Three Most Memorable PR Moments of 2018

Remember that time IHOP, the pancake ruler of the world, caused a nationwide frenzy by announcing it was changing its name to IHOb, International House of Burgers? Yeah, me too. While it may feel like that happened years ago, it actually took place in 2018.

 

Whether you loved the publicity stunt or hated it, you have to admit it caught your attention and made for good conversation.

 

As we gear up to enter a new year, let’s take a look at three of the most noteworthy marketing and PR moments of 2018.

 

IHOP Fakes a Name Change

While some called it stupid, others called it genius. Either way, the world was captivated at the idea that the 60-year old International House of Pancakes would be known for anything but sweet and delicious breakfast food. The stunt did exactly what it was intended to do: get the world talking about the brand and thinking about it as more than just a go-to breakfast joint.

 

IHOP has served burgers since opening its first location in 1958. However, with casual dining and family dining becoming less popular with the proliferation of restaurant delivery services, the restaurant needed to get more diners coming in its doors for lunch.

 

While the marketing stunt certainly created a ton of buzz this year, it did also create some confusion. Many consumers were left wondering if the company was moving to a burgers-only menu and whether the signature pancakes they loved would continue to be served. There are still online news stories about the IHOb name change—but with no mention that it was all a hoax. The stunt even helped brands like Wendy’s and Waffle House draw some extra attention by generating Twitter wars full of witty banter and friendly trolling.

 

But it seems to have worked…at least for now. The stunt generated millions of social media impressions and extensive media coverage in just about every national consumer outlet. In the weeks following the launch, the pancake chain’s parent company said burger sales quadrupled for a short period. More recently, the company says it has doubled comparable burger sales since before the promotion.

 

Starbucks Racial Sensitivity Training

On a Tuesday afternoon in May, 8,000 Starbucks cafes closed for a four-hour anti-bias training seminar. More than 175,000 baristas participated in the training following an incident in Philadelphia that tested the company’s value of standing firmly against discrimination or racial profiling. The company announced the training soon after two black men were arrested at a store in Philadelphia while waiting for a friend.

 

In a situation where a lot of things went wrong, Starbucks (and its PR team) did a lot of things right. When it comes to preparing our own clients for crisis communications management, the steps that were taken by Starbucks are something that Dittoe PR prides itself on doing as well.

 

The company issued a public apology on Twitter two days following the incident, giving the organization enough time to gather the basic facts. Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, then went on to issue a statement in which he articulated empathy and regret to the two men who were innocently at the heart of the controversy. From there, Johnson vowed to fully investigate the facts of the matter and make changes at Starbucks to prevent a similar incident from ever occurring again.

 

While some criticized the lapse in time between Johnson’s public statement and the disheartening incident in Philadelphia, many others praised him for accepting accountability and injecting himself into the conversation.

 

Johnson reiterated that “Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling,” and offered a face-to-face apology to the two men. He promised that company-wide meetings and trainings would take place to underscore Starbucks’ commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity.

 

Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Schultz went on CBS This Morning to discuss how the company intended to handle the incident by closing 8,000 stores for racial sensitivity training:

“It will cost millions of dollars, but I’ve always viewed this and things like this as not an expense, but an investment in our people and our company. And we’re better than this.”

 

While there’s rarely a “perfect” way to handle crisis communications in an incident of this severity, Starbucks deserves a lot of credit for a great job in crisis management. The company acknowledged the problem, apologized, addressed the intended solution, and most importantly, followed up on the promise they made.

 

Payless’s Unexpected Influencer Campaign

More recently, Payless pulled a PR stunt with a brilliant influencer campaign by opening their high-end alter ego: a luxury shoe store called Palessi. The low-price shoe store sold the same shoes found in Payless shoe stores—but with a major price hike.

 

Social influencers visited the store and spent up to $400 on a pair of shoes in Palessi, which sell for less than $40 at Payless. The influencers, who didn’t have a clue of the stunt, and even commented things like, “Palessi is just such high-quality, high-fashion brand” and “I could definitely wear this shoe to the Met Gala dinner.”

 

Following the campaign and stunt reveal, Payless CMO Sara Couch told Adweek, “The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy [in the fashion industry] and aims to remind consumers Payless is still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion.”

 

Payless’ clever campaign proves PR has power. After this story grabbed headlines and gained millions of social media impressions, everyone was talking about Payless. It’s certainly not every day a low-price shoe store gets national attention.

 

Does your company want to make a big splash in the media in 2019? Contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com to set up a consultation and learn more about our services.

Why Setting a PR Strategy Makes all the Difference

Public relations has the power to build platforms of perception, influence, credibility and prominence. At its cornerstone is strategic planning, which provides a foundation for all actionable communication activities. It also establishes clear-cut goals and builds upon realistic expectations for each client to guarantee success while simultaneously increasing brand awareness.

 

At Dittoe PR, we firmly believe that a one-size-fits-all approach to strategic planning does not exist. They’re built on similar formats of interrelated components, but take different forms, serve specific needs and possess varied purposes. That’s why we work with each client closely to determine the best action plan to meets their business goals and objectives.

 

For those still skeptical on the importance of strategic planning, here are a couple of reasons why setting a PR plan makes all the difference.

 

Analyzes the situation.

Before assembling the plan, the team should complete an audit of the client’s needs to help craft the strategy’s foundation. This process incorporates research to understand the current marketplace landscape as well as the client’s previous PR and marketing efforts and results.

 

When drafting an insightful situation analysis, make sure the client’s position in the marketplace, marketing strategies and public perceptions to market conditions are clear and an analysis of stakeholder communities is included. This will help outline the various tactics when determining the best strategies to implement on behalf of the client.

 

Defines goals and objectives.

It’s impractical to begin activating on any PR ideas without formulating a clear strategy, so the next step is to outline SMART goals. These goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

 

After the goals are established, consider the actions plans, ideas and objectives to help work toward these goals. These strategies should include methods of communication, key messages and other activities related to reaching your goal. This also means outlining various tactics to secure media coverage, such as newsjacking, evergreen story ideas, thought leadership campaigns and more.

 

Helps understand audiences.

Knowing your target audience and determining which group to communicate with is important for an effective PR plan. For instance, if your client’s core group of customers are baby boomers, there is less productivity targeting them through channels like Instagram. It would be more effective to communicate to this audience through print newspapers or television segments.

 

In addition, it is helpful to discuss the audience with your client as it can critically affect campaign results. If the client has multiple types of audiences, you’ll need to ensure that messaging, tactics and channels are tailored for each group to ensure the plan is executed effectively.

 

Reaffirms scope of work.

Scope of work is extremely important as this allows clients to understand the roles and responsibilities of the PR team. Each tactic included in the plan should reaffirm how it will be executed and who will be responsible for accomplishing this goal. In addition, this also helps define success for your client and better protects the PR team from unrealistic expectations or out-of-scope demands.

 

Establishes measurement and KPIs.

Successful communicators do not wait until the end of campaign to evaluate. Therefore, an approach to measurement and reporting should be set during the planning process and taken into consideration regularly throughout a campaign in order to monitor and assess.

 

Reporting could include media relations analysis, event management metrics, social media engagement and so much more. PR professionals should also compare a client’s coverage to competitors regularly to determine growth in overall Share of Voice.

 

If possible, integrate business results such as sales, engagement results and website traffic to connect communications objectives with business objectives. This allows you to evaluate and adjust as needed to keep strategies driving toward goals.

 

Strategic PR plans executed by professional and results-driven PR teams make all the difference. If you think your business could benefit from PR, contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com or request a consultation today.