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When advertising turns into a public relations nightmare

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People in the advertising industry think I’m crazy when I say that advertising campaigns need the perspective of a PR person before launching. One of the most timely examples of an advertising campaign gone awry is the campaign that was recently launched by BBH Labs. The agency asked 13 homeless people to carry wireless routers at SXSW this past week in Austin. I’m not here to debate if this was a good idea or not. But I am here to give you a few tips on how to avoid nastiness:

Advertising and PR should not be working in silos. These two functions need to work in tandem, from the get go … actually from the point of conception. The role of the PR person is to provide an outside perspective or to chime in with worst case scenarios. From images, words, target audiences and more, PR can help mitigate risk from the get-go. In addition, you might also be surprised about how creative PR pros can be. They might give you an idea or two you never even considered.

Have a crisis plan in place just in case. It’s not uncommon to invest oodles of time and resources into a campaign and then get blindsided by a negative reception. What will you do if that happens? Are you monitoring online conversations? Do you have a plan in place to respond? Who will do the responding? If push comes to shove, will you pull a campaign? And if so, what will that process look like? How will it be communicated? How will you utilize social media channels?

Make sure you have a campaign goal from the start. Maybe BBH Labs wanted to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and to create dialogue. If that’s the case, their campaign was a huge success. But in the process did they damage their brand? Always go back to what the end game is or how you define success. How do you want to be perceived during and after the launch?

Remember to think through every variable when you have the luxury of time. It’s too late after it launches.






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