Whether it’s on television, online or print, we’re all exposed to relentless amounts of PR every day from companies trying to put their product in the best light possible.
Without question, the rise of social media in people’s lives on mobiles and tablets means that a greater amount of an organisation’s attention is placed on creating a successful Twitter/Facebook post.
Achieving a substantial amount of views on one of these websites can be similiar to gaining front page on an established publication like the Finanicial Times.
This can be done via amusing pictures, engaging with their audiences in online conversation or even a public stunt, all which would be documented across several different online platforms.
Some companies have taken full advantage of this ever-growing way of reaching their audience with some brilliant PR campaigns in the last year, whereas some have fallen flat or not quite got the right message across.
So without further ado, here’s our pick of the good and bad side of social media PR – ‘The Best and Worst Social Media PR Campaigns of 2014’.
Best Social Media PR Campaigns
3.) Southampton FC Shirt Launch - ‘Earn your stripes’
Before the start of the 2014/15 season, Southampton Football Club announced it were reverting their kit back to the traditional red & white stripes much to the delight of their fans.
The club used this positivity to heavily engage with their fans on social media in several ways. A week before it was released, official club footballs were hidden around the city with details being revealed on Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook.
Those lucky enough to find the balls were then encouraged to tweet a selfie with the hashtag ‘#Earnyourstripes’ to be entered a prize draw for one of the new shirts.
The campaign was praised for its innovative way of revealing it’s new kit and keeping the club connected to the local community.
2.) Cadbury’s Crème Egg – ‘Have a Fling With a Crème Egg’
In 2014, Cadbury’s wanted to continue the growth of one of its most well known products by targeting the notoriously difficult audience of 16-24 year olds.
With strategically timed posts and storytelling through amusing pictures, the company’s relationship with its consumers blossomed thanks to a ‘test and boost’ media approach which maximised audience reach.
Over 17 million people saw content that was posted, a 1.8 million increase compared to 2013. Sales were boosted by a third and for the first time ever; the company became a £50 million brand.
1.) ALS Foundation – ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’
Without question, the biggest showcase of Social media’s power to spread a message to several different audiences was the Ice Bucket Challenge earlier this year.
Originally started as a way to raise money for ALS disease by Bostonian Pete Frates, the concept of nominating friends and family to pour a freezing cold bucket of ice water on themselves, whilst also donating money for the cause, snowballed dramatically.
In a matter of weeks, A-list celebrities like Justin Bieber, Mark Zuckerberg, and David Beckham were all filming themselves committing to the cause, further strengthening the campaign’s appearance and aims to the average social media user.
The staggering aspect of the Ice Bucket challenge and its rise throughout social media was the way it surpassed the organiser's wildest expectations – going viral and taking on a life of its own. Nobody could have predicted The ALS Foundation would receive over $100 million in donations over a few months.
Despite the ‘self-congratulatory’ criticism it received, the ice bucket challenge is a testament to the potential of social media as a platform. And it's undoubtedly left marketers fervently hoping to replicate its uncanny success.
There’s no doubt that organisations now need to prioritise an online presence to maximise audience reach.
Social Media PR Campaign Mistakes
4.) Puma – ‘#Fastforever’ backfire
Sportswear giant Puma were left to regret what was meant to be a pleasant Twitter surprise for their followers back in August.
Alongside the #Fastforever hashtag, Twitter users received personalised signed pictures from their brand ambassadors in an attempt to bring the superstar athlete closer to the fan.
Twitter prankers soon cottoned on to how - if your username on the platform was changed to something offensive - a message would still be signed to that name. This led to several embarrassing examples, such as German footballer Marco Reus signing a picture with ‘Cocaine - couldn’t have done it without you’.
Not the biggest backfire a PR campaign has witnessed, but it might be a while before a company allows personalised messages on the troll minefield that is Twitter.
3.) New York Police Department – ‘#myNYPD’
Another attempt at bringing a large organisation closer to the people was again hijacked by Twitter users back in April.
The aim of the hashtag ‘#myNYPD’ was that users would tweet pictures of themselves with members of the New York police in order mitigate negative press it was receiving.
A harsh backlash was received, however, as countless pictures and videos sent in highlighted police brutality in the city.
Such efforts demonstrate how organisations and companies cannot fully control the conversation, but shows the need to anticipate how a post can cause a fallout and how it can be potentially stopped.
2.) Bill Cosby – ‘Meme me!’
In what was supposed to be a light-hearted engagement with his fans, Bill Cosby’s social media team soon regretted a recent tweet.
Tweeting ‘Go ahead, meme me!’ alongside a picture of himself, years of allegations of rape against the comedian came flooding in, all corresponding to his ‘meme’ format request.
The online generator people were using to create these hurtful pictures involving Cosby soon closed itself down and banned words like ‘rape’ being used as text, but it wasn’t long before ‘#Cosbymeme’ was trending and the damage was done.
1.) Audi – ‘#Paidmydues’
Worldwide car manufacturer Audi sweep up the awards for worst thought-out PR stunt in 2014 with the ‘#Paidmydues’ hashtag.
In an unusual change of content from pictures of shiny new cars, the company asked its followers to send in real-life triumphs over adversity to promote the new A3 Sedan, which would then be interpreted by artists over a 6-hour event.
The campaign missed the mark completely with its audience, which despite auctioning off the pieces of art on eBay for charity, did not impress its established following of car-lovers and abuse towards the posts followed.
Using Social Media as Promotion Tool
If a PR campaign is received positively, it can increase audience interaction and help a business grow even further. A business with a good concept of social media or a great PR team behind them can fully utilise the several platforms on offer and tap into a world of easy-to-use promotion.
Don’t be put off by those that didn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to online PR, we offer Social Media management and consultancy to businesses that want to expand their audience by using such a resourceful and cheap tool, but don’t want to tread on any toes like those mentioned above.
For those who feel alienated from this online universe and onslaught of hashtags, you can learn how to attract customers through the web with our free introductory guide to social media marketing: