cost gamble with huge potential for animals needing a home

Going Viral: A low-cost gamble with huge potential for animals needing a home | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
Using social media, pet videos, and celebrity endorsements, ‘Pets Add Life’ pushes animal adoption—and creates potential customers.
Sean Carnell's insight:

Guth and Marsh, the authoring duo of Adventures in Public Relations, got it right when discussing the less-than-formal nature of cyber-relations. High production costs and polished video are no longer necessary to create a media sensation in age of YouTube.

 

For example, let us look at the Pets Add Life, or PAL, campaign created by The Impetus Agency for the promotion of pet adoption, paid for by the American Pet Products Association. The video, which you may have already seen (if not, please check out the video linked to in the header), features a dog owner having a, well, conversation with his very animated and vocal dog. The conversation is about quality of life, for both man and beast, and improving household conditions with the addition of another adopted animal, a kitten in this case.

 

So, we have fairly modest homemade-esque video featuring a man, with a voiceover, talking to an, arguably, adorable dog about getting a kitten, in a mutually beneficial way of creating household harmony. This simple, and low-cost, video went viral soon after being posted to YouTube, which resulted in over 3 million views. This made me wonder how did such a simple video make such a splash on the internet?

 

Well, falling back on Guth and Marsh again, The Impetus Agency realized three very important things about generating buzz in the age of viral video. First, they had a clear purpose, to promote animal adoption for the purpose of boosting sales in animal products for their client. Second, their audience was broad, as nearly every demographic interested in animal adoption, or cute animal videos, uses YouTube. Third, their medium, homemade video posted to a video-streaming community, worked well in relating the joys of animal adoption to the online community. In summary, a cute video, with a sales purpose, can stand above others when it is sufficiently entertaining and well executed.

 

Viral video has existed for years now, although it was far from being an established PR tactic when Adventures in Public Relations was penned, but The Impetus Agency used this tactic more effectively than most. The video is relatable, entertaining, and effective and was delivered to an audience that craves videos of cute animals. Seriously, 177 million brand impressions were made from this single campaign, featuring a video that has slightly higher production value than an average home movie.

 

In short, The Impetus Agency executed a strategy that showed their knowledge and insight into the mind of the YouTube audience and their client was left to reap the benefits. As for the rest of us, well, we got a 95 second video of an adorable animal promoting a good cause, which does more than most videos in terms of advocacy.

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A New Face for the Tabloids: Poverty

A New Face for the Tabloids: Poverty | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
WoodGreen Community Services uses slick, glossy covers to focus on poverty
Sean Carnell's insight:

Getting a speeding ticket, having a bad hair day, going out to a nightclub, all pretty mundane parts of life, right?

 

Well, for most of us, experiencing such things will not make headlines but for some, particularly celebrities, a pretty simple event can be plastered across tabloids around the globe. Public relations, in some sectors, thrives on the cult of celebrity that exists in most societies. No one, outside of myself and possibly my insurance agent, cares if I get a speeding ticket but, then again, I am not Justin Bieber.

 

Recently, DDB Canada, an advertising agency, took on a pro bono case of raising awareness of a charity that helps single mothers living in poverty. Seems like a straightforward case with a multitude of tried and true means to get attention but DDB Canada decided to use, and challenge, the public and their obsession with everything celebrity.

 

DDB Canada is running a campaign to raise awareness for WoodGreen Community Services by using participants of the program, specifically their images and stories, and giving them the celebrity tabloid treatment. Fake magazine covers, reminiscent of People Magazine, feature images of women living in poverty with captions, mocking tabloid captions, relating to their struggle to raise children in poverty conditions.

 

The campaign’s fake magazine covers will appear on transit stops, in print publications, and even on television, courtesy of a fake tabloid journalism commercial. The idea driving the campaign is simple; why do celebrities garner so much attention while poverty, which permeates society, remains undiscussed? DDB Canada aims to challenge the public’s obsession with celebrities, which serves no altruistic purpose, and use the means of a fake tabloid to get attention to a topic more prevalent in society, poverty.

 

What I really found interesting about this public relations campaign, other than the absolutely beautiful use of satire and shaming, is the mix of public relations models used by DDB Canada. Guth and Marsh, in their book Adventures in Public Relations, discuss four models that are commonly used in public relations, two of which are the press agentry/publicity model and the public information model. Tabloid magazines really appeal to the press agentry model, in that they just generate buzz for short-term rewards, which DDB Canada used in creating this fake tabloid. However, the campaign really reaches its audience by offering public information, about the unpleasant topic of poverty, by using the tactic of satire and, really, for shaming the public by driving the cult of celebrity above all else.

 

Poverty is not glamorous but, then again, many celebrities find themselves featured on tabloid covers for being less-than-glamorous. By taking on the cult of celebrity and raising awareness for single mothers in poverty, well, I think DDB Canada’s campaign was not only brilliant but it also said something very poignant about society and misplaced values.

