Creating Award-Winning Public Relations Campaigns

I was recently named PRWeek’s Student of the Year, earning $5,000 and an internship with Hill & Knowlton Strategies. My winning submission was a public relations campaign created to help Ford reach millennials across the country.

Keri Cook receives PRWeek’s Student of the Year Award.

Most public relations students will plan a campaign before they graduate, whether it’s for a competition, a class or even an internship. So, as you tackle the challenge of planning from scratch, let me share with you a few insights I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Root your plan in research.

This may be the least glamorous part of your campaign, but it’s the most crucial. No matter how innovative your campaign, it’s useless if it doesn’t meet the actual needs of the defined demographic. Make the most of secondary and primary research. Submerse yourself in your client’s company, competitors and industry. Get to know your target market in an in-depth way.

2. Don’t oversimplify your target market.

When thinking about your target market, don’t rely on stereotypes. If you conduct substantial research, you’ll already have a deep understanding of your target’s perceptions, wants and needs. Now get specific! The target market I received for my campaign was “millennials,” which encompassed adults ages 18 to 29. I broke this down into four different life stages millennials represent and catered my communications directly to each subset.

3. Be strategic.

Once you begin developing your campaign, conduct regular strategy checks for each component. Ask questions like “Does this message reinforce my overall creative theme?” and “Are these tactics designed to achieve the objectives I’ve established?” Taking a strategic approach will save you from constantly being distracted by “fun” ideas that may not truly contribute to a solid, coherent campaign.

4. Include practical details that show you have the follow-through to make it happen.

Many student campaigns are fictitious, and most of us aren’t operating with the resources we’d need to actualize our ideas. But plan your campaign as if you are. Show that you have invested the time and thought needed to see your ideas through to completion, from planning your budget to your media schedule to your campaign evaluation. Your original ideas may get you noticed, but if you want an impressively concrete plan, you must do the legwork needed to turn your concepts into reality.

What lessons have you learned in your own campaign planning efforts? What advice would you give to students planning their first campaign?

Keri Cook is vice president for Liberty University’s PRSSA Chapter. You can follow her on Twitter @cook_keri.

1 thought on “Creating Award-Winning Public Relations Campaigns

    • Author gravatar

      I am currently enrolled in a Strategic Communication and Research course and I feel your “Root your plan in research” section is spot-on. Research is undesirable for most people because it is often seen as a tedious and daunting task but it IS the most crucial part of a PR plan/campaign. It allows PR professionals to gain the knowledge and insight they need to effectively construct and carry out a campaign. Congratulations on your award!

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