Classic PR - public relations - often takes the form of engineering a stunt, event or gathering, documenting what happened and inviting the media to participate or else write about what happened. Driven from and by the centre, at the agency or agencies, it can still bring returns - but as the media environment becomes more and more saturated, the awareness generated may not be enough on its own any more, especially in the congested FMCG space.
In this environment, AMV BBDO decided to turn public relations inside out: instead of pushing news to the public via the media, why not generate some news so catchy and exciting the public will push it to the news media? In this way, the stunts can take advantage of the explosion in social sharing channels that increasingly swamps 'traditional' PR - to help push those stories.
The company took the slogan 'Walkers makes any sandwich more exciting' and took up that challenge, choosing the small UK village of Sandwich as the hub of activities. In a 'day of surprises' that included a boy band performing at the local school and a Formula 1 driver running a taxi service, they succeeded spectacularly in making Sandwich more exciting.
More importantly for Walkers, though, each 'surprise' delighted and amazed the residents of Sandwich so much that photos were taken, videos posted, Facebook statuses updated and a storm of user-generated publicity created around the day.
Of course 'traditional' PR is by no means dead. The agency created content around the day of surprises, and helped to seed and spread its own and also the public's content. Between social sharing and more traditional channels, the flurry of publicity spread so effectively that it was picked up by numerous local and national media outlets, spread by the celebrities involved, and successful beyond all expectations. And most importantly, following the campaign, Walkers saw an increased willingness in supermarkets to stock Walkers next to the sandwich section, and a 15% upsurge in sales.
To sum up: PR is not dead, not by a long shot. But to cut through the noise, campaigns should create the kind of buzz that the public truly wants to share via its own social channels - and then work backwards from that to the news media. In other words, put the 'public' into public relations.