The 5 Best PR Campaigns of 2014?

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The year is coming to a close, and as a result many accolades are being given. While many industry pundits like to talk about bad campaigns, I thought it would be interesting to acknowledge the top 5 corporate PR campaigns of 2014. To help, I asked five friends in the business for their opinions.

Two declined for political reasons (not wanting to offend clients, etc.), but three added their thoughts. I added the final two campaigns to round it out. Please add your suggestions for best PR campaign of 2014 in the comments box, and your thoughts on these nominated efforts.

1) #IceBucketChallenge

“The Ice Bucket Challenge is best PR campaign of the last several years,” said Andrew Gilman, President & CEO, CommCore Consulting Group. Indeed, the user-generated campaign turned official ALS fundraiser raised $115 million through grassroots social media donations, and inspired hundreds of thousands of cold baths.

Celebrities like LeBron James, Shakira and Tim Cook joined the fray and made headlines. It was a complete victory for the ALS Association. In a month of slow news, ALS took over news outlet and social networks for weeks this past August, educating an entire nation on this somewhat rare but fatal disease.

2) Fitbit Finishes Strong

Fitbit had its challenges in 2014 with a recall that threatened its brand integrity. But as the year moved along, the brand recovered nicely, in large part because of customer loyalty. Fitbit also saw a primary competitor, Nike Fuelband, exit the future market.

“Fitbit has tremendous success in marketing given its word-of-mouth activity,” said Kathy Baird Westfall, SVP of strategy at Ogilvy. “People LOVE it and we market it to each other. When I see a brand achieve success through attraction and not promotion, I am motivated and excited. There’s something very old school, organic and back-to-basics about that approach that I love.”

“Their social presence is strong across multiple channels,” said Baird. “They offer blog content related to fitness passions, nutrition counsel, and training tips. Social media channel content reflects the same approach – inspiration, motivation and exercise tips.”

3) #getcovered

There is the politics of the Affordable Care Act, and then the business of getting Americans to subscribe to the plan. #getcovered is the Department of Health and Human Services’ marketing campaign to achieve the latter.

“A lot of PR campaigns seem to me to be campaigns for campaigns sake,” said Shonali Burke, founder of Shonali Burke Consulting. “#getcovered, by contrast, was a concerted effort to wade through the craziness, not to mention extremely negative PR, around the Affordable Care Act. Here was something that actually made a difference to the communication of a critical initiative of our time to a key audience that needed to take action. And it worked.”

“I thought #getcovered was all the more impressive given how absolutely abysmal communications had previously been around ACA,” added Burke. “Of course, with a change in the balance of power in Washington, we’ll have to see how things go in 2015. But at least thus far, some of the fog around ACA has cleared. And I believe #getcovered had a lot to do with that.”

4) The NBA

While other leagues floundered in crisis PR, the NBA and new commissioner Adam Silver shined brightly when the Donald Sterling racism crisis emerged in the midst of the 2014 playoffs. Silver acted decisively against his own owner, then forced Sterling (via his wife) to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, and in doing so effectively avoided numerous pitfalls.

NBA players were satisfied by Silver’s support, the national customer base and sponsors rallied around the brand, and Silver quieted the media hoopla in time for the NBA Finals to take center stage. The NBA achieved a classic benefit of great crisis PR: It strengthened its brand with a halo effect. Heck, even new Los Angeles Clippers Owner Steven Ballmer looks better in the wake of his Microsoft departure.

5) Guardians of the Galaxy Gets Away

Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to be a B movie in the superhero genre. Instead, Disney’s Marvel Studios released the number one grossing movie of the year. How does a movie featuring a talking raccoon and tree trunk as main characters succeed like this?

The movie was great, but the promotions were better giving the move a sense of campiness before it was released. Consider Marvel’s launch of the space travel agency Galaxy Getwaways that highlighted destinations in the movie that you can “visit.”

Marvel loyalists embraced the marketing, and knew what to expect from the movie. Then they got even more upon arrival. Word of mouth ensued, and the rest is history.

Which PR campaigns would you add to the best of 2014?

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About Geoff Livingston

Geoff is president and founder of Tenacity5 Media, a digital marketing agency that provides content marketing and social media services. A former journalist, Geoff continues to write, and has authored five books. Follow him @geoffliving.

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