What lessons can communications professionals take with them into the New Year? Here are our favorite lessons learned from PR in 2015.

By Megan Bauer
The Hoffman Agency, Portland-Vancouver

As 2015 comes to a close and we ring in the New Year, it’s important to reflect on the learnings from this past year. From Syrian hackers and sports faux paus, to retail store implications on clothing design to millennials not paying for the news … this year was full of lessons on the positive and negative end of the spectrum for public relations.

Some of the best examples? The consumer response to Target’s shirts in the wedding section that say “Trophy” across the front, or when Netflix offered unlimited maternity or paternity leave during the first year after an employee’s child is born.

These were just some of the instances where news cycles went rampant for brands. Another great example is Victoria’s Secrets’ case with its “The Perfect Body” slogan and a really negative response from consumers. It took the company almost a week to release an apology and change the slogan.

Here are some of the other grand PR moments from the year — how many do you recognize?

Now, what would a recap be without lessons learned? Here are some of examples of dos and don’ts from the 2015 PR moments:

1. Don’t expect PR to stay the same — be ready for change

The study from the American Press Institute showed that only 30 percent of millennials paid for news in the last year — compared to 77 percent that paid for movies and television. The way millennials are consuming information is different now, which affects what journalists are doing (and inadvertently PR practitioners). Also, they affect what PR professionals produce and share across other channels, such as social.

2. Don’t assume the norm is the best route

A great lesson learned from how Marshawn Lynch won the media with his “unfriendly” strategy. It seems counterintuitive to be less responsive and receptive to the media and gain more exposure, but that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes taking the path less traveled and going against your expectations can surprise you.

3. Don’t be a part of FIFA

Enough said. But if you need a refresher, CNN wrote a great recap of the entire scandal and how the involvement strung across the U.S. Bottom line: don’t continue hiding dirty work from the feds.

4. Do provide great employee experiences

Both REI and Netflix packed a punch on this front by changing internal policy — it definitely brought them positive external results with the media. When employees are happy, everyone knows. This goes for being unhappy too. The Amazon story in The New York Times is a good example of being on the opposite end of the spectrum.

5. Do embrace new types of storytelling

Venturing back to the sports scene, NBA player Steph Curry bringing his daughter, Riley Curry, to some postgame press conferences really added a new spin to the whole ordeal. Her appearances were unexpected, human and different — great traits for a good story.

6. Do add something more for trending topics

Over the past couple years we have seen a few brands jump in on trending topics — bringing real meaning to an issue. The Salvation Army joined that group this year after it responded to #TheDress debate online with a message about domestic abuse. The woman pictured in the ad was wearing “the dress” and it had a play on words about how domestic abuse isn’t “black and white.”

For a few more PR moments from 2015, check out these posts below:

There will always be the “should have, could have, would have” responses from brands with a mix of the great decisions in between. As we venture into 2016, make sure to continue reading The Hoffman Agency blog to keep up on what’s happening in the PR field.

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