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Emanate Takes a Measured Approach to PR

Research and planning drive the agency’s quest for relevance
  • August 06 2012

When Emanate opened five years ago, its founders knew they wanted to do things a little differently. Rather than follow the typical public relations plan of measuring clips and hits, ​Emanate wanted to focus on actions and outcomes. It would use research and analytics as the foundation of its PR programs so that it could drive measurable results.

Today, Emanate calls that strategy “relevance marketing” and it has succeeded in building a client roster of blue-chip brands that includes Bank of America, Celebrity Cruises, Embassy Suites, Glidden Paint, Philips Norelco and Tetley Tea, among others.

Of course, all campaigns want to be relevant. So what does Emanate mean by relevance marketing?

“It’s really about delivering the shortest path to success for our clients,” says Kim Sample, Emanate’s CEO. The key, she says, is to take a deep, analytics-based approach to understanding different audience segments, and through that, to uncover what is relevant in their lives across the entire purchase journey. These insights are not always obvious, but they allow Emanate to craft compelling stories that will resonate with targets and marketing strategies that will move them to action.

Sample contrasts its focused approach with what she calls “blunt force marketing,” where companies throw every­­thing they have at a marketing problem to see what sticks. “It’s amazing how much PR is still about being louder rather than being smarter,” she says. “We want to know exactly what changed a brand’s image in the marketplace and what the real value and returns were. The insights-based approach—that’s where we want to play.”

Consider some of Emanate’s recent projects. This past spring, it worked with Philips Norelco to shift away from the industry’s typical communication around shaving and grooming to a conversation that was more relevant to the target. The mutli-pronged campaign was centered around a series of humorous Funny Or Die videos about men who grow beards for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Notes Shannon Jenest, director, communications, Phllips Consumer Lifestyle, North America, “Our effort delivered more than 500 million impressions, but more importantly it focused on a relevant association between hockey and shaving and connected the Philips Norelco brand in a way that positively moved the needle in brand attributes and intent to purchase.”

For Celebrity Cruises, a 2012 brand priority has been creating relevance for its culinary offerings and debunking consumers’ negative perception of cruise line food, explains Elizabeth Jakeway, director of public relations at the cruise line. “Emanate surfaced the influencers—top foodie press, chefs, widely read bloggers and tastemakers—who our high-value guests care about and listen to. They then set out to activate these influencers in creative ways. We believe this work is creating increased relevance and credibility for our brand with the culinary set and the consumers who follow them.”

“One of the challenges in PR has been a lack of metrics directly linked to business outcomes,” says Matt Rose, Emanate’s chief client officer. “The default is to measure outputs, such as the number of stories. The measurement of outcomes—whatever the business driver is—has to be established at the beginning of the process before strategies and tactics are even considered.”

As a result, Emanate has created a formal planning process—called P.L.A.N.—for all new business pitches to set clear expectations for what each program can deliver. P.L.A.N. is a simple four-step process—identify the Problem, Learn about the target, find the Aha moment that will drive the target to action, and iNnovate big ideas that will solve the problem. “Clients appreciate that it is short, purposely simple and focused,” says Blair Meisels, Emanate’s director of planning and insights. “Most briefs are anything but. We want the clarity of thought generated by our planning process to be a springboard to the program’s success.”

All this requires the kind of client that is less concerned with hits and more concerned with results. “That’s what our clients like, that we’re not order takers,” Sample says. “Clients who want a point of view based on knowledge and insights, those are the ones who like working with us.”