Get ready to be inspired by the top PR campaigns that have redefined the industry from 2020 to 2023
From 2020 to 2023, numerous PR campaigns have left an indelible mark on the industry, redefining the way companies communicate and connect with their audiences. These campaigns not only brought attention to their respective brands but also demonstrated the power of innovative strategies and compelling storytelling.
From groundbreaking product launches to heartfelt cause-driven initiatives, the top 20 PR campaigns during this period showcased the diverse ways brands can captivate and engage their target audiences. With intriguing hooks, strategic messaging, and creative tactics, these campaigns effectively generated buzz, enhanced brand reputation, and increased customer loyalty.
While some campaigns leveraged social media influencers to amplify their message, others relied on powerful visuals or interactive experiences to create a lasting impact. From startups to multinational corporations, brands across all industries embraced the power of PR to build meaningful connections and drive business growth. Join us as we dive into the top 20 PR campaigns that reshaped the industry and raised the bar for effective communication strategies from 2020 to 2023.
What is a PR campaign?
An effective public relations campaign has a clear objective. This could be raising awareness for a new product or service, informing the public of company news, reaching a larger audience, or improving a brand’s reputation. With strategic messaging, companies can communicate with their target audience and successfully achieve their objectives. Successful media outreach is more than just writing a press release about a brand or hosting a fundraiser to raise awareness. Media outreach is about taking the extra steps to attract positive publicity, boost sales, and create a positive relationship between a company and its public.
To be successful, PR campaigns need to specify an objective, deliver an important message, and target a specific audience.
Tips for running effective PR campaigns
Before the outreach:
1) Set a goal, and outline its limitations as well as its metrics of success
Before you even craft your brand message, you need to set a goal. You need to consider why you are sending out a pitch or press release. Asking yourself and your team what you hope to achieve with your campaign is important. You might want to reach a new audience, boost sales, or build a positive relationship with the public. These are all essential things to consider when developing a campaign.
2) Know the audience
One of the most important requirements for developing effective PR campaigns is knowing precisely for whom the message is meant. You need to take your time to establish distinct buyer personas so that you can tailor your news to that specific persona. Doing research on how to appeal to consumers is vital when trying to reach them.
3) Choose the right platform
The right platform depends on your target persona. For example, if you are focused on reaching an audience above the age of 50, you may need to consider other modes of communication other than social media. Let’s assume you plan to target millennials and Gen Z’s who rely heavily on obtaining their information through social media and video content. In that case, you might need to optimize your message by creating quality video content.
4) Find a creative angle and create great content
Not all content is the same, and it is entirely possible to run successful PR campaigns on soft news. Even so, the story needs to be attractive to journalists and media outlets. Information that may seem appealing to a company may not be appealing to a journalist if you don’t have a newsworthy angle. Before writing your story, you need to consider why the public should care about the information you want to present and how it will benefit others.
Even for a professional, creating successful PR campaigns can be stressful due to the amount of information always coming in. If you think creating unique, creative content on top of managing your business might be overwhelming, then you can hire a branding agency or PR professionals to help you with this task.
PR agencies like Pressfarm help companies continue to develop their brand identity by creating quality newsworthy content. Their expert writers work with companies to create everything from the initial email pitch to guest posts. This content is designed to provide insight into the brand’s industry and information about the brand. Pressfarm also offers access to its PR database of over 1 million journalists. This database allows companies to create and obtain customized media lists to achieve positive media coverage.
5) Distribute wisely
There is no point in creating newsworthy content if it isn’t distributed to the right people. You should have an exact list of media professionals you want to reach out to and tailor your story for each contact on your list.
6) Build relationships with journalists
In order for your PR campaigns to be successful, you must first build relationships with the people in your media list. While this may seem like a tedious process, building connections with your media contacts will give them the incentive to write a story about your company. Media professionals are the gatekeepers of information. Without establishing a strong relationship with these people, you will not reach your full potential for media coverage.
After the outreach:
1) Invest in link building
Link building is a great way to build brand awareness with your owned media. Once a story has been distributed, earning backlinks and media mentions can boost your domain authority. If your content is recognized by quality sources, then you can establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry.
2) Share your story on social media
Once a journalist or media outlet writes about you, you can share your story on various social media platforms. By doing this, you can attract a wider audience to your campaign.
