The New PR of 2018 | Insight from Apple, Pixar, and NExT

The New PR of 2018 | Insight from Apple, Pixar, and NExT

The New PR of 2018 | Insight from Apple, Pixar, and NExT

This past September I was able to attend a conference in Munich, Germany called Bits and Pretzels. The conference is meant for founders, start-up enthusiasts, investors and media, and brings in people from all over the world.

Towards the beginning of the conference I found myself sitting in an Oktoberfest-themed makeshift beer garden, wearing a traditional Bavarian dirndl and eating schnitzel as I talked with a potential investor I had happened to sit across from about what drives him to invest.

It all felt very… German.

I finished my last bites of schnitzel, and ran off to one of the conference rooms, determined to find a story worth sharing with the Boost blog.

A few lectures went by that were interesting but not blog worthy. Then, Andy Cunningham, former Public Relations advisor to Steve Jobs, Apple, Pixar and NExT, took the stage and I sat up a little straighter (not just because that dirndl I was wearing was making it harder to breathe).

As soon as I heard the start of this lecture, I knew business owners needed to hear it.

PR, relating information from an individual or organization to the public, is not what it used to be before the mainstreaming of the internet. For one thing, the internet gave companies the choice to tell their own stories before the press got to them.

How does PR work in today’s digital world? Read on to see what I learned, and grab yourself a pretzel or a beer if you want to pretend like you were there hearing it yourself.


1. Positioning matters.

Cunningham’s advice? Target a white space and know your role and relevance. Keep your company authentic.

2. Branding is emotional.

PR in 2018 is about creating an emotional connection between you and your customers. Think about what emotion you are trying to create, whether that be joy, surprise, disgust, empathy, etc.

BUT. Don’t just make things emotional for the sake of being emotional. Know what you are shooting for and let the emotions lead to that end result.

3. Messaging is your virus: Infect everything with it.

Within your company you can’t just say things one time or two times, you have to use your message everywhere. When it comes to your message and/or slogan, you generally never want to change it. If you do, you should make a big deal about changing it and explain clearly why you are. “Infect” every form of your marketplace with your virus.

You should pick a slogan that is simple and easy to replicate. Think of Donald Trump’s political slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Whether you like this slogan or not, most would agree that it is catchy. His repetitive use of it throughout his campaign and presidency has made it like an annoying song stuck in your head. In marketing terms, that’s a good thing.

4. Narrative is critical.

You need to tell the story of your company in a way that matters. Answer the questions of why your company exists and why now. Consumers today demand brands that set themselves apart from other brands in why they exist.

5. Master your owned, earned and paid channels of distribution.

Let’s break this down a bit.

Owned distribution is everything you have complete control over. That would mean social media, blogs, LinkedIn, brochures, etc. You need to exploit them as much as you possibly can in telling your story everywhere.

Earned distribution is what people used to primarily think of as PR. This could me a local newspaper telling your story, or a journalist coming to you for an interview. This form of PR is not as important as it used to be but don’t neglect it all together. Still interact, if in the least to keep a friendly face, and remember that in publicity is publicity.

Paid distribution is referring to advertising. While we now have a lot of free sources of distribution, paid distribution is still plays a part.

As Andy Cunningham put it, “If you are a company that have mastered your owned, earned and paid channels then you are doing it right.”

6. Be relentless in the frequency and consistency of your story.

A big mistake in PR is having the same company telling the public two different things. To avoid this, have one person who is the relentless “keeper of the story”. If you have ever played the game “Telephone” as child, you know why.

7. Build a prodigious (AKA giant) digital footprint

The first thing the press does when they are writing a story about you or your company is to Google you. And if you aren’t on that first page then you aren’t going to be a part of telling that story. This is where things like Search Engine Optimization and a consistently up-to-date website come into play.

8. Influencer marketing is critical.

Influencer marketing is a current buzzword which involves identifying the big players who influence buyers, and basing your marketing around them.

These “influencers” could be a blog expert, social media “star”, niche promoter or brand advocate.

It’s why there are hours upon hours of Youtube videos available of people trying out different skin and hair products, or why certain blogs will offer different brand promotions. It’s why choker necklaces from the 90s can seem completely dorky one day, and suddenly “in” the next. Just influencer marketing doing it’s thing.

9. Event marketing brings your story to life.

Cunningham focused on Redbull to sell this point. What the energy drink company does so successfully is not necessarily the drink itself, but that it is really an event brand. They market themselves as an experience, not just a drink.

10. PR is like porn; you know it when you see it.

Hey- her words, not mine.

Measuring PR is something your bosses want you to do but is very challenging to actually do. It’s more like a feeling, and the line is thin. If you feel the PR tide changing (as in, the face of your company is starting to be represented bad by bloggers, press, Twitter, etc.) then you have to act fast.

Think of Uber as what NOT to do. We all felt something coming regarding Uber, but they didn’t react in the right ways and their company is suffering. PR today is about reaction- emphasis on ACTION. Twitter and other social media outlets give companies a unique position today to speak out and fix things as soon as something goes wrong. You don’t have to wait till the Press releases your comment, you can release it yourself.

PR isn’t dead, but the old PR is. Take 2018 as your perfect opportunity to master the new PR. From Andy Cunningham, to me, to you- I hope you learned as much as I did.

Hayley Burton
[email protected]

Hayley is currently a freelance writer, specializing in sustainability, social impact projects and online marketing. She has never met a writing assignment she couldn't write.