The Changing Face of Proactive PR

By Annie Collins

Traditionally, proactive public relations revolves around securing coverage for a client via media releases, creative send outs and events to name a few techniques. Now, with the constantly evolving media landscape, the rules of the game have changed with new opportunities and challenges arising for PR practitioners. Real-time marketing, a relatively new phenomenon, falls into this category.

With the fast-paced nature of social media, it is no surprise that brands are adopting new ways to leverage the medium. Real-time marketing is when a brand responds to a current event, conversation or trend by interjecting their own brand related placement on social media. Real-time marketing in this manner allows PR practitioners to leverage the publicity of a topic for the benefit of their clients.

One of the most well known cases of real time marketing is the quick thinking of 360i, Oreo’s agency. During the 2013 Superbowl, a blackout threatened to ruin the outcome of the world famous game. Seeing the opportunity to leverage some publicity off the back of a massive inconvenience, 360i’s team tweeted the following:


The response was extraordinary. With everyone turning to their laptops or phones to pass the time during the blackout, Oreo’s post received unprecedented exposure. This single Twitter post achieved 525 million earned media impressions, a range of awards, and has become a well known example of advertising prowess.

The success of Oreo has paved the way for other brands to jump aboard the real time marketing bandwagon. But when in the realm of real-time marketing, there are some important factors to remember.

Tools of the Trade

Social media has aided the process of tracking trending topics with handy real time tools. These allow brands to easily see whether there is a relevant conversation they can join. Google Analytics provides a similar service by providing a regularly updated list of the top Google searches of the day.

Hashtags also play an important role in driving any real-time marketing effort.  They provide a good way of tying the brand’s placement into the conversation they are entering. Analytically, they provide an easy way to track the conversation’s progression in order to evaluate results or further add if need be.

Is the conversation relevant?

With the hype of real-time marketing it can be easy to get carried away. It is important not to go overboard and find a way to leverage every conversation. Real-time only works if it is well aligned to the brand and is meaningful to the target audience. It’s the same as sourcing a brand ambassador; they have to be a good match in order to add credibility to the brand. Actresses promoting beauty products makes sense, but actresses promoting fishing equipment does not.


Virality is tricky, although aspects such as humour and shareability can contribute to content going viral. There is no set formula that guarantees success.  Take the example of Buzzfeed who shared a completely random photo of a dress which then went viral. This was because it left people pondering how some were seeing a blue and black dress and others were seeing a white and gold dress. It had the catchy element of a mystery that everyone wanted to solve, which made an otherwise ignorable post extremely popular.


New data from Social Bakers suggests that even though on the surface “The Dress” received record exposure, it had no long term benefits for Buzzfeed.  After an initial spike in interactions and followers across Buzzfeed’s social media platforms, levels returned to normal shortly after the hype of the viral dress subsided.  This demonstrates that viral, widespread content isn’t necessarily the best publicity for brands.

The moral of the story is not to be disheartened if a piece of content intended to go viral doesn’t. The most important component is to receive meaningful exposure with the desired target audience.

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