PR Plays a More Focused Game

Article excerpt

PR for the 90s is aimed at better targeting through more creative techniques, technology and more evaluation, says Matt Fearnley

The PR lunch was once the stuff of legend. Not anymore. The recession has virtually wiped it from the table of PR tools.

Fundamental changes in the way communications advice and implementation are bought and evaluated have affected techniques PR officers employ to develop the relationship customers share with their brands and their brands' companies. With better targeting, more creative work and guidance from evaluation, modern PR can prove an excellent marketing buy.

Christine Gorham, MTV's director of press and publicity, says: "Quantity of coverage is not as important as quality. We work to identify the exact requirements of the top level of the press who write for titles important to us and deliver to them only what they want."

The policy of narrow targeting is working. Ray Cokes, one of the youth entertainment channel's most enduring VJs, is set to appear on three top German TV shows, and is due to be featured in German titles Der Spiegel, Mass and Die Woche over the next week or so.

Seeking to raise their message above the media noise, PR practitioners have combined targeting with key techniques such as the use of sponsorship. In recent years, PR consultancies have been relatively successful in stealing some of the most prestigious sponsorships from ad agencies and sponsorship specialists. Scope, for example, has a strong record on sponsorships. It was behind Beefeater Gin's sponsorship of the Boat Race, Carlsberg's sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club and Halford's sponsorship of Formula 2.

While developing an existing sponsorship opportunity often proves to be an effective spend, the creation from scratch of an event or sponsorship can be even more successful.

Adrian Wheeler, GCI London's joint managing director, says: "Those 'invented here' projects tend to deliver a hundred times the value the 'bought off the shelf' events or sponsorships do.

"GCI had great success by putting together the first-ever commercial sponsorship of polo at Cowdray Park, polo's most exclusive club, to launch Davidoff, positioned as the world's most exclusive cigarette," he says.

GCI London also managed Fairy Excel Plus's successful sponsorship of soft play areas at Barnardo's to reflect the caring nature of the brand at Christmas. Nanette Newman, star of the long-running Fairy TV commercials, launched the |pounds~100,000 sponsorship by joining children to demonstrate the soft areas' features.

MTV's Gorham also believes that only by creating events can a company create its own atmosphere. MTV has been launched in Dracula's Castle in Transylvania, in the shell of a hotel in Beirut and, in 1989, with the help of a soldier waving an MTV flag, on the Berlin Wall.

Carol Hayes, of Carole Hayes Associates, agrees: "You must create your own event to stamp the product with its own unique qualities."

The use of celebrities by PR agencies is one of the most popular publicity-gaining tactics. Communique used its own star, Joe the baby, to model the new Zorbit nappy. With editorial competitions, a survey and sponsorship, GMTV, the Daily Mirror, Chat, and Woman's Own covered the story and made Joe a celebrity. …