11/1 Meeting Recap: Creativity in Real-World Campaigns


By: Tiffany Lin

FleishmanHillard (FH) is a global public relations and integrated marketing agency with over 80 offices in 30 countries. A few of their most notable clients include USAA, AT&T and Chevrolet.  

Now running the Austin FH office, Kristy Wilson started out from Florida State University. Her decision to study in PR was cemented when she toured the Atlanta FH office as part of her PRSSA chapter. Before she began her 19-year career with FH, Kristy interned for two semesters, worked for a smaller agency and Spring as part of their corporate communications.

This week, Kristy shared her insights of creating a campaign from start to finish, using a USAA campaign as an example. When she began writing the five stages to creating a campaign, she googled the five stages of grief. Throughout the 9-month process, there was a lot of grief bringing these ideas and solutions to life.

The Ask

Campaigns are typically initiated when a client has a need.  In the real world, needs don’t always come in a question, they look more like:

  • We have an opportunity… to work with a partner
  • We have a problem… something is wrong or broken
  • We need some ideas… we have to do something new this year

As a PR professional, the first thing you think is:

  • What are our smart objectives?
  • What does success look like?
  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What do we want the target audience to do?
  • Why does the target audience cares?

What you think about isn’t what many other people think about. They just have a problem and want you to help them solve it. When you ask these questions, that’s how you get the ball rolling on forming an idea. In USAA’s case, they wanted more military persons to go to them for financial services.

The Idea

In the darker days, advertising agencies were at the forefront of idea generation. Nowadays, ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. Good ideas are “channel agnostic” meaning they can come from anyone and anywhere; they are able to translate to each of the channels fluidly.

When first presented with the issue, you have nothing. You have no ideas to present to the client. Each agency, including FH, has a creative process to facilitate the idea production. In the first few steps, it becomes clear that research has a clear role.

Each idea needs to have a root in research. You can’t pull credible solutions out of a hat. Through understanding trends and drawing conclusions from analyzing research, you are able to put together the best possible formula to complete your client’s objectives.

Through research, Kristy and her team were able to find out the best people to reach, young military men who leave after four years of service. Most of these people join the military are 18, fresh out of high school and then leave after four years when they are 22-years old. When they leave, they are out of housing and health benefits. Their meals are not taken care of anymore, and they are left without a source of income. USAA wanted to help these men get situated when they are deciding to leave the military, usually a year before they actually leave.

Best places for Veterans was created to address one of the men’s issue’s: finding a job. They ranked the 352 metropolitan cities throughout the U.S. with a set criterion and provided a checklist of things to prepare prior to leaving the military. USAA inserted themselves through the job market, providing the men with resources and offering financial services along the way. Now that Kristy and her team came up with a plan, they needed funding to put it to action.

The Sell

When selling an idea, you have to make sure that it sticks to the wall for an extended period of time otherwise, you don’t really have something meaningful to sell.

To sell USAA’s idea, Kristy and her team had to go through:

Corporation—> Military Affairs—> Marketing —> Legal —> Partners

They had to explain the idea and how it was going to work to the corporation and military personnel.

In order to get mobile apps and ads going, they had to speak to the marketing department.

To avoid getting sued, Kristy and her team collaborated with the legal team.

The partners gave the campaign credibility. Sometimes other brands who are important to your target market have to tell your target market that you are important too.

Once the idea sticks, the hard work starts.

The Work

The Work depends on each client, but the work done for USAA included:

  • Website development
  • Contracts
  • Media pitching
  • Press Releases
  • Advertising
  • Mobile App

The Results

Once the campaign is done, you have to measure it. Good PR always has measurements. Throughout the campaign, USAA’s website sessions increased, especially on the checklist page.

If you’re successful, then the circle of the campaign life starts all over again.