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Character in 140 Characters or Less

Character in 140 Characters or Less | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
If you didn’t love the Colonel’s KFC already for his extra crispy chicken, you’ll love hearing about how the chicken giant is promoting higher education. Becau
Sean Carnell's insight:

Have you ever applied for a scholarship? Have you applied for dozens, maybe even hundreds, of scholarships? How would you describe the process?

 

If you are familiar with the scholarship process you know that there is usually an essay involved. The essay submitted is often to show merit, desire, inspiration, or hardship in order to show character, to show why one person above all others deserves the prize. Personally, I have prepared essays, each telling their own story, in over a dozen topics that fit most scholarship applications I have ever seen. How refreshing it is to see unique applications for scholarships and, in this case, to make one’s character shine in a single tweet.

 

Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to move away from the conventional, or original recipe, application for its Colonel’s Scholars program and spiced things up a bit. The monotonous process of crafting, or recycling, a 2,000 word essay showing character and merit was replaced by a more concise message and public venue. KFC, and their public relations professional, made a splash by awarding a sizable scholarship to the applicant with the best tweet. The hashtag #KFCScholar was created and the game was on. Photographs and text, limited to 140 characters, were allowed in the contest and applications poured in by the thousands.

 

Scholarships are, by all means, a conventional form of public relations since giving back to communities can be accomplished by helping send youth to college; a simple premise. Perhaps the process of applications became too simple, too private, and KFC saw a chance to capitalize on a growing social platform like Twitter? In any case, just as tweets were flooding KFC’s Twitter account the media was picking up on the story and making news out of a conventional low-interest event of scholarships.

 

By shaking up the tried-and-true method of private applications and small ceremony with a very public affair, KFC gained international attention and thousands of media mentions through a unique PR campaign. A little bit of creativity went a long way and now there are several other tweet-based scholarship opportunities.

 

A question posed in Adventures in Public Relations by Guth and Marsh asks, “Did the quality of the tactics satisfy the expectations of the client and the target publics?” KFC did just that and not by reinventing the wheel or shocking the nation but by transforming a routine practice into a very public, very successful spectacle.

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Great Causes and Gimmicks: A Global Call for Action on Human Trafficking

Great Causes and Gimmicks: A Global Call for Action on Human Trafficking | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
The video features six provocatively dressed women who appear to be sex workers, dancing in the lit-up brothel window's of Amsterdam's Red Light District. The surprised crowd becomes entranced by the performance, while having no suspicion that the women are not attempting to entice, but to educate.
Sean Carnell's insight:

There are a lot of opportunities to benefit from creativity in public relations. A miniscule budget, a weak or diluted brand, a large controversy, or general public indifference to an issue, product, or company are all issues that may benefit from creative and unconventional PR.

 

In this case, public awareness of a problem exists but a relatively new, internet-age, gimmick is used to garner attention to the age-old issue of human trafficking. There are too many worthy causes, especially those that concern human rights, which go unnoticed, or even become an issue of social acceptance and apathy.

 

So, to gain attention to the monstrous issue that is human trafficking and sex trafficking (or sex tourism) the Duval Guillaume Modem, a PR firm from Belgium, used a flash mob approach and viral video to bring a dark practice into the public light. Accordingly, the event took place in Amsterdam, which is a city known for many things, including legalized prostitution. The problem with legal prostitution is that it still fuels the dark trade of human trafficking for the sex industry. How better to raise attention to the issue than coordinating a flash mob event, in the form of dance at a “brothel” and uploading a video the semi-candid reactions of the audience to a worldwide audience?

 

The video, along with a link to the website of the group stopthetraffik.org, brings to the forefront that even legal sex-trade has innumerable ties to very illegal and inhumane practices of abducting young women, and men, and coercing them into the sex trade after reneging on promises of dance/television/entertainment industry careers. The video shows how many young dancers end up working in brothels in the red-light district of Amsterdam after being trafficked into the Netherlands and then forced to pay off their travel-debt by working in brothels with ties to very nefarious organizations.

 

Of course, this problem exists outside of the Netherlands and the video makes the viewer aware of this fact, but to show how even legal sex-trade promotes very illegal activities worldwide. However, to gain attention to a known issue, the flash mob and street reaction video uses a small budget and unconventional act to bring human trafficking into the spotlight, a feat that could hardly be done using a conventional PR campaign. The issue, the campaign, and the call to action all reach across the globe, into every culture, which is something thoughtfully included in the video. Guth and Marsh, the authors of Adventures in Public Relations, touched on the issue of cultural differences towards disclosure and knowing and, although dated, the text seems to approve of appealing to multiple cultures, on issues of advocacy, and using the global appeal of viral videos. Duval Guillaume Modem used a strategy of global appeal for a problem that plagues the world and, through the use of unconventional and effective means, I applaud them for making human trafficking a human issue, unbound by culture or nationality.