3) Write additional content
If your original campaign was successful, then you should see increased traffic on your online platforms. Now that you have the public’s attention, it is essential to retain it. You can do this by repurposing your original story and adding a creative spin to it. In this way, you can share relevant information with people who want to learn more about your company and its products or services.
Top PR campaigns of 2020 to 2023
Given that 2020 was a rather challenging year, many businesses had to quickly adapt to the pandemic and abide by new government regulations. Since then, humanity has had to weather many more storms. These include monkeypox, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a global recession, and – most recently – the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
For most businesses, the main goal since 2020 has been to keep the business alive and retain customer attention. Many brands have done this by offering discounts or sending out motivating messages to thank customers and encourage them to keep safe. While some companies may have flopped under the pressure of creating entirely new PR campaigns, here are some that have managed to survive and thrive.
1) Carlsberg – “Adopt a Keg” campaign
Carlsberg has always been known for crafting exciting slogans that capture the audience’s eye. The COVID-19 pandemic was no exception. As bars and restaurants started closing around the world, Carlsberg wanted to encourage beer lovers around the world to keep safe by staying at home. Their Adopt a Keg campaign allowed people to create a virtual keg. Customers could fill the keg by scanning labels of store-bought bottles or cans of Carlsberg, and redeem the keg when bars or restaurants re-opened.
Why it worked
While Carlberg’s revenue fell 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 due to the pandemic, the campaign was an effective sales tactic. It encouraged purchases at retail outlets to help the business while also providing an incentive for return visits to bars and restaurants that served Carlberg products once they reopened. The campaign acted as a loyalty program that encouraged customers to purchase products and claim a reward. This kind of campaign gives people a reason to buy in the short term while also building the future brand.
2) IKEA – “Stay Home” campaign
IKEA is known worldwide as the leading conglomerate for chic and cost-effective furniture and home décor. With people spending more time on their couches, IKEA also wanted to motivate people to stay safe. Their Stay Home campaign was created to remind people that their homes are safe spaces. Beyond that, IKEA wanted to show that, when decorated well, our homes can be a calming, cozy environment for the social isolation we were facing.
Why it worked
The reason why this campaign worked is because of the corporate social responsibility that IKEA presented to its public. IKEA created a campaign that highlighted the coziness of people’s homes and gave these people a sense of responsibility to stay home. Through this ad campaign, IKEA wanted to demonstrate that a home is a place that will always have cherished memories. Rather than being upset about having to stay home, IKEA helped us to embrace social isolation as a way to reconnect with loved ones at home.
3) Zara – “Shot from home” campaign
In the last two years, consumer behavior has shifted to focus more on necessities rather than “wants.” Many fashion brands have had to develop new ways to engage with their audiences and promote their brand image. In a move that leveraged influencer marketing, Zara came up with their Shot from Home campaign. As part of this campaign, they sent out product samples to Zara models and other influencers of their new collection for them to create organic content.
Why it worked
Not only did Zara present a united front to encourage social distancing, but they also used their knowledge of influencer and social media marketing to continue to promote their new collection. Zara’s SS20 collection featured models shooting editorials straight from their homes. Over two years later, this campaign continues to inspire the public to have brand loyalty to Zara.
4) Uber – “Thank you for not riding” campaign
Why it worked
For a company that is synonymous with movement, Uber was able to find a creative way to stay top of mind and remain the first choice when governments lifted their travel bans. To thank the public for not using the ride-share service unnecessarily, Uber showcased footage from filmmakers who were socially distancing to capture the range of activities and emotions people were facing during this time. At the end of the short clip, Uber encouraged people to stay home in support of the front-liners who were working tirelessly every day to ensure that everyone was safe. Uber also redefined its mission statement to support the people who needed it the most. Whether through supporting healthcare workers with free transportation, providing free meals for first responders, or moving supplies with Uber Freight, the company did an excellent job presenting a united and positive front.
5) Burger King – “Support McDonald’s!” campaign
Burger King’s communications strategy has been famous for finding any chance to bash its biggest competitor, McDonald’s. This is why it was shocking when Burger King came out with a statement encouraging their customers to support their arch enemy as well as other fast-food chains. Rather than differentiating itself from the competition, Burger King took a more dramatic approach – one that seems to have worked out in its favor.
