Disruptive communication is the new buzzword around and it’s taking the PR world by storm too. Large established brands tend to settle into a comfort zone without doing anything that’s too innovative. Smaller ones try to ‘Copy’ the success of these big brands hoping it will make them successful too. However, whether it’s a start-up or an established brand shaking up the pattern of PR can create exciting results.
When the car was invented, horse-carriage and bullock-cart users were left shocked by the disruption. Similarly, Disruptive PR has shaken the very foundations of traditional PR. Once considered an aberration from the normal, it has now become the norm. What exactly is Disruptive PR? Disruptive PR is all about radical change, harnessing the power of digital technology and breathing in new ideas and innovation. It also is about bringing in revolutionary ideas.
Why traditional PR won’t cut it
Traditional PR has got outdated. Gone are the days when writing just one good press release would get great press opportunities and paying up would ensure it was out on a newswire to get disseminated. With so many new events happening, new gadgets and products being released, it’s simply impossible to give all of them space and just does not work for unestablished brands. Disruptive PR is the way forward and break through the clutter seamlessly.
Why does a brand need disruptive PR? Today, media channels have expanded like never before. Everywhere you turn, you find a brand trying to grab your attention. This has resulted in a kind of ‘numbness’ among consumers where brand messages are either being ignored or have stopped making any impact. This is where disruptive PR can make the difference.
The element of the unexpected, that surprise is what makes this so effective. Disruptive PR can work in two ways, the first is that the brand gets disruptive and generated enough material for PR activities or a disruptive PR campaign is developed for a brand.
Disruptive PR functions in close connection with brands helping them reach new markets. Nike, the iconic sportswear brand disrupted the entire sporting category through its Nike Fuel Brand. This moved it from being merely a sportswear brand to tracking people’s fitness and lifestyle. This generated a huge amount of sales. This is an instance where the brand went disruptive and PR was just the messenger.
It’s not always that a brand gets disruptive with its product offering, so there is a greater challenge for the rest. One of the very successful disruptive PR campaigns took place at the Tour de France’s Grand Départ event in 2014. They had an out-of-the-box idea of dying a herd of 150 sheep yellow. This was the colour of the race’s yellow leader’s jersey. These sheep were placed in a field enroute the race. The event was further enhanced by making sweaters from the wool and the proceeds donated to charities. The resulting PR campaign generated enormous interest on social media and there were 290,000 results for “yellow sheep tour de france”.
Creating a successful disruptive PR campaign is all about looking at the brand differently. BTL activities offer greater scope for creating disruptive communication. The media is always looking for something that’s new or has a shock or surprise element and naturally these get snapped up. Photo opps also create scope for the media to feature these campaigns.
How social media has opened up Disruptive PR opportunities
Successful PR campaigns today are simply impossible without a social media component and more so when it comes to Disruptive PR. Social media has emerged as a big competitor to mass media and has given rise to social media influencers which not only includes conventional celebrities but also others in their niche such as fashion influencers, fitness influencers and so on.
During the pandemic, brands were forced to think up innovative marketing techniques. Cadbury came up with one of the most creative social media marketing strategies in 2021. Since there were lockdowns and restrictions and physical Easter egg hunts were impossible, it created an online one in the UK. This global Easter egg hunt let users “hide” a virtual egg across the globe and provide a personalized clue for a friend or family member where they could have fun tracking it down. They could also buy a real Cadbury egg and gift it to someone. Besides the advertising campaign, PR was also used widely to get this idea out.
Influencer marketing is now considered quite effective and brands are making use of them to step up their PR campaigns. The trick is not to make it too obvious that the product is being marketed. For instance, an actress while talking about her beauty rituals can make a passing reference to a soap she uses without making it obvious that she’s marketing it. The more authentic the experience, the better the results. When integrated as part of a PR strategy this translates into consumable content which strengthens a brand’s image and brand leader’s expertise.
Shifting the gaze away from competitors
Disruptive PR can draw attention away from competitors and from right under their noses. Here’s one such promotion from Volvo that was highly effective. Named “The Greatest Interception Ever,” this took place during the 2015 Superbowl. Volvo asked their customers to tweet them using the hashtag #VolvoContest whenever they spotted a commercial for another car company. They also asked them to nominate one of their loved ones to win a Volvo automobile. This completely distracted them from other brands and shifted their focus to Volvo.
Publicity stunts are a very effective tool for Disruptive PR provided they are innovative and executed well. London’s Metropolitan Police Service’s Art and Antiques Unit had come up with an interesting way to raise awareness about some investigative methods that help in detecting and preventing art forgery which has been getting increasingly sophisticated. They did this by actually staging a fake art exhibition! This generated plenty pf publicity and was all the talk in art circles.
The shock element can work wonders too. FHM magazine came up with a publicity stunt where a 100ft naked image of Gail Porter was projected on to the Houses of Parliament in 1999! The shock value gave it plenty of free publicity.
KFC Hong Kong came up with something exciting and that had incredible reach. They created two edible nail polishes and this literally resonated their classic tagline “Finger Lickin’ Good” to life.
If you decide to stage a publicity stunt, ensure that its entertaining and engaging but don’t lose track of your marketing message. The sheer audacity and boldness of the stunt is what will work in your brand’s favour. However, think the whole idea through and check for loopholes. Ask the tough questions, could it go wrong somewhere? Go ahead and launch once you are confident.
Disruptive PR delivers
What makes Disruptive PR so attractive is that it delivers quickly and effectively. It makes an impression and leaves the target with good recall and a memorable experience.
Be a disrupter and create a new pathway for success!