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Saturday, September 27 • 15:51 - 16:10
"Awarded PR campaigns for best use of social media: New lessons of effectiveness"

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Background: Social media have turned organizations’ attention towards users’ discussions, engagement and relationships. Thanks to their “interactive and participative qualities”, social media can “give a dynamic and lively dimension to advertising” (Van Dyck, 2014, p159) and other marketing communications, such as public relations.  Organizations have realized the shifting power of communication from controlled to mass self-communication (Castells, 2009). In this new digital context, PR is going through “a paradigmatic change, both as a professional area and an academic field” (Damasio et al., 2012, p.16). Professionals have to cut through the clutter and come up with innovative, creative PR solutions. Although measuring effectiveness of PR campaigns on social media is still puzzling to academics and businesses alike, industry professionals seem to agree on what constitutes successful uses of social media for effective PR campaigns. During the last couple of years, we have witnessed the emergence of a new category in Advertising and PR festivals and competitions, that is Best use of social media in PR. Through award winning campaigns in these international festivals and competitions, this paper gives an opportunity for understanding how and why these case studies set a benchmark in the new PR era.  

Objective: The aim of this paper is to uncover and analyze successful practices of PR strategies on social media. Success can be measured through various metrics: volume of sales, popularity among audiences, achievement of marketing objectives, etc. Accolades and recognition awards from the fellows in the industry is another measure of success. This presentation suggests uncovering and examining outstanding original and creative PR solutions in the new social media environment. It also discusses lessons of effectiveness that could be learned from such best practices.

Methods: Building on classic theories of excellence in PR and foundational academic work such as Grunig (1992, 2008), this research adopts a content analysis of successful PR campaigns, awarded at international and regional festivals and competitions.

A selection of 10 case studies has been studied. All cases have been awarded the Best use of social media in PR either at Cannes international advertising festival, the chartered Institute of Public Relations or IPRA, the International Public Relations Association. Combining qualitative and quantitative metrics, the analysis looks at the message and measures the social media usage as vehicles of the message.

Results: Initial results of this research show that there is a profound shift in successful PR practices that have moved creativity at the center of such campaigns. While a few years ago the attention was focused on using several platforms in order to reach exposure and generate emotion, recent winning campaigns have proved that ‘the bigger is not the better’, meaning the number of platforms used is not significant anymore. Some emergent practices were judged as outstanding although they have used only one platform or have produced one application (App). User’s engagement and added-value benefits have consistently proven key for success.

Conclusion: While Eyrich et al. (2008) report that PR practitioners prefer using established tools and venture minimally in using social networks and other ‘complicated tools’, early results of this research prove that awarded PR campaigns are created by, rather daring practitioners.  Findings also suggest that creativity is not only central to the message, but also to the combination (the what) and manner (the how) of the social media channels used.

Castells, M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Damasio et al. (2012). The PR pyramid: Social media and the new role of Public Relations in organizations, Revista Internacional de relaciones Publicas, Nº 4, Vol. 2, 11-30

Eyrich, N., Padman, M.L., Sweetser, D. (2008). PR practitioners’ use of social media tools and communication technology. Public Relations Review, 34, 412-414.

Grunig, J. E. (2008) Excellence in Public Relations and communication management, New York: Routledge

Van Dyck, F. (2014) Advertising transformed. The new rules for the digital age. London: KoganPage


Ilhem Allagui

Northwestern University- Qatar

Harris Breslow

American University of SharjahUnited Arab Emirates

Saturday September 27, 2014 15:51 - 16:10
TRS 1-003 Ted Rogers School of Management

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