HOW ELICITING EMOTIONS IN PEOPLE CAN BE A GREAT PR STRATEGY

24 Sep 2018

To feel is to be human. It's what sets us apart from computers: the ability to laugh, cry, hope, rage in protest or make an impulse purchase. Yet rationality is held up as an ideal. Triumph over illogical thought is presented as the key to self-mastery, intelligent business and intellectual progress. Action, we're told, ought to be justified by sound reasoning alone.

It's all a ruse, though. Emotion is a fact of life, and a fact no smart PR team can afford to ignore. These three examples will show you why.

When KFC FCKed Up: Humour

A delivery debacle resulting in the closure of over 560 stores around the UK in early 2018 could have spelled disaster for the fried chicken outlet. But a genius advertising ploy created a sudden gust of wind beneath KFC's temporarily-absent wings. PR agency Mother London rearranged the brand logo to spell out 'FCK' across a signature chicken bucket and accompanied the image with a written apology to inconvenienced customers. The cheeky ad was published in Britain's most-circulated daily newspaper.

Chicken fans appreciated the genuine apology, which transformed anger into empathy. Combining this with risqué wordplay raised a smile.

In acknowledging the key ingredient to the brand was absent, KFC used the opportunity to reassert a different facet of their brand identity - humour. We all fluff up sometimes, but the best way to handle this is admit error, laugh it off and move on.

Magical, Revolutionary i-Products: Curiosity

Uncertainty provokes curiosity. An agonising kind of curiosity. The longer it's dragged out, the more your obsession with discovering the outcome builds. Nobody likes to be kept hanging: waiting on a call after a date, an offer from a job interview, or to rip open the paper on that shiny package lurking beneath the Christmas tree.

Apple's PR strategy harnesses the power of mystery to drive customers into a frenzy of anticipation. Deploying a strict policy of secrecy, Apple deliberately release very few details about their hottest new products. This anticipation creates demand, an electric build-up of hype which converts into handsome sales on launch day.

Press releases never dwell on tech specs, but rather associating mysterious new products with a singular adjective: the 'revolutionary' iPhone, 'legendary' App Store, 'magical' iPad. We don't understand it, but we imagine the unknown product to fulfil our every need.

The End of the World as You Know It: Fear

Tyrannous dictators. Blackened human lungs. Shrunken, wide-eyed depictions of a child the same age as your offspring, or an animal the same breed as your beloved pet. Politicians, big pharma and charity appeals are renowned for frightening their audiences. Scare tactics urgently motivate us to action by presenting an image of sudden, impending doom.

Fear of disruption to our way of life as a result of financial loss, health problems or negative changes in wider society and the environment is spread through harrowing images combined with emotionally-charged text. It might tug at our heartstrings to win a donation, or fashion looming, monstrous figures of disease and political oppression, prompting us to stub out our cigarettes and vote for the least evil-sounding party.

Provoking fear might seem underhanded, but there's no doubt that it's effective as a PR tactic.

Lydia Woodward is Head of Content at YourParkingSpace.co.uk. She reminds motorists how annoying it feels to scrabble around for change to feed a parking meter and how frustrating it is to circle a busy car park, in order to persuade them of the overpowering joy a pre-book parking app can bring. This evidences her bright imagination and mastery of language, because she actually cycles everywhere.
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