Why PR and Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint

Why PR and Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint

Eleanor Frere

Eleanor Frere

“That’s going to be awesome!” Finally, you’ve got it, the idea that is going to blow your customers away and propel the brand into being a household name…. Or will it?

As PRs and marketers, we are programmed to jump on potential opportunities and new trends. But being so het up about trying something different and new, may mean we fail to deliver what our customers and audience are actually looking for.

Often renowned and praised for its great, innovative campaigns, Nike’s latest offering, Nike React, has us rather puzzled. With a site for users to create their very own (rather bizarre) Avatar to visualise how this new range of trainers will make the wearer feel, clearly Nike is jumping onto the use of simulations and the new wave of more interactive websites. The result, however, is something that seems, to put it frankly, a little pointless. What do the users gain from it? We’re not actually sure.

It also raises a question that we should widen out and pose to all PRs and marketers, are we still too prone to jumping on the latest fad?

Not that we wish to discourage creativity, quite the opposite, but those creative juices need to be channelled in the right direction. Just because it is the latest technology or the latest craze doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. Not to mention, trends change and fade, you don’t want your brand to fade with it.

So, how can you make sure you’re truly offering value, not just a gimmick?

You looking at me?

When caught up in the excitement of something new, it’s often easy to forget to refer back to what’s important – your audience.

Ask yourself: Does your audience need this? Will they be interested? Or, indeed, even understand it? Beyond the message, you also need to think whether this works with how your customers or potential customers like to receive information and content, will it be using their preferred platforms?

If you’re looking to boost engagement with your brand, you need to connect with your audience. That means getting into their mindset, truly understanding their needs and desires, and creating a campaign to reflect and address that. Often the best campaigns are those that are catered to a specific audience, not trying to reach everyone and anyone. One of Netflix’s most successful campaigns to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Gilmore Girls series was specifically designed to target those who already knew and loved the series.

What do I care?

Possessing this knowledge of your audience, now it’s time to give them what they want. The days of the ‘hard sell’ in marketing have long been over.

How many times have you picked up your phone to do something, only to be immediately distracted? Or suddenly found yourself in the far corners of the internet, when your only intention was to check the weather?

The term may have first been coined in the 70s, but we are now well and truly living in an ‘attention economy’ – businesses aren’t competing for our money but vying for our attention. As consumers, we’re regularly entertained, but what will set your brand apart is creating those moments that first, keep people coming back for more and secondly, are a catalyst for another follow-up action – whether it’s a purchase, a site visit or even sparking that conversation with friends or colleagues.

What next?

Having created those moments, it’s important to show how your customers and audience can further pursue and act upon it. It’s fantastic that someone has actually clicked through to your website, has truly engaged with your content, but now what?

Returning to the example of Nike, the only call to action was to ‘publish’ your creation or to share it on social media channels, but for the Fireflies who did give it a go, they wanted to know how much the new trainers cost. It seemed that Nike wished to separate the experience from the sale – slightly defeating the point – but a simple link to the new collection would’ve have sufficed and served as a subtle call to action. More importantly, it would’ve led to sales for the marketing team.

Even when you’re seeking to educate your audience, you need to make sure you still always have a defined next step to uphold that newly established connection and to continue your audience’s relationship with your brand.

Are you sure?

So, you know that the campaign is relevant to your audience and it has clear next steps. Surely, you’re all ready to go, right? Wrong.  However much you are trying to put yourself in your customers and audience’s shoes (almost literally in Nike’s case), it’s a concept. To ensure the greatest likelihood for success, you need to put it into practice.

That marketing meeting can be an incubator for hot new ideas, but it may potentially also be a repeating soundboard - you need to take a step back and to get some outside perspectives. That means not just roping in other colleagues from different departments to try it out but asking a range of people to give it a go, from your avid fans, to those (if applicable) who have never even heard of your brand.

Of course, don’t just listen to the feedback but also act upon it – even Snapchat is now backtracking on its new design. If a potential campaign is failing to have the effect you intended, change it, certainly there is no point in fruitlessly trying to make it work. Careful though, don’t be too quick to take this feedback at face value but analyse it first. Is this just one person’s opinion which is not actually shared by many? Or, likewise, is it a really poignant remark made by one person that is worth considering? Look to refine your campaign as you go along – there’s always room to improve.


There’s no doubt that something new, fun and quirky can be super exciting, but it’s not right for everyone. We all have increasingly shorter attention spans and if we see no benefit, we’ll soon move on to the next new, sparkly thing, without a second glance. Gimmicks may draw people in, but it won’t hold their attention and it certainly won’t lead them to keep using a service or buying a product. To create that engagement and loyalty, you need to offer value.

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