Many years ago, my jacobstahl partner, Jeremy, worked for View Master, maker of the classic toy that brought the world to kids through special plastic scopes and cardboard circles of color transparencies. The client was named Elliot, who was about the same age as Jeremy and a marketing maverick of his time.
During meeting breaks, Elliot and Jeremy would talk mostly about music they both loved. One day, Elliot came to the office to discuss the launch of a cool, cutting-edge View Master offering. Like the new product, the marketing communications needed to go beyond the expected. He turned to PR for the solution, suggesting Jeremy "go back to his rock and roll roots" to develop a plan that, in today’s vernacular, would be described as "disruptive."
It is now, as it was then, up to PR to meet communications challenges with something new, something different, something that surprises the target audience in a positive way and inspires behavioral change. For View Master, and in the spirit of the early days of rock and roll, that meant pushing beyond the boundaries of what was considered "PR."
Our skills as strategists, storytellers, and purveyors of influence can and should take PR in an infinite number of directions if we allow them to, if the communications challenge demands it, and if we have the opportunities.
So, how might this play out? Instead of asking the PR agency to "do the PR" for a new or refreshed brand name or new company logo, product, or business unit, why not also consider the PR agency for creating the new brand identity, with inventing the brand name, or, in the research-based pharma space, ask us to name a primary clinical trial?
After all, we PR practitioners are master developers of compelling narratives. We have deep and abiding respect for the power of language, individual words, sounds, looks, and feel. There is no reason our part of telling a brand story can’t begin far earlier in the process with the creative development of the brand’s phonetics and optics.
This desire to go beyond the status quo and push past boundaries will drive the kind of focused and, occasionally freewheeling, curiosity and exploration that may yield the next big thing or uncover an opportunity. A "rock and roll" spirit in action? Maybe. As long as it keeps us moving forward.
Sandra Stahl is a partner at jacobstahl.