#Winning: Four Steps to a Successful PR Campaign

By Mary Danielson

Singers have the Grammys. Actors have the Oscars. Journalists have the Pulitzer Prize. And in the public relations industry we have the Silver Anvils.

This June, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and our agency MP&F Strategic Communications took home the public relations industry’s top honor, the Best of Show at the 2018 Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil awards. The award recognized our “Don’t be an Accidental Drug Dealer” campaign designed to combat Tennessee’s opioid epidemic.

So, what made this campaign a winning entry? The answer: a best practice four-step process that your company can use in its efforts to drive awareness, change attitudes and impact behavior.

1.  Research

It starts with solid research. Without it, you’ll have a difficult time defining the problem or opportunity. Whether it’s quantitative or qualitative data, you’ll struggle in its absence.

As we worked on our public education campaign to combat opioid abuse and misuse, we started with examining the landscape. That involved studying multiple government and private sector sources on the potential dangers of painkillers and the scope of their impact in Tennessee.

Next, we looked at what other organizations were doing on the opioids front – studying their programs and accomplishments.

Finally, we conducted our own original research, surveying Tennesseans to assess their awareness and understanding of the dangers of opioids as well as their behaviors related to safely securing and disposing of unused and expired opioid prescriptions.

A key finding of the survey showed that:

·     More than half (55 percent) said they did not think it would be dangerous to leave unused pain medication in an area of their households that could be accessed by others.

Yet, according to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services:

·     More than half (55 percent) of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from a friend and 16 percent steal them from a friend or family member.

With that insight, it was evident that a public education campaign could be an effective way to increase the number of people who practice safe disposal of opioid pain medication - and, in turn, make an impact on this public health crisis.

2.  Planning

Once you have your data in hand, you’re better prepared to craft a strategy, which includes desired results (objectives), the publics you want to influence (target audience) and a general road map including overall campaign themes and messages.

In the case of our opioid campaign, our planning process helped us identify Count It! Lock It! Drop It! (CLD), a grassroots program with a simple three-step call to action. Those messages are count your prescriptions; lock them up in your home, drop off expired or unused medications at a safe disposal box near you.

3.  Implementation

Now that you have your diagram drawn, it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts – otherwise known as tactics. What are those specific tasks and tools you’ll use to execute your strategy? For example, what channels will you use to deliver your messages and how much will it cost?

To share the CLD message, we applied an integrated marketing approach. We melded public relations, advertising, social media and other aspects of marketing into our promotional efforts.

We also formed key partnerships with individuals and organizations to amplify our call to action. One of those relationships was with Miss Tennessee 2017 Caty Davis, who became an ambassador for the CLD program.

4.  Evaluation

So, how did you do? If you can’t measure your outcomes, then you’ve wasted your time and resources. Here’s where setting your objectives comes into play. Because without that benchmark, you have no way of knowing if your campaign was effective.

Not only did we measure our final results but we evaluated our efforts along the way. During the campaign, we measured things like the number of views for our social media posts and website traffic to assess if a change in distribution channels was needed.

Ultimately our success was gauged by post survey results and collection counts for disposed medications at Tennessee’s DEA Drug Take Back events and permanent drop boxes.

In total more than 50 tons of pills were collected, significantly more than in the previous timeframe, and we increased awareness of the CLD program by 110 percent.

Following these time-tested steps in developing your PR campaign is sure to help you succeed – whether that success means winning an award or helping your organization reach its business goals.