Five PR lessons from 2015

What lessons can be learnt from the advancements in PR this year? Lucy Wray, account director at PR and creative agency Peppermint Soda, outlines five PR revolutions that could help to inform your 2016 budget.

Customer data is a new business priority

Telecommunications company TalkTalk’s leak of customer information in October wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. The hack has become the poster child for the importance of online security, but the company dealt with the problem admirably. Even before TalkTalk had full information about the severity of the hack, it made the choice to stay transparent, immediately reporting the attack to the press. Though outcry from its customers was to be expected, the company’s frankness was impressive, and at least gave customers a sense of control over their accounts.

For a long time, customers have assumed that their data must be safe until proven wrong, and have had little interest in the technical details. Now, going into 2016, ecommerce of any kind will need to boast modern preventative security measures and long records of security, even before an attack happens. And if the worst does happen, great PR is vital.

Whimsical is the new aspirational

Shiny cars and beach bodies will always appeal to our primal brains, but there’s a lot to be said for a truly inspiring or magical PR stunt. Accommodation service Airbnb’s floating house on the Thames in May and the promotion for the film AntMan which involved ant-sized IMAX tickets are just two of the many great examples of truly experiential PR stunts, without any of the actors or velvet ropes.

Whilst outdoor PR stunts have always taken place “in public”, they’re often tightly organised and can feel inorganic to a PR-savvy audience. Instead focus on truly real experiences, which alter or play with reality, to get coverage through the hundreds of cameras in people’s pockets – though it does require some faith to put the success of your campaign in your audience’s hands.

Customer service needs personality

We saw it at the end of last year with Virgin Train’s poo-gate, and even back in 2012 with phone company O2 calling one of its customers “fam”. This year it was the turn of supermarket company Aldi, which responded to a Facebook complaint about a chocolate digestive lacking any chocolate. The complaint was filled with hyperbole and drama, and Aldi responded in similar terms.

The difficulty in adding personality to a brand’s social media account isn’t in the writing itself – we all have a sense of humour – it’s the informed decision to apply it to the right query: when to play along and when not to, to avoid it backfiring.

Branded social media accounts have had their veil lifted, we know that it’s not actuallya brand speaking to us – if for no other reason than the sacking of a real social media manager when a joke is ill-advised. As these personalities evolve into something more, it’s important to have well-informed, witty people at the helm, who know when they can let loose and have some fun.

New technology is a gamble, but it’s a gamble that everyone is taking

If you’ve invested time, research, and creativity into streaming something live on mobile app Meerkat this year, you’ll know that it only takes an app like Periscope to throw your plans off course. Equally, if you’ve not considered live streaming at all, you might feel you’d be left behind if it suddenly became a mainstream hit. Your technological investments will be 50% experience, and 50% luck, just like everything else.

With new platforms and ways of broadcasting forever being introduced – for instance, the introduction of Virtual Reality, after much preamble, the cost of becoming a brand leader on a new platform is the failed investment in two or three others. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be disheartened if you have a few false starts along the way.

A new era of video

As our TVs become smart enough to show us anything on the internet, and with YouTube offering a paid, ad-free version of its service, it’s safe to say that even the concept of “television” is beginning to look a little dated.

Video viewing is an increasingly personal experience, one which isn’t just happening in our living rooms, but wherever there’s a screen to hand. This means that new approaches to video should throw out everything we thought we knew about the medium. Video, unlike television, does not have to cater to a wide audience, or follow any strict guidelines. Instead it can be a place for a very specific demographic to be entertained in a very specific way.

A quick look at YouTube’s biggest hits demonstrates that a community like that of the game Minecraft cannot be underestimated. A single video game has brought many of the Minecraft streamers fame and fortune, yet as someone who doesn’t play, they are unrecognisable. Video content does not have to cater to the uninitiated in order to grow and gain success, and it is not purely the playground of international brands.

Rather than trying to make the next series of a TV hit such as Friends, approach video content with as much attention to your demographic as you would any other platform.

Article written by Lucy Wray, account director at PR and creative agency Peppermint Soda