Week 4: Critique of the Methodologies of Public Relations Using a Case Study of Google Australia’s Homepage Logo Contest

Source: http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/gta/?page=show&id=755

Once more, we step further into the pool of public relations. This article aims to gain insight into the effectiveness of Public Relation machinations through a case study of the success, or lack thereof, of a third-party attempt at PR, through a campaign, to promote a client’s contest.

The  story starts with a young technological firm refreshing their image in a specific country’s population. The firm is doing relatively well, but seeks to reinforce its brand’s image as a creative, innovative, modern and exciting company. In particular, it wants to capture the attention of the young, who, as digital natives, would be better inclined connect with the firm and make the brand a household name. The firm engages a PR company to assist it in its campaign.

The firm is Google Australia, and the PR firm handling the campaign is SpectrumLife.

Prior to the campaign, Google in Australia was already a well known brand that had a reputation and immense goodwill owing to its search engine. However, Google Australia wanted something more than that, they wanted Google to become a localised, uniquely Australian brand, under the name Google Australia. As such they created a contest to allow the participation of school children(academic years 1-10) across Australia in the creation of a logo that represented something uniquely Australian. Said logo would be used on Google Australia’s main page on Australia Day 2008. Not only would the contest reach out to these children directly, the teachers, educators and professionals in the education industry would be engaged through the campaign. Perhaps just as importantly, a strong PR campaign would lead to plenty of media coverage, hence projecting the image of direct involvement by Google Australia in the occurrences of Australia Day, and, more vaguely, the Australian identity.

The fundamental goals are summed up in the source page, but are important enough to necessitate some repetition here.

  • Use a range of PR tactics to drive consumer engagement with the Google brand at a community level across Australia
  • Demonstrate to Australians that Google Australia thinks and acts locally
  • Stimulate creativity among school children through interaction with the Google brand
  • Generate positive coverage for Google Australia, with a focus on local and regional stories from around Australia, rather than on a sheer volume of impressions.

At this point it is important to distinguish that we are examining these goals from the perspective of SpectrumLife itself, not Google Australia itself. While these may overlap with each other, this article will discuss only within the scope of the media effects generated and how SpectrumLife crafted these.

Information Gathering

  • SpectrumLife gathered feedback on the competition plans from the Australian media before implementing the campaign, which influenced the tactics used in the campaign
  • SpectrumLife researched past education/competition campaigns, reviewing factors including key messages, communication materials, coverage achieved and general outcomes.

While I question exactly how it was that SpectrumLife changed the campaign tactics in accordance with feedback to the competition, perhaps these are minor details that should not detract from the main thrust of of the strategy. Interestingly, I happen to know one other example of such pre-empting of media tactics by gathering reactions to the plans for an event. The event was Anime Festival Asia 2010 and the PR company handling the promotion was AsiaPrWerkz. The PR firm found that the discourse related to the event too place a lot on platforms such as sgcafe and facebook. They responded with high levels of engagement in the audiences in these platforms.  They also learnt from past years experiences of the same events, examining platforms and coverage for optimised press coverage, both across new and old media.

The takeaway from both these cases studies is to do your homework before starting out the PR campaign. It’s important to find out what works and what doesn’t, particularly by way of  getting press coverage and creating general interest in the populace. This can be achieved two general ways: through direct gathering of  feedback from media outlets before the campaign, and by reviewing past attempts at generating coverage.

Goals, Objectives, and Target Audiences(Publics)

These are well spelt-out in the  source.These were first roughly set by Google, although SpectrumLife did change the target audiences somewhat by its strategy of reaching out to the media. These were well demarcated and easy to understand. One thing I found rather strange though, was that one of the objectives was to meet a certain number of Doodle submissions(the name of the contest). However, it is not always clear whether the Doodles submitted were for this one specific Doodle contest(themed “what Australia means to you”) or for others. A look at the URL cited on the source page redirects to a “I love soccer” doodle contest. It is not entirely clear what became of the “Australia” doodle.

