Right now, most PR agencies are in the midst of 2012 planning--figuring out what campaigns they will run for their clients through-out the year and I've had quite a few interesting conversations about the demands their own clients are placing on them. I thought I would share with you a couple of those demands and tips to meet them.
CLIENT: "Be more engaging, I want my community to be active."
AGENCY: "We need to provide clients with engaged stakeholders, not just impressions."
One of my clients suggested that their 2012 plans really needed to be different from previous years. Right now its a very competitive climate, more and more PR and Ad agencies are taking on work in the cause space. Therefore, the usual plans had to satisfy the usual needs for great awareness and visibility, but also had to drive and SUSTAIN engagement, not just one-time giving. Re-upping a plan meant sustaining a community with stuff to do. Thus, the excuse of low budgets isn't gonna cut it anymore--not with the efficiencies to be gained from social media.
My advice--think about the end goal for your client AND your agency and push your agency to pitch campaigns that build communities that win and sustain more advocates. This means you need to up the strategy ante with campaigns that are results-driven and focused on engagement, not just impressions. You'll need to think about how to get all the stakeholders to actually "do stuff" not just hear the message. If you start with a solid strategy, one that takes you from awareness all the way to advocacy, you'll be more successful. If you leave it as an afterthought, you're campaign will have a big bang up front and deliver impressions, but be weak on sustained engagement as budget dries up. You need to plan accordingly, for the long-haul, and present multi-year plans that expressly say what your goals are for the community of fans you capture and how you're going to activate them again and again and again on behalf of the brand.
I like where this new campaign from P&G's Children's Safe Drinking Water program is going with their purpose-driven brand "Pur." In this Facebook campaign, one "Like" equals one day of clean water provided (actually a monetary donation by P&G). The community is quickly growing. Note the video which helps spread the message virally. This program is part of a commitment "to save one life every hour by 2020," according to P&G CEO Bob McDonald. Now that's a multi-year commitment!
CLIENT: "Bring us award-winning ideas! We want to celebrate our work too."
AGENCY: "Our clients are looking to us to take it to the next level creatively."
Another client of mine suggested the quality of their campaigns were just "OK", they weren't creative enough, they certainly weren't going to win any awards. Right now, there are only a handful of shops winning the top awards for cause marketing. Maybe its because they invested in their digital and production capabilities, maybe its because they have the right partners, or maybe its because the client has high expectations creatively. Either way, as social media becomes a capability of EVERY agency, agencies are being pressed to go further.
My advice--think outside the box and consider bringing in a creative director from a design or advertising background--if you're a typical agency--go the opposite route and partner your creative team with a PR professional. The point here is to mix-it-up. I'm actually helping bring filmmakers together with PR agencies to make branded documentaries, for example. That's taking it to the next level.
Here's a tip. Take a look at the top winning cause campaigns of 2011 and ask yourself--can I get there with the talent I have now? Do I need to a) acquire talent, b) partner and borrow talent, c) hire talent, or d) train up my talent?
2011 PR News CSR Awards Finalists
You can download the ENTIRE PR News 2010 CSR Awards issue here.
2011 Cause Marketing Forums Awards
You can view all of the Halo award winners in every category here.
If you're part of a network like Havas, Omnicom or Publicis, now's the time to make friends and reach-out to your sister agencies in digital, direct and even media buying and planning, what else could you do if you partnered together? My strong recommendation is that you avoid the commerical agency however, as you already know where their bread is buttered...on expensive TV and print campaigns. Ask them to be creative and they'll come back with :30s.