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Idle Hands: A New Approach on Charity, Awareness, and Technology Dependence

Idle Hands: A New Approach on Charity, Awareness, and Technology Dependence | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
UNICEFs Tap Project will donate money to needy children for every minutes users stay off their phones.
Sean Carnell's insight:

UNICEF recently took a very unique twist on the use of mobile apps to raise awareness, and funds, for a clean water campaign. The campaign offers donations, from corporations sponsoring the event, to the public with one simple caveat: stay off your smartphone.

 

Technology dependence has been identified as an issue in developed nations while, as UNICEF aims to remind us, having access to clean drinking water is a much more serious issue for the populous of developing or underdeveloped nations. The campaign, created by UNICEF, asks the public to download and run their app, which will monitor the touchscreen and sensor use in smartphones. By running the app and staying off of your smartphone for a consecutive 10 minutes, UNICEF corporate sponsors will place a donation that will provide a child clean drinking water for one day. The best part: you can repeat the action of keeping your smartphone away and reap the reward as many times as you wish, or for as long as you can go without checking your phone.

 

That is right, UNICEF, and its sponsors, are attempting to get people to disconnect themselves from their phone for a charitable cause, and it is working. As the article points out, modern societies’ attachment to their smartphone is a growing concern, with many people unable to spend ten minutes of their day without the relatively new technology. UNICEF aims to make people look at their dependence on what really is a luxury item, smartphones, and take ten minutes to think about people whose dependence on clean water is a daily struggle.

 

Personally, I love this unique take on smartphone apps being used for charity. Rewarding people from actually disconnecting from media and advertising is far from the norm but, in the case, the message is clear: people in developed nations find it hard to free themselves from their smartphone while people in other parts of the world struggle to obtain the most basic need in sustaining life. Taking a shot at first world problems, in the name of charity, has made me think of what is taken for granted in my daily life.

 

In Adventuress in Public Relations, Gurth and Marsh take on international business and cross-cultural communication. The definition of culture is discussed, as understanding cultures outside of one’s own is crucial in the worldwide arena that is public relations. I think, to a point, UNICEF looked at the technology obsessed modern nations, who inhabitants may think the sky is falling when no wifi is available, and brought attention to much more serious, even dire, issues that people in underdeveloped or developing nations face.

 

In any case, separating people from their smartphones may seem as daunting as getting between a mother-bear and her cubs but, well, sometimes you can get people to do strange things for a good cause.

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Fabricating Memories to Raise Awareness

Fabricating Memories to Raise Awareness | Unconventional Public Relations | Scoop.it
At the start of collection week, Alzheimer Nederland launched a unique Facebook campaign to engage younger audiences more in the fight against dementia. The simple tag and photo functionalities of Facebook are being ingeniously employed in this campaign to let people experience just for a moment the impact of Alzheimer’s disease in their own familiar surroundings. Facebook campaign ‘The Alzheimer’s Event’ The idea of the Facebook campaign is that people are tagged in a phot...
Sean Carnell's insight:

How does one design a public relations campaign that really reaches people on an individual level while being interesting enough to earn media coverage? Traditional practices in PR exist for a reason but, on occasion, it takes more than a well-timed pitch or moving feature article to connect the public to an issue.

 

Well, when it comes to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s, a PR firm from the Netherlands, N=5, has made an unconventional but, in my opinion, brilliant campaign to make the effects of Alzheimer’s personal. How better to make people aware of Alzheimer’s then by giving them a taste of memory loss and creating confusion.

 

In a nutshell, N=5 asked friends and followers to create fake events on Facebook, upload existing photos of friends, and submit a link to the event back to the PR firm. Now, no event would take place, no memories would be made, but soon people would find photographs appearing in their timelines, photos of themselves at an event that never happened. Of course, people started to notice that they were featured, and tagged, in pictures from an event that they had never been to. A false memory had been created, an event full of people, backed with picture-proof, displayed on social media, which seemed real but no one could remember attending.

 

The beauty of N=5’s campaign to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s was found in the ugliness of the disease itself and attacking the validity of memory. With Alzheimer’s, the memory of events, family, friends, can be lost and for those suffering from this aliment, it can be frustrating to see pictures of yourself with people and places you cannot recall. N=5 raised awareness by fabricating memories which seems hauntingly effective at making a social networking tool mimic the effect of a disease.

 

The campaign ran by N=5 is one of the most unconventional in recent memory and it seems like it has worked wonders. The media was made aware of the campaign and people outside of the event were made aware. For those that were a part of the campaign, the party-goers at fictitious events, the reality of Alzheimer’s was made real, all with a bit of ingenuity and photo editing. N=5 created an event and campaign by creating false memories, by editing the past, which made a real connection to the public in an unconventional way.

 

This campaign resonates with Guth and Marsh’s Adventures in Public Relations idea of public relations, “public relations professional help organizations and individuals find their voice” (pg. 6), as N=5 gave a voice, an experience, to the effects of the degenerative condition associated with Alzheimer’s.

 

By defying convention, N=5 showed skill and creativity in creating awareness for a serious and difficult issue by using little more than Facebook events and muddling memory.

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