This is a problem because creating coverage for the I love Australia Doodles creates more attention not just for that one particular Doodle or Doodle contest but the entire concept of Doodle submission itself. As such, it would be hard to quantify exactly how many people, be it school children or otherwise, starting contesting with Doodles, since there is a positive externality created which indirectly promotes the other Doodle contest. To further confuse matters, the source is none the wiser in distinguishing between these two distinct subsets of submissions, despite SpectrumLife claiming to have researched past competitions. Perhaps they decided that they would only look at one contest and ignore every other factor? If so, this would essentially undervalue the PR campaign.

Strategy

Although, as a matter of principle, I have several issues with the whole notion of an art contest, for the moment I will give charity to the idea and discuss the body of PR work done instead. Firstly, the contest was announced and carried out as follows:

  • Development of a Doodle 4 Google microsite with competition guidelines, information for schools and press resources
    See: http://www.google.com.au/doodle4google/
  • Schools engagement program
  • Introductory letters were sent to all Australian schools
  • Lesson plans for Art teachers were made available to ensure the competition had a strong educational element and added value to the curriculum
  • A judging panel was set up which included prominent members of the Australian community:
    • Geoff Buckley, MD, Tourism Australia
    • Michael Grose, Parenting expert and founder of the ‘Young Leaders Program’
    • Dare Jennings, Founder of Mambo surfwear
    • Kate Vale, Google Australia’s first employe
  • Doodles were judged on artistic merit, creativity and the representation of the ‘My Australia’ theme
  • Involvement of Dennis Hwang, Google’s official ‘Doodler’
  • Local PR opportunities around state winners and age group winners
  • Online public voting element for state and territory finalists
  • A gala award event showcasing the award winners was held in Sydney’s Tumbalong Park. The four age group winners as voted for by the public and the national winner chosen by Dennis Hwang were announced. Hundreds of school kids from around Australia attended, including the 32 state and territory finalists
  • Prizes for entrants. In addition to having their doodle feature on the Google Australia homepage on Australia Day 2008, the overall winner also received a MacBook computer for themselves and $10,000 worth of technology equipment their school
  • A follow-up survey was conducted analysing the themes and images used by Australian students in the doodles

Generally I can’t really find anything to critique about the way Google Australia handled the campaign itself, but I am not sure exactly what on this list is done by SpectrumLife and what on this list is done by Google Australia itself. In this sense, it’s hard to sense the value of the PR campaign since many of the efforts by the client company and the PR firm overlap. For example, although it is listed as a PR strategy to give away prizes, did Google themselves sponsor these prizes or were they acquired by SpectrumLife? What of the involvement of Google’s employees, and how did they work with the PR firm to carry out the contest?

Tactics and Implementation

These are well mentioned in the source and I don’t have much to criticise here. I assume that all of these are managed by the PR firm SpectrumLife, including the media interviews with the “Key Google executives”.. One thing I found strange was that very little was done here by way of an online approach to generating coverage. This is despite of the mention of YouTube video views as one of  indicators of results. I sense that SpectrumLife restricted itself to the offline, directed correspondence or releases. Again, I am merely postulating that it seems highly likely that the folks at Google feel themselves capable of handling a viral YouTube video or two. It seems somewhat ironic if Google wants to put itself across as a digital brand but relies on external help to coordinate offline contest correspondences and press releases I do not know how closely SpectrumLife worked with Google in this aspect but would like to mention that the best case scenario would be for both to work closely together.

Evaluation, Results, and Follow-through

The source treats the evaluation and the results of the campaign as too different sections, but I feel they should be discussed within the same breadth. It would not make sense to demarcate between the goals being met and the objectives being met. Evaluation here refers to how well the objectives, being quantifiable, were met. Results refers to something more of how and in what ways the goals were met.

Of course, since this a is Golden Target Awardee, all the objectives were met or exceeded. Results were stellar, although my two main issues; one, of whether this was the work of Google or SpectrumLife, and two, whether the offline and online coverage could have been better integrated, still are unresolved.

All-together Now

The model given in week 3’s post has proven to be useful in analysing PR campaigns and shedding light on any potential flaws, although my doubts remain as to the accuracy and measurability with which efforts of a PR firm can be distinguished from that of