Why it worked
Burger King’s PR campaign was not what many people in the fast-food industry would expect, which is why their campaign worked so well. After years of public Twitter feuds and heated statements exchanged with McDonald’s, Burger King encouraged customers to help out other food & beverage businesses in the industry. While the Burger King team still managed to add a quip about how their burgers should be the way to go, they encouraged customers to help other businesses that may have been suffering at the time.
6) IBM Global Techonlogy Services, “Every second counts”
For a long time, IBM has been a powerhouse that has unified business, technology, and industry experts to help companies design, build, and run their businesses more effectively. However, because of the rise of cloud services and online vendors’ growth, IBM’s competition has increased. In addition, the business landscape IBM operates in has changed dramatically. For this reason, the company had to completely change the audience they were targeting. To this end, they developed a campaign that would help them stand out against the competition.
Their campaign questioned whether businesses are genuinely ready for a cyber-attack. They created an innovative and interactive campaign to present a call to action to get their audience to take steps to protect their businesses. By working with a PR agency, IBM created a cloud of dramatics about a possible cyber-attack. They also highlighted the need for clients to figure out any security issues that could affect their success.
Why it worked
The campaign worked because IBM selected the right people to deliver its message to. Within weeks of the initial presentation, the IBM team got over 5,000 LinkedIn connections, and the content they shared generated over 200,000 impressions and over 500,000 engagements. The campaign opened up new opportunities that were not available when IBM had just launched, and their efforts proved successful.
7) Build-A-Bear’s “Build Your Own Baby Yoda” campaign
Before COVID-19, Build-A-Bear jumped on the Mandalorian bandwagon by creating a campaign to promote the TV series and bring attention to its brand. The company has always been known as a place where children and their families can spend time making memories by creating customized stuffed toys. While their products used to be teddy bears, they have recently diversified into other products. Thanks to their quick reactive thinking to new trends and developments, Build-A-Bear has still managed to stay afloat.
Why it worked
Their campaign worked because the team at Build-A-Bear was able to fully understand current trends. Since they know what products or services consumers are looking for, they can meet their purchasing needs. They could take their already positive reputation of creating memories and expand their reach by creating original products that keep consumers coming back.
8) Brewdog’s “Brewgel” campaign
Even before the pandemic, many restaurants and bars needed to have that extra something to lure customers in through their doors. In the wake of the pandemic, restaurants and bars had to shut their brick-and-mortar establishments and rely solely on online sales.
Brewdog was already a brand that people talked about because of its high-quality products. Even so, through their Lend a Hand campaign, they not only brought visibility to their brand but also helped the communities in ways that went above and beyond what was necessary.
Why it worked
The mission of this campaign was to show their community that they wanted to help as much as they could. The Brewdog team initially lent a hand by using their distilleries to create hand sanitizer for front liners. They made headlines once again when they offered empty bars to the NHS as vaccination spaces. Their campaign was so successful because they provided a solution for their community and put them at ease about the current situation.
9) Airbnb.org’s campaign for Ukraine
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the country has been struggling to deal with fighting an unprecedented war that has led to unrest, displacement, and loss of lives. In an effort to support Ukraine, Airbnb.org has been partnering with nonprofit organizations to house up to 100,000 refugees. So far, over 28,000 Airbnb hosts have offered their homes as a safe haven for those who have lost their homes during the war. Hosts can also support refugees by offering discounted stays or donating towards these stays. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s founders have committed to match donations to the cause for a total of up to $10 million.
Why it’s working
At the moment, all eyes are on Ukraine as the country has been forced to fight a war that it didn’t sign up for. We’ve all witnessed the devastation that this war has brought to Ukrainian families. This move by Airbnb.org is a clear declaration that the company cares about more than profits. The fact that the team at Airbnb.org has chosen to make sacrifices to support a higher cause than making money is heartwarming. This campaign reminds us that there is always room for a bit of compassion – even in business.
10) Penguin Random House x Margaret Atwood: The “Unburnable Book”
In a push against schools and governments banning and burning books that challenge their values, Penguin Random House partnered with Margaret Atwood to create an unburnable copy of The Handmaid’s Tale. This is just one of the many books that have come under fire – literally. The book is wrapped in cinefoil, and has white heat shield foil pages, nickel wire binding, stainless steel bands, and heat-resistant adhesives. As a result, it is indestructible. This unburnable book was auctioned at Sotheby’s for $130,000. Penguin Random House used these proceeds to support PEN America’s mission to protect free speech.
