Five Case Studies that Prove PR’s Worth

How Brands Can Drive Sales through PR, Cause Marketing & Social Media Efforts

PRSA released five award-winning case studies on its website to guide communications professionals in their next PR campaign.

The case studies detail the research, planning and strategies of successful 2012 PR campaigns for effective crisis communications, consumer marketing, community relations, integrated communications and brand management. Several of the brands utilized cause marketing campaigns to drive community awareness, media impressions and sales.

CyberAlert has summarized the case studies below, categorized by the PR initiatives they accomplished:

Crisis Communications: JetBlue

JetBlue is America’s only union-free major airline carrier, and prides its special relationship with its crew as vital to the company’s culture and business model. Thus, a crisis emerged when ALPA, the world’s largest pilots union, filed for election to represent JetBlue’s pilots.

JetBlue’s challenge: get pilots to vote down union representation, but do so with integrity and without damaging the culture.

Strategy: JetBlue recognized that job security was their pilots’ top priority. The company utilized infographics, managerial-style communications and transparent approaches to engage, educate and motivate their pilots on what’s at stake.

Key elements:

  • Engage pilots through intimate conversations with the CEO and COO via in-person visits, an interactive Q&A session and videos.
  • Create a multi-channel approach in the crew room, at home and on a mobile-optimized website.
  • Deliver rigorous fact-based messages that contrast track records. Acknowledge where the company can improve, and confront misinformation directly, especially the burning issues.

Results: The pilots voted overwhelmingly against union representation.

Consumer Marketing: Caribou Coffee

Amy Erickson, one of Caribou Coffee’s original roastmasters, lost her battle with breast cancer in 1995. To leverage Caribou’s personal connection to breast cancer, its PR firm, Exponent PR, launched a cause marketing campaign to support a cure for breast cancer.

Strategy: Exponent PR leveraged the color pink associated with breast cancer awareness and combined it with Amy’s favorite flower, the tulip, to create a symbolic image and event for the campaign called Amy’s Garden.

Key elements:

  • Garden planting events united Caribou fans and consumers to honor people who have been affected by breast cancer. Exponent PR also created a website and in-store community board for Amy’s Garden.
  • Provided VIP media and key influencers with a garden planting box filled with tulips and gardening gloves.
  • Leveraged digital marketing and social media. Exponent PR promoted key campaign messages, event photos and announcements through Facebook and Twitter, and sent event updates and photos through email blasts.

Results: Caribou Coffee presented the Susan G. Komen, the largest breast cancer charity in the U.S., with its largest donation in the company’s history. The company also increased brand advocacy and revenue from its sales of “Amy’s Blend” coffee.

Community Relations: Starbucks

Starbucks teamed up with Create Jobs for USA in an effort to improve community relations. Its PR firm Edelman activated a hyperlocal storytelling plan to put a face to the economic crisis and those benefiting from the initiative.

Strategy: To guarantee a successful campaign, Starbucks sparked dialogue on the jobs crisis and positioned Create Jobs for USA as a way for the community to take action.

Key elements:

  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent letters to Washington policymakers and Starbucks partners and customers, and appeared on prominent news outlets.
  • Shared personal stories of those affected by the economic crisis, highlighting Create Jobs for USA’s impact.
  • Made “Indivisible” wristbands that were sold at Starbucks stores nationwide and sent to program supporters.

Results: Raised more than $15 million with an estimated 5,000 jobs created or retained. Starbucks’ social networks saw record engagement, and Schultz was named Fortune Businessperson of the Year for 2011.

Integrated Communications: Pepco Holdings, Inc.

Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI), an electric and gas utility in the Mid-Atlantic region, suffered from customer dissatisfaction and bad press over service reliability and outage restoration troubles, and was named the “Most Hated Company in America” by Business Insider.

Strategy: PHI had to transform its communications strategy with integrated techniques to improve day-to-day and storm communications.

Key elements:

  • Re-engineer the 27-member communications department with a new structure, new job descriptions, greater accountability and high-performing talent.
  • Regular earned media updates on reliability projects, fact sheets, brochures, handouts, blogs, and the development of a “reality” TV ad campaign that detailed how front-line workers were improving service reliability.
  • Through social media, PHI shared information on restoration efforts, storm preparedness, how customers can save money on electric bills, benefits of smart meters, investments in infrastructure, etc.

Results: A complete turnaround in media tonality and political perception. PHI increased customer engagement with more social media followers, website visits, and downloads of its mobile app.

Brand Management: Häagen-Dazs

Häagen-Dazs hired Ketchum to engage consumers and change brand perception. Ketchum launched a campaign called “HD loves HB” that linked the brand to an issue threatening the existence of more than 40 percent of HD’s ingredients: the mysterious honey bee disappearance.

Strategy: Increase awareness of the honey bee issue and the HD loves HB campaign through various cause marketing efforts.

Key Elements:

  • Announced the campaign to the beekeeping and scientific community at a key industry conference.
  • Launched the Vanilla Honey Bee flavor and pledged a percentage of overall sales to go toward Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) research.
  • Reached out to bee supporters online with a “Million Seeds” challenge, encouraging people to help HD plant 1 million seeds to create a more bee-friendly habitat.
  • During national Pollinator Week, HD hosted an ice cream social on Capitol Hill and held a briefing about the status and plight of honey bees.

Results: A marked increase in media impressions, social buzz and revenue growth. Also distributed more than 1.2 million bee-friendly flower seeds to community groups and drove half a million unique visitors to

Bottom line: Brands can recover from any crisis or market downturn via transparent efforts, cause marketing campaigns and customer interaction. The key: a good PR team.

Get Your Free Copy of the CyberAlert PR Measurement Handbook for in-depth analysis of today’s measurement standards, metrics and methods for news and social media.

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