It’s Strategic

By JCuvilly

In most PR agencies there are three primary functions of business operations: account management, creative, and strategy. The strategic function helps clients determine the messages they would like to present and push out to people. Strategy involves the planning, listening to challenges, and research analysis which is used to tailor message context.

The PR agencies of Oglivy and Saatchi and Saatchi rely on the creative brain trusts of their associates, but it is the strategy that recognizes the challenges and performs the SWOT analysis for the client. Creativity without strategy is wasted money, time, energy and effort. Creativity with strategy evokes brilliance, drives revenue, and engages consumers. Ask any CEO which option they would prefer and creativity with strategy would win out every time. Having stressed the importance of creativity with strategy, this post will look at some lessons learned about being strategic and how these lessons are applied in the worlds of marketing, PR, and advertising.

Monologue and Dialogue
In public relations and advertising, starting with an interesting monologue opens up an interesting dialogue. As I learned in Comm 7500 (Communication for Multinational Corporations), having a dialogic or two way conversation is more rewarding and more meaningful than having a monologic or one way conversation. However, to reach the point of true dialogue where both sides understand each other, there must be a point of dialogic convergence. According to Yves Van Landeghem, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Brussels, developing the brand, its value, and core messaging through monologue is the most responsive creative strategy to establish a dialogue with consumers.

Reaching the point of true dialogue and understanding of consumers requires one to look at the consumer as more than just a stereotype or a statistic. Yves says we have to get to know and understand the consumer to go beyond the typical cultural challenges that are posed such as old vs. young and male vs. female. Trying to identify and recognize consumer subcultures and habits, but also leaving room to allow people that don’t necessarily fit within the box that is defined for them, is an ideal way to frame messaging.

Ann Maes from Ogilvy Brussels explained how her company strives to create “The Big Ideal” in their client campaigns. Ann describes Oglivy’s Big Ideal as the intersection of cultural tensions or the consumer’s cultural environment that their client has the opportunity to address with the brands best self or its essence and definition. One example of a campaign that embodies The Big Ideal is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Oglivy uses the cultural tensions of women judging their beauty harshly in comparison with the way they are seen by others, and the inner essence of the brand which is to celebrate beauty and to encourage comfort in ones own skin. The campaign has been successful for Dove because it humanizes the brand and is something that Dove consumers really understand.

Campaign Testing
There are several examples of cringe worthy blunders that have happened to campaigns with good intentions. Just Google Pepsi, Electrolux, Huggies or Ikea to see some examples of blunders. These blunders usually come at the hands of hurried roll outs or without the consultation of test audiences to affirm the meaning, culture, and humor all play out in the campaign as intended. Both Ann and Yves told our group the importance of testing campaigns for success before launching them. Testing is a strategy that provides insights on how the tested market groups will respond to the campaigns. While this strategy is not always fool proof, it does provide reassurances that the campaign’s messaging is understood by the tested audience group. Belgium’s complex regional make up in a small area provides many PR and advertising agencies with a good place to test campaigns on targeted groups of Dutch and French speaking people before they are deployed to the European countries where these languages and cultures are similar.

Corporate Social Responsibility
It was reaffirming to see my interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in line with the global thinkers and leaders in PR. For my Communication for Multinational Corporations course, I researched and subsequently wrote a paper on corporate social responsibility, which is a term used to describe the investments MNC’s make to be better corporate citizens which impact their people, plans, and profits. Many companies have begun to tout their efforts for sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. To name a few examples there are: Tetrapak, The Body Shop, Unilever, and Starbucks. Ann discussed CSR as a new obligation most companies are participating in for “olympic sport” or out of obligation to keep up with the competition. CSR is a differentiator for many companies and in the manufacturing sector can be enough of a differentiator to generate new business opportunities. CSR should be a PR related function as the initiatives of the companies are only as good as the promotion and communication that goes into showing interested stakeholders their accomplishments.

Closing Thoughts
Strategy is a crucial piece to planning and implementing communication campaigns as it defines the brand, defines the message, and provides key insights on how consumers and stakeholders will respond to messages. Branding and message communication are important for MNCs with business to consumer and business to business consumer bases. In all the strategizing and planning, as communicators its necessary to take a step back and create a profile of who you think the consumer is, so that the messaging strategy is most appropriate.

The final closing thought is David Ogilvy was truly a genius, both Ann and Yves quoted him multiple times, so if ever in doubt or wondering what to do take note from this t-shirt:

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Image from Pinterest.

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