Why it worked
This bold move captured attention worldwide, inspiring hope for people in countries where the right to free speech has been curtailed. Collaborating with Margaret Atwood and Sotheby’s wasn’t just a political move. Through this collaboration, the team at Penguin Random House demonstrated that the right to free speech is a belief that they hold dear.
11) Coinbase’s mysterious QR code
While featuring an ad with nothing but a floating QR code during the Super Bowl would seem like a risky move to many of us, this is exactly what Coinbase did in February 2022. This QR code had the effect of piquing curiosity among Super Bowl viewers, who rushed to scan it and were pleasantly surprised when they were directed to the Coinbase website and then received $15 worth of Bitcoin. The company’s website received over 20 million hits (within minutes of airing the ad) and eventually crashed due to the volume of traffic.
Why it worked
While most PR experts would caution against creating a vague ad that leaves viewers guessing, this unconventional ad from Coinbase proves that creating a sense of mystery could sometimes be exactly what you need to pique curiosity. What began as a seemingly simple and silly concept captured attention worldwide and helped Coinbase earn a spot among the top PR campaigns of 2022.
12) Spooky Spectacle x JMC Brick House: “Unleash Your Inner Child”
In late 2022, Spooky Spectacle Partnered with JMC Brick House – a new business that provides Lego-themed activities to the local youth – to host a leg-themed competition.”Unleash Your Inner Child” was a contest that invited people of all ages to build a Lego creation under the theme of Spooky Spectacle. This included ghost hunters, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and cosplay.
Why it worked
This particular campaign created a lot of excitement because it encouraged people to let go of their adult responsibilities and embrace their inner child by building and creating with Lego bricks. After two years plagued with overwhelming news about the COVID-19 pandemic, monkeypox, and everything that followed, adults were thrilled to be offered a chance to shut everything out and rediscover their love for play and creativity.
13) Spotify’s 2022 “Wrapped” Personalities campaign
Every year, Spotify generates a lot of chatter online when it releases its “Wrapped” custom playlists based on each person’s listening habits. Listeners are encouraged to share these online, and they always go viral. In 2022, Spotify added a surprising twist to their usual campaign – the created 16 different personalities and matched each user to a personality based on their listening habits. They then created social media templates that listeners could use to share this personality online.
Why it worked
Spotify’s “Wrapped” campaign always goes viral because it’s fun, exciting, and – most importantly – personal. At a time when people have gained a newfound appreciation for individuality, the 2022 campaign was the perfect way to connect with the public.
14) Iceland Tourism Board’s “/OutHorse_<Your_Email>” campaign
In Summer of 2022, Iceland’s tourism board launched what turned out to be one of the most iconic PR campaigns of the year. Named “/OutHorse_<Your_Email>” the campaign featured gorgeous horses who were trained to walk on a massive keyboard. Once you had booked your trip to Iceland, all you needed to do was go to visiticeland.com and choose one of the 3 horses to respond to your work emails while you were off enjoying the idyllic beauty of Ireland.
Why it worked
This campaign captured worldwide interest simply because it was an amusing way of bringing to the forefront the issue of workplace burnout that has become apparent over the last 3 years. During the pandemic, more people were working from home than ever before, and many of these people found it challenging to separate work and play. Iceland’s campaign not only generated publicity for the country’s tourism sector but also initiated more conversations around work-life balance.
15) Dove’s #SelfieTalk campaign
Dove is often associated with body positivity, and 2022 was no different. With their #SelfieTalk campaign, they made even more strides forward in the conversation about social media and self-esteem. They released a reverse selfie that undid photo editing and airbrushing, to reveal the subject’s authentic beauty. The aim was to reverse the negative effects of social media on teenage girls.
Why it worked
Dove got people all over the world talking about this campaign thanks in part to the multi-pronged approach they took. They launched this campaign via social media with a dedicated hashtag. They then complemented the social media posts with OOH posters a dedicated post on their website, and more. Their ads perfectly captured the conflicting emotions that young girls feel around posting unfiltered selfies, as well as the buoyant confidence of embracing your natural beauty. To further boost the reach of this campaign, Dove offered women Confidence Kits to help them initiate conversations with young girls about the impact of social media on self-esteem.
