Following the yellow brick road to strategy success

PR agencies are sometimes seen as being incapable of devising effective strategies, but by always having the client’s endgame in clear sight nothing is impossible.


By Louise Oakley, BWP Primal

It is an urban myth, not to mention an archaic one, to assume that all publicity is good publicity. Too often, industry practitioners are quick to rush in and get the word out about a brand. PR agencies are generally seen as lacking when it comes to devising a strategic approach, following years of being handed the strategy by the brand’s lead creative agency and being expected to follow. PRs have been expected to supply support on a tactical level but nothing more.

As part of an integrated agency, we believe that strategy needs to be at the heart of everything we do, from tactical projects to long-term campaigns. We will not believe that devising strategy is beyond the realms of our capabilities.

It takes careful research, planning and strategy to build and implement successful PR. The key is to follow the yellow brick road. Before the journey started, Dorothy had the endgame in mind; she wanted to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz. It is our role, as the agency, to bring the story to life for clients and their customers. The strategy process must begin and end with the finish line in sight.

It is important to understand and establish what the client wants to achieve as a brand and as a business. If objectives are not realistic and identified, the campaign will not return measurable results. We need to understand who we are speaking to and how we effectively communicate the brand to the target audience. How can we plan where we want to go without knowing the destination?

Even though the PR industry as a whole has confirmed its value to a business over recent years, especially in the recession when advertising budgets have been slashed and social media has soared, we need to display our worth to brand managers. We need to measure our success, but is that possible if we do not have goals to measure it against?

As part of the integrated agency BWP Group, BWP Primal is fortunate enough to have a strategic director, Kieron Weedon, whose sole purpose is to look at the endgame, identifying potential road blocks and helping us to get there effectively. This key role is particularly vital in retail, where driving footfall and increasing basket value is the key measure of success – as opposed to the less tangible objectives around brand awareness.

A strategist is a vital position within a PR agency: unless the creative, PR and marketing campaigns are all synchronised, budgets will be wasted. In order to achieve these all-important objectives, we must identify who we need to target. For a campaign to be successful, the agency and the brand must be aware of the importance of understanding the target audience. It is not good enough to rely on standard demographic profiles and stereotypes; solid consumer research is a must. We need to identify who the decision makers and influencers are in the audience and if there are any untapped audiences that the campaign could reach.

For a clear path to success, agencies must understand the target audience beyond the realms of standard demographic profiles and stereotypes

If a campaign is targeting the wrong audience, it will simply not be effective and will not produce the results or meet the objectives the brand wants to reach. Audiences are continuing to change their buying habits and their values; a consumer’s time, attention and involvement are hard-won. As an agency, it is our role to identify business objectives and who the brand wants to target. What will really engage them?

Unfortunately, many journeys are not smooth sailing. It is more than likely that there will be barriers. This usually comes in the form of the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’; whether that be the competition, market limitations or consumer perceptions. We need to establish not just where our client stands in the market, but what the competition is and the brand’s positioning. Barriers challenge us to be more focused and precise about the identified problems and explore solutions.

With the end in sight, we need to remember that our campaign is not just an event. We are storytellers, reinforcing the chapters we have just read and sharing our ‘big idea’ or unified thought with our listeners. We talk about the discoveries, the barriers, how we found the key that unlocked the idea, the roller coaster moments of ups and downs and moments of truth. Like Dorothy following the yellow brick road, we show clients the road to success, unravelling the story as we go with each strategic brick in mind. A truly strategic campaign

Case study: #LoveClerys

Ireland’s oldest department store, Clerys, had to temporarily close in July 2013 due to flood damage. BWP stepped in to keep customers engaged and build anticipation ahead of the store reopening in November 2013.


– Brand planning redefined the proposition, as research uncovered Clerys’ beloved heritage. From this, the #LoveClerys campaign was born.

– Consumers were encouraged to share photos, memories, and videos of Clerys on social media.

– The social campaign was supported by a physical ‘memory wall’ within a pop-up shop, where customers could write and display their memories.

– Store launch activities shaped around the#LoveClerys social campaign included guerilla marketing, bus wraps and promotional gifts.


– 98 per cent of fans engaged with the Clerys Facebook page in November and December. The campaign trended on Twitter in Dublin.

– The campaign resulted in a 48 per cent increase in Facebook fans and 110 per cent increase in Twitter followers.

– Opening weekend sales topped expectations with triple-digit growth year on year.

– There was an overwhelming consumer response, with people queuing three hours before the store reopened.

– Footfall also increased three-fold, with a clear uplift in younger shoppers.

For more information, please contact:

Louise Oakley
Director, BWP Primal
01628 625 900,



Foreword: Make a connection

Michael Barnett

The role of PR and communications is evolving. it is no longer only about media coverage but taking a central role in driving strategy and content creation, as integrated marketing becomes ever more important.