Top 10 PR & Marketing Winners of 2016: Part One

I spent the past few weeks examining some of the ways that communications professionals are portrayed as bad guys in stories.  And I totally get why people have ill feelings when it comes to journalism, public relation and marketing.  Often times, people feel as public relations pros only hide the truth about things, journalist are often biased, and marketers are only concerned about making money for big corporations. In other words, communications pros are often seen as unscrupulous. And sometimes, that’s true.

But, I would also like to remind people that not all communications pros and campaigns are like that. There’s plenty of news stories and PR/marketing campaigns out there to celebrate and commend for honest transparency and genuine concern for the overall human experience.

As we say good-bye to 2016 and usher in 2017, I’d like to share ten of my favorite PR/marketing stories of 2016 in two parts.

Top 10 PR & Marketing Winners of 2016: Part One

These are not in any particular order, not do I receive any endorsements from the companies/organizations listed.  


10.   Budweiser Chicago Cubs Video


Budweiser could have used the Chicago Cubs World Series win, breaking a 108 year old curse for the MLB team, to market their products to scores of fans.  But instead, Budweiser chose to highlight the team’s accomplishment and the reaction of the fans.  In fact, this commercial, which aired on television just moments after the huge win for the Cubs, does such a good job at not using it’s product to sell more beer during a time when fans might have celebrated with an ice-cold Bud, that you hardly even notice the subtle branding of the Budweiser signs in the bars and at the end of the spot.   It reminds me of the ad that Budweiser aired just once after 9/11.  Kudos to Budweiser! #ThisBudsForYou

9. Disney’s “Share Your Ears” campaign.

Too many times Disney has been on the short end of bad PR, marketing or news.  Sometimes it’s deserved, such as in the death of the toddler at one of it’s Florida resorts this year.

But, it’s nice when you read a story about Disney’s altruistic side that has nothing to do with the conglomerate making money.

Earlier this year, Disney launched a public relations campaign on behalf of the Make A Wish Foundation called “Share Your Ears”. For every social media picture posted of people sporting the iconic mouse ears with the hashtag #ShareYourEars, Disney pledged $5 to the foundation that grants sick children wishes, up to $1M. The campaign was so successful that Disney ended up doubling its pledge.  Additionally, Disney sold a limited edition of their mouse ears at the Disneyland Resort in California in which ALL of the proceeds went to Make A Wish.


Limited Edition Mouse Ears to benefit Make A Wish Foundation.  Photo Courtesy of The Orange County Register 24 Feb. 2016

Disney may have ultimately benefited from the good press, but it’s the Make a Wish Foundation and the kids that are the real benefactors.

2016 marks the 35th anniversary of a partnership between Make A Wish and Disney in which Disney averages about 7,000 Disney-style wishes to sick children and their families around the world which makes up about half of the wishes granted by Make a Wish. Additionally, Disney has raised millions through similar PR campaigns and theme-park visitor donations for the organization.


8. Pokemon Go


Photo courtesy of Pokemon Go

The Pokemon Go mobile game app took Summer 2016 by storm. It’s too bad that it’s success to re-brand the franchise was short lived because it really helped a lot of people.

Granted, there were tons of stories about people crashing cars, getting injured (or worse), or crime-related instances surrounding the fad.

But, I think it really did a lot of good, too.

People were getting off the couch and into their neighborhoods.  Many lost weight and were encouraged to continue a more healthy and active lifestyle.  Public libraries enjoyed increased foot traffic and the ones good at recognizing the opportunities, embraced the chance to reintroduce their services to teens and young adults, two groups of the population who have not been active in their public libraries for some time.

And countless local businesses were given the opportunity to use the game as free marketing, if they wanted to. Some didn’t and I always thought that was short-sighted on their part, especially in this economy when it’s not a bad thing when you have people hanging around your establishment. Sure, loiterers aren’t necessarily a good thing for business, but I would think that it would have been better to see how to connect with Pokemon Go players than to complain about them.  But, that’s just my opinion.

Either way, Pokemon Go makes it on my list as one of the best PR/marketing campaigns of 2016 for all of it’s positive contributions.  However short-lived they were.

7. The Smithsonian

There isn’t one Smithsonian story that stands out to me, but I’m impressed by the thoroughness and efficiency that the Smithsonian Public Affairs Office issues press releases to the public.

When I am reading or watching a news story, I’ll often try to go to the sources of the subject.  In many cases, the subjects of the stories are corporations, not-for-profits or government agencies.  And often times I find that the subjects’ websites have not been updated and there are huge gaps in their press release timelines.

Hey, there’s been huge gaps in my blogging, so I totally understand how easily complete days and weeks fly by without much time to write or update!si-seriouslyamazing

But, I follow the Smithsonian in all of my social media accounts, and I am always impressed at how quickly their Public Affairs Office updates information, how many press releases are provided on an almost-daily basis,  that the information is well-supported, factual and unbiased.

And because all of the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo, are free to the public and are a national treasure, and their press releases have almost nothing to do with financial gain, but are issued for the main purpose of educating the citizens and visitors to the U.S., the Smithsonian earns a place on my 2016 PR/Marketing Winners list.


6.  Pret A Manger


Photo courtesy of the Pret A Manger website

I was first introduced to this food chain when I visited Paris and the U.K. two years ago.  Living in a small town in Upstate NY, we don’t have one a Pret within 4 hours. I can’t remember where I first encountered Pret on my journey, but I do remember being impressed with the quality of healthier food choices than I am used to with American fast food.

I was even more impressed when I found out in November of this year that Pret A Manger does not issue a Christmas commercial like so many similar companies do.

In November 2016, Pret’s CEO Clive Schlee blogged on the companies UK version of its website why they choose not to produce a holiday ad:

“People often ask me why Pret doesn’t advertise more, particularly at a time when we are selling our famous Christmas Lunch sandwich. I always tell them that Pret prefers to spend on its ingredients, its teams and its long-term charitable work. I hope these investments make a bigger difference to how our customers feel about us.” Clive Schlee, 15 Nov. 2016

Schlee’s blog goes on to say what Pret did instead.

“At Christmas time, instead of producing a sumptuous TV ad, Pret takes a different approach. This year we commissioned a London-based film maker and gave him behind-the-scenes access to see how our Apprenticeship Scheme for the homeless really works.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “scheme”.  Pret’s “scheme” has nothing to do with corporate greed, especially at Christmas or the holidays.  Instead, it’s more of a way to highlight it’s corporate mission to be socially responsible.

Many might consider Pret’s “scheme” that has helped 350 homeless people a mere drop in the bucket since the program is funded by taking a portion of proceeds from customer orders throughout the year.  And, it’s true that if Pret really wanted to make a bigger difference they could since they seem to be doing quite well financially as a company.

But, I like that they don’t exploit the holidays by pushing another commercial on us, and they are doing some amount of good towards homeless people.


Well, there you have the first half of my PR & Marketing Winners of 2016.  Come back tomorrow for the second half.

Thanks for following, sharing and commenting. Have a wonderful evening and New Year’s Eve Eve!



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