Message Delivery: PR or Advertising?

| Written by: Written by: Karen Y. Kirksey

Message Delivery: PR or Advertising?

On the topic of message delivery,  when is it best to use public relations, advertising or marketing principles? What are the similarities and differences of each, and how can the disciplines work together for a successful outcome?

Some accomplished communications experts answered those questions and more on Feb. 25 at the Hotel Duval in Tallahassee. They were featured panelists at a joint monthly lunch meeting of the Florida Public Relations Association-Capital Chapter and the Advertising Federation of Tallahassee. It was attended by professional communicators and students.

Abbey Maurer, news anchor at WTXL-ABC 27 served as moderator and fielded questions from the audience via Twitter to: Terrie Ard, President, Moore Communications Group;  Stephanie Derzypolski, Executive Director of Program Development, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare;  Mark Freid, President, ThinkCreative; and Staci Mellman, Associate Director of Brand, VISIT FLORIDA.

The panelists were given case studies and offered their take on the scenarios:

Case Study 1: “The Face of Litter” – a well-known ad campaign from Ogilvy & Mather to encourage people  to change their behavior. It uses DNA from trash thrown on the ground to create physical likenesses of litterbugs, who then end up on anti-litter posters.

Ard suggested using multi-channel marketing. Getting people to change behavior tends to “come across as preachy.”

  • Bring in other partners with the same mission.
  • How can we be different?
  • Look at the emotional cause — why we should not litter.

Freid asked, “How do we tell a great story with passion and impact?”

  • One of our biggest challenges is bias. Most of us think we are not the problem or the problem does not affect us.
  • What we really want to do is inspire.
  • Tell stories that inspire people to action.

Case Study 2: Using a Huggies diaper ad aimed at dads as an example, Mauer asked, “How have you targeted an unusual market for your organization?”

VISIT FLORIDA focused on dogs. Mellman explained that since Florida is such a popular year-round destination, they had to figure out how to “keep Florida top of mind during the summer months.” They employed a niche marketing campaign –- targeting dog owners and people who like to travel with their beloved pets. With the hashtag DogsloveFL, VISIT FLORIDA used social media to showcase pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and beaches in the Sunshine State. They also partnered with the popular talk show, Live! With Kelly and Michael to sponsor a national pet photo contest. The grand prize was a trip to Florida worth $10,000. Mellman said the campaign generated an amazing amount of buzz, including social media impressions in the millions.

Derzypolski said Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is educating the community and “leading our community to be healthier.” It uses the slogan, “TMH for Life.”  They tell people to “Come out and walk and run with us.” And that’s not all:

  • She notes that one in 10 babies will have to use the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at TMH
  • The over-40 population is targeted for neurosurgery and stroke services
  • The hospital has three different ERs – Urgent Care, the Bixler Emergency Center and the Emergency Center-Northeast, with special amenities for children and senior patients.

In closing, the panelists were asked to weigh in on crisis management. Maurer cited a current public health crisis as an example –- the Zika virus. According to the Florida Department of Health, the state now has 42 confirmed cases of the disease.

The consensus: Have a plan in place. Don’t wait for a crisis to start figuring things out. Practice the plan and make sure everyone is aware of and familiar with it.

Ard advised communicators to build goodwill with an audience before a crisis occurs. MCG has Kay Jewelers as a client. The company is well known for having beautiful diamond rings, but it is also concerned with giving back to the community. She mentioned their “Celebrating Open Hearts” contest, which will award $5,000 to an organization that’s doing amazing things by serving others.

In the wake of a crisis, Ard said, “Look for the unexpected.” Be prepared to talk about the number of cases…what we’re doing…we have test kits…how do you prevent the Zika virus? “It’s a true opportunity for an organization. It’s not only what message, but how you are listening or monitoring.” Digital technology also needs to be a big part of crisis management.

Derzypolski talked about how TMH handled the Ebola virus scare. They trained their medical staff and went to the media proactively with everything they’d want to know. They also:

  • Set up a call center
  • Provided updates on the hospital website
  • Provided internal communication and educated colleagues on the facts about the virus

With 105 million visitors in 2015 and a 95 percent repeat visits, Mellman said transparency and authenticity are important to VISIT FLORIDA’S brand. She explained an integrated approach was key in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. ”Everyone was watching Florida tourism.” A tourism marketing survey asked: “Do you believe oil has hit the beaches?” Eighty percent of respondents said “yes.” Noting that at the time, the Sunshine State had experienced five years of consecutive growth in tourism. Here’s what they did:

  • Launched an aggressive campaign using national newspapers, television, radio and social media — created a website called Florida Live and installed live cameras on Florida beaches, so the public could see for themselves that the beaches had not been affected. Also incorporated Facebook and Twitter, using comments from tourists and others who were on the beaches.
  • Used such themes as Florida beaches are open for business….the beaches are clean…
  • Planned media visits so the story could be told in various markets…
  • Organized the Great VISIT FLORIDA Beach Walk urging residents and volunteers to stroll Florida’s 825 miles of beaches, take a picture or video and upload it to the VISIT FLORIDA website – all in an effort to show the world that Florida’s beaches are still beautiful.

Freid said, in a crisis, “The most important thing we can do is put a face to it. Who’s taking responsibility?” Show the faces of the people who are affected. He talked about a story in the news recently about a massive data breach at the University of Central Florida. Hackers stole 63,000 Social Security numbers belonging to current and former UCF students and employees. Those affected will receive one year of credit monitoring. Freid’s advice:

  • Act quickly. UCF knew about the situation for at least a month before going public.
  • Think about the story you’re telling. What will others tell other people?
  • Be clear about what actions you want people to take.
  • Create a forum for those affected to voice their concerns.

Ard is always reminded of the words of her former professor, Dr. Jay Rayburn (Florida State University College of Communication), often called the golden rule of crisis management, “Tell the truth, tell it fast and tell it all.” She said, after a crisis, it’s important to go back to the plan and update it. “You will never go in with all the answers and you will always learn something.”