Brands don't have audiences, but participants: Six valuable insights from PRWeek Great Campaigns seminar

What makes a great modern campaign? That was the focus of PRWeek's Great Campaign Seminar held in London yesterday (17 November). We outline some of the main lessons below.

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1) Brands don’t have audiences, they have participants. Speaking at the event was Gerry Hopkinson, co-founder of Unity, which created the Spark Something Good campaign for Marks & Spencer. This was designed to inspire M&S customers and employees to help out in their local community by completing 24 projects in 24 hours. Explaining why he thought the campaign was such a success, Hopkinson said that in today's market, brands do not have audiences, they have participants.

He said: "The campaign allowed people who cared about the brand to do good...while subtly shining a spotlight on the M&S range."

2) Don’t give up on a great idea… even if there's reluctance. Chris McCafferty and Nicola Dodd, founder and deputy MD respectively at Kaper, explained how the agency was called in by English Heritage to get families engaged in the "wonder of history" for the Kids' Takeover campaign. To increase family audiences at heritage sites, Kaper convinced English Heritage to employ a new CEO (child executive officer) in the form of eight-year-old Thea Hunt.

As part of her role, Hunt appeared in a number of interviews, promoting creative ways in which kids could takeover their local heritage sites.

"The campaign generated a 21 per cent uplift in family visits in the week after launch and a 37 per cent increase year-on-year," McCafferty said. "However, the client initially rejected the idea as 'too childish'. My point is, if you know you've got a great idea, don't give up on it."

3) Include more employees in the creative process. Lawrence Francis, director of client strategy at Premier, which delivered the #CondomEmoji campaign for Durex, said: "We need to be less focused on PR people sitting in a room brainstorming, and more focused on having people like graphic designers, video producers and the ad team getting in on the 'ideas' process. We need a lot of different insights from outside of PR within it."

4) Disruption doesn’t have to mean big changes. Mark Perkins, creative director at MHP Communications, which won awards for its #MissingType campaign at the PRWeek Awards this year, suggested disruption is taking something simple for the every day and changing it slightly.

For example, the #MissingType campaign was triggered by the 'o' disappearing from the Downing Street road sign, which was meant to highlight the lack of new blood donors in the UK and drive recruitment for new donors. "Disruption is not about doing something big and floating it down the Thames, for instance. It's about making little tweaks or adding things together to make something new."

5) A great campaign is about simplicity. "If you can successfully explain your campaign to friends or family that do not work in comms, you are on to a winner," said Lisa Quinn, director of communications at Hearst Magazines UK and a judge at this year's PRWeek Awards.

6) PR needs to raise its game in video creation. This point came from Jo Patterson, head of strategic planning at Porter Novelli and another PRWeek Awards judge. She said almost every campaign now contains some film element, but the standards from PR agencies vary hugely.

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