16) Greenpeace: “Plastic is Back”
In 2022, Greenpeace launched a powerful new campaign that rocked the world and left people to be more mindful of the plastic waste they generate every day. Their “Plastic is Back” campaign featured images of plastic waste that Greenpeace workers had recovered from the ocean or found washed up on beaches after 50 years of floating in the ocean. In these ads, Greenpeace seems to be selling vintage plastic products to us. The aim of this campaign was to reignite long-forgotten conversations about the degradation of plastics and how they are destroying the planet.
Why it worked
Greenpeace has always been known to push the envelope with campaigns that are both shocking and thought-provoking, and this campaign was no different. By creating an online store that featured all these products that had been floating in the ocean for decades, Greenpeace shocked the world into renewed action towards proper disposal of plastic waste as well as recycling programs.
17) Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 Launch
After a two-year hiatus with Stranger Things, Netflix took the world by storm when it launched social media campaigns, collaborations with cartoonists and artists, and live activations to generate a buzz for Season 4. For example, they created an upside down rift on Bondi Beach in Australia. This multi-pronged approach was implemented across the globe, with local influencers like Bollywood star Varun Dhawan.
Why it worked
After the 2-year wait for the new season, the Netflix team knew they had to make a dramatic comeback to renew interest in the show, and they definitely delivered. Netflix rolled out a global campaign, with activations that reeled people in and got them talking. Collaborations with local cartoonists, artists, and influencers also helped Netflix to connect with the Stranger Things community in a relatable way.
18) CPB London’s “Imagine” campaign
To celebrate International Women’s Day in 2022, the now-famous creative agency CPB London built a campaign to challenge gender biases. They started by polling children with questions about specific careers. In this study, they found that 45% of children believe nurses are always women, while doctors are more likely to be men. Additionally, 60% of the children surveyed thought plumbers or electricians are always men, and 46% believed men are better at engineering.
CPB London used the responses in this survey to create OOH ads that challenged gender biases in the workplace. These ads were complemented by a coloring book that was sold to parents to help them initiate healthy conversations with their children about gender biases. CPB London donated the money raised from the sale of this coloring book to “Beyond Equality” and “Young Woman’s Trust.”
Why it worked
This campaign was incredibly successful 4.7M+ impressions and 250K+ engagement on social media. Why? CPB London launched this campaign at the perfect time. International Women’s Day is usually a time when people are already having conversations about equality and gender biases. As a result, the campaign sparked meaningful conversations about gender biases, gender inequality and the ever-infamous wage gap.
19) Asics “Before & After” campaign
Asics chose to challenge body insecurities for Mental Health Day 2022 with their “Before & After” campaign that highlighted the mental benefits of exercise. This was in sharp contrast to conventional “before & after” exercise photos that focus on the physical transformation.
Why it worked
After 2 years of COVID-19, the world was already having more conversations about mental health and wellness. This campaign couldn’t have come at a better time. Encouraging people to focus more on how they feel than how they look is a powerful message that challenges what the media has engrained in our minds about how we’re supposed to look.
20) Google’s “Black-Owned Friday” campaign
In 2020, Google partnered with the US Black Chambers, Inc., and advertising agency BBH to turn Black Friday into “Black-Owned Friday” in celebration of black-owned businesses. In early 2023, Google reignited this campaign with a music video titled “Buying All Black – a video that celebrates black-owned businesses, with vocals from popular black artists like Ludacris.
To support this PR campaign, Google has unveiled a “Black-Owned” icon available for businesses on Google Search and Maps. They’ve also created additional resources for black entrepreneurs with businesses and launched the ByBlack national business directory to help people locate and support these businesses more easily.
Why this worked
This campaign arrived at a time when racial tensions were high in many parts of the world, most notably the US. Google’s “Black-Owned Friday” and “Buying All Black” campaigns give Black-owned businesses an opportunity to widen their reach online.
Recession or not, it’s always important to consider consumer values while building your PR strategy. Brands that don’t take the time to do this will eventually find themselves unable to meet their business goals. On the other hand, brands that engage with their consumers enough to understand their needs will have an easy time developing memorable PR campaigns.
How Pressfarm can help
For an entrepreneur, your brand image can determine your success or failure. At Pressfarm, we help companies define the right narrative in the media for their brand – either to improve their credibility or resolve a PR crisis. If you are an entrepreneur wondering how to improve your company’s publicity, get in touch with us. We can help you to craft and distribute your press releases, develop compelling guest posts and design eye-catching media kits for your brand.
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