While 2017 may have been filled with PR and social media fails (for starters, take a look at United, Pepsi, Equifax or Uber), it was also a year of noteworthy wins for many brands.
Here are a few that stood out, along with some takeaways to incorporate in your own 2018 PR and social media campaigns:
1) CarMax: Known for its fun SuperBowl spots and more recently, its popular ad campaign featuring comedian Andy Daly, we knew CarMax was creative. But, what it did this fall by taking a YouTube video and turning it into a PR opportunity was nothing less than genius.
Because the brand adopted a lighthearted tone and used humor, CarMax’s effort resonated with many across social media, no doubt winning the company some new customers. Well done, CarMax.
Takeaway: Let there be no doubt that humor works to win people over.
2) Wendy’s: When I asked my Twitter followers for examples of the year’s best PR efforts, Wendy’s was the clear standout when it came to social media.
It started out with a simple response to what the social media manager behind it calls “an extremely dumb tweet.” Then, the social media team at Wendy’s just ran with it.
Its use of snark on Twitter is beloved by many, and though it may turn some customers off, the brand has demonstrated that thinking outside the box and taking risks can pay off.
Takeaway: Snark can work—but use good judgment. It’s not a fit for every brand.
3) Patagonia: When Donald Trump recently announced his administration’s intent to greatly reduce the amount of protected land in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, Patagonia wasted no time in responding.
On its site, the brand posted a graphic saying, “The President Stole Your Land.” The response was SO positive, Patagonia’s site crashed.
Commenting on politics used to be taboo, but it seems that more brands are jumping on board the social statements bandwagon. And it’s working for them.
Takeaway: Playing off current events can be a winning approach.
4) Merriam-Webster: How do you take a boring brand and make it relevant? Take a note from Merriam-Webster.
The 189-year-old dictionary publisher was able to put its unique spin on current events with its “Word of the Day” posts on social media. The Twitterati was mad for this approach, as Merriam-Webster’s following doubled from January to May of this year (it currently stands at 625,000 followers).
Takeaway: Creative, out-of-the-box thinking can make even boring brands a hit.
5) H-E-B (Howard E. Butts): A grocery chain in Texas, already known for its customer service, went the extra mile during Hurricane Harvey.
The brand provided emergency response and support to Houston residents, with mobile kitchens, a disaster relief unit and water tankers. H-E-B proves that by doing good, not only can you help others, you can help yourself by raising visibility and earning great PR in the process.
Takeaway: By serving the community, you can win hearts and minds.
6) Whirlpool: With its “Care Counts” campaign, Whirlpool was able to help increase school attendance while also garnering attention from potential buyers.
The effort involved installing washer and dryers in public schools in areas with disadvantaged students. Research suggests that students are 20 percent more likely to skip classes when they don’t have clean clothes.
“From an image-building standpoint, the program tallied almost 340 million earned media impressions and more than 12 million video views across Facebook and YouTube. All this attention yielded a nearly 220 percent increase in social sentiment and a palpable lift in purchase intent,” says AdWeek.
Takeaway: Leverage your product in creative ways.
7) Cheetos: The Cheetos Museum, featuring cheese puffs that look like famous people and other recognizable entities, was an earned media hit, garnering coverage on Today and Good Morning America and racking up what is said to be “more than a billion earned media impressions.”
Since its launch, the campaign has continued to earn coverage in publications like Food & Wine (not one to usually include Cheetos in its coverage).
Takeaway: Well-executed PR stunts can help brands reach new audiences.
8) Heineken: Heineken’s Worlds Apart campaign, a YouTube video with an issue-driven message, not only brought visibility to the brand, but it also showed us how to work out our differences.
Instead of being just a ploy, the Heineken piece used real people in its video in what came across as a genuine effort to drive an open discussion around the social issues that divide us.
Takeaway: Authenticity counts. Be real in your campaigns to create more success.
What was your favorite PR or social media campaign of 2017? In your view, which brands crushed it?
By Michelle Garrett, Garrett Public Relations
You’ll find Michelle Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content writer, blogger and speaker, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in publications including Entrepreneur, Forbes, Ragan’s PR Daily and Spin Sucks. She was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica and sits on the advisory council of the National Organization of American Women in Public Relations (Women in PR USA™).