Want to cut through the noise and get your brand noticed? Nothing beats a PR campaign for getting people talking about you.
Successful PR campaigns (also known as public relations campaigns) come in all shapes and sizes. But all of the best PR campaigns have a few important things in common. They have clear objectives, strong messages, and an obvious target audience. They are creative and innovative in their approach, they are timely, and they align with the brand and its key objectives and values.
And they generate buzz! Which means that once you’ve done your part of the hard work, the rest is done for you.
So that’s it in theory, but what does a successful PR campaign look like in practice?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here are seven of the best PR campaigns of all time, across a range of industries, with key takeaways to help inspire and boost the impact of your next campaign.
1. Spotify – Wrapped
Since 2016, Spotify’s Wrapped campaign has become a viral annual event, providing users with a personalized summary of their listening habits from the past year. It allows individuals to see their most-streamed artists, songs, and genres, as well as other statistics, like the total number of minutes they spent listening to music on Spotify.
The data is “wrapped up” in colorful, eye-catching graphics, which users can share straight to their social media platforms.
So what makes it the best PR campaign?
Every year, it creates a sense of excitement and anticipation among listeners. It encourages users to share their results on social media, which helps raise awareness about the campaign and generates even more buzz.
The campaign also creates a sense of community, and showcases the platform’s data capabilities, positioning it as a leader in the music streaming sphere.
In short, it’s a highly personal, relevant, and shareable campaign, so it’s no surprise that it’s become a viral phenomenon.
2. Dove – #TheSelfieTalk
One of the many successful PR campaigns run by Dove as part of its #NoDigitalDistortion movement, #TheSelfieTalk PR campaign focused on how social media negatively impacts girls’ self-esteem.
The campaign, launched in 2017, featured a video of a young girl heavily editing a photo of herself to post on social media. To highlight the issue, Dove showed the process in reverse, ending with the girl’s natural face without makeup or filters.
The PR campaign – which is as relevant today as it was then – aims to encourage parents to have positive conversations with their children about body confidence and self-esteem. And to help them with this, the campaign also includes a website where parents (and teachers) can find resources, tips, and downloadable kits. There’s also a hashtag, #TheSelfieTalk, that parents can use on social media to share their experiences and advice with others.
What made this PR campaign so successful?
It honed in on issues that its customers face in their daily lives, and struck an emotional chord with the audience via its simple yet powerful message about self-esteem and body positivity.
The campaign encouraged users to participate and share their experiences online, which led to user-generated content that strengthened the impact of the campaign, while also helping to build a sense of community around it.
Overall, it positioned Dove as a champion of body positivity, inclusivity, self love, and confidence.
3. IKEA – #StayHome
During the pandemic, IKEA harnessed its power as the king of home furnishings and launched its #StayHome campaign. At a time when everyone was growing sick of seeing the same four walls day in, day out, IKEA’s PR campaign encouraged people to fall back in love with their homes. It did this by urging people to remember all the happy memories they’ve had there and the feeling of safety and comfort their home provides.
As well as sending a positive and reassuring message via its video content, the campaign included online tutorials and home furnishing tips to help its audience give their living spaces a new lease of life.
The PR campaign addressed a timely and relevant need, connected with people on an emotional level, offered interactive elements that encouraged people to engage with the brand, and reinforced IKEA’s identity as the go-to for affordable and functional home furnishings.
4. Always – #LikeAGirl
Always tugged at the heartstrings of people everywhere with its #LikeAGirl PR campaign. It was created in response to research showing that girls experience a significant drop in self-confidence when they hit puberty. The campaign aimed to empower women and girls with its simple yet powerful message – that doing something “like a girl” should mean doing it with strength and confidence.
The main feature of the campaign was a video showing boys, men, women, and girls demonstrating what they think it means to run, throw, and fight “like a girl”. It starts with the boys, men, and women, who all carry out the actions somewhat pathetically. Then it moves on to young girls, who, when asked to demonstrate what they think it means to do things like a girl, respond exactly as they should – with determination, confidence, and strength.
The video went viral on social media platforms, evoking a strong emotional response and encouraging people to share their own stories and posts using the same hashtag.
Its strong storytelling, effective use of social media, and empowering message made it a huge success and built a positive brand association for Always, as champions of girls and young women.
This campaign also made it into our roundup of the best Super Bowl ads of all time!
5. LEGO – Rebuild the World
Launched in 2019, Lego’s Rebuild the World campaign aimed to encourage children and their families to use their creativity and imagination to rebuild the world around them (using LEGO bricks, of course). The campaign was inspired by the idea that the world is full of challenges, but that children are the future, and have the power to make a positive difference.
It was promoted through fun and playful TV ads, social media, interactive pop-ups, and a dedicated website where children could share their LEGO creations. This multi-channel PR strategy meant it reached a wide audience and generated a lot of buzz.
This PR campaign’s success was down to the fact that it helped to promote the brand’s values of creativity, imagination, and play, and tapped into the sense of endless possibility that LEGO represents. It shared the positive message that children can do anything – and who wouldn’t want to get behind that?
6. American Express – Small Business Saturday
American Express’ Small Business Saturday is another of the best PR campaign examples we’ve come across. It’s an annual shopping event that takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and it was created by Amex in 2010 .
The aim? To encourage consumers to shop at small and local businesses in their communities during the holiday shopping season.
The incentive? American Express cardholders get credit for shopping at eligible stores.
The campaign is still going strong – this year will mark the 14th annual event – largely thanks to its clear and concise message that resonates with both small business owners and consumers. As well as providing a boost to local economies and raising awareness about the importance of shopping small year-round, the campaign also increases brand awareness and loyalty, positioning Amex as a brand that supports the underdog.
7. KFC UK & Ireland – FCK
Remember when KFC ran out of chicken in the UK? There was national outrage (understandably), and the fast-food brand risked having their reputation permanently damaged.
Until their genius PR agency worked their magic, that is.
KFC quickly launched a tongue-in-cheek PR campaign, sharing an image far and wide of an empty KFC bucket with the letters of the logo rearranged to “FCK” on the side. This quick-witted response, accompanied by a heartfelt apology, helped to manage the crisis and diffuse the tension.
It came across as authentic and sincere, as it demonstrated that the brand was willing to take responsibility for its mistakes – without trying to hide behind corporate messaging. The public relations campaign helped to rebuild trust with KFC’s customers, and ultimately helped to mitigate the negative impact of the chicken shortage.
Without a doubt the cleverest PR campaign example on our list!
How to speed up client feedback on PR campaigns
Great PR campaigns require good collaboration. Often companies hire agencies to come up with the entire concept for a PR campaign, or to at least help out with some parts of the process. To make sure this collaboration is smooth and efficient, you’ll need the right review and approval tool on board.
With a client feedback tool like Filestage, you can have your review process basically run itself, waving goodbye to sleepless nights of waiting for someone’s feedback.
Filestage allows teams to share, discuss, and approve all their files, all in one place – including documents, images, videos, websites, and audio files. Plus, all reviewers will get notified whenever there’s a due date approaching, making sure you collect all your approvals in time.