The Bigger Picture

Hitting send on a press release (aka pushing paper) & why it isn’t working for you

Public Relations has become a fancy term for hitting send on a press release, uploading it to a PR wire and collecting a retainer. Change my mind.

With all the noise we face on a daily basis, you need strategists, not “PR professionals” to build a brand, fix your reputation, manage a crisis or just rise above the noise. It takes more than sending out a press release once a week and a cute ad campaign that one or two people may get excited about – and odds are, those two people are your parents.

Look at Anheuser-Busch. Before the Super Bowl, the company generated buzz online and across media platforms with an announcement that it would sit out the chance for another brilliant Super Bowl ad campaign for the first time in more than 30 years. But the beer giant didn’t sit it out – they just saw the bigger picture. Instead of doing one of its incredibly effective feel good ad campaigns, the company “read the room” and asked what impact and change it could bring about during the current pandemic.

In fact, A-B reallocated the millions it usually spent on Super Bowl spots to support the Ad Council’s public education campaign for the COVID-19 vaccine. It then promoted the decision with a digital ad campaign called “The Bigger Picture.” It was exactly that, the bigger picture. Anheuser-Busch’s Chief Marketing Officer, Marcel Marcondes, even said himself that “this will give us an opportunity to talk about it for a few weeks and even months.”

Sending out a press release is just a tactic to get your message out the door. Before you even send a press release, at a minimum, you should already have a traditional media plan utilizing your close press contacts to give them a heads up, arrange a more in depth write-up on the topic, and book the principal or spokesperson on TV, radio, and podcasts to discuss the content of the press release. Seems pretty straight forward, but people get lazy.

In addition to traditional press, you need a full blown “grassroots” campaign to get traction in any kind of brand development, reputation management or crisis control endeavor. Anheuser-Busch partnered with the Ad Council and their built in grassroots community. That’s where high level strategists come in who have more tangible strategic experience. They’re business-minded, crisis-experienced professionals who can see the bigger picture.

Here are some questions to ask any “communications or PR professional” when you have to go to battle for the reputation of your brand or just build an incredible brand like Anheuser-Busch:

  • In addition to press releases and standard messaging, what other services do you provide? Does your retainer include the strategy that goes into “the bigger picture” approach?
  • Do you have experience engaging with the public to influence their decisions on the likability of brands?
  • What metrics and research do you consider when developing a strategic communications plan to build a reputation?
  • What experience does your executive team bring to the table in brand, crisis and operations management?
  • What are some strategic communications campaigns and crisis management cases you’ve handled and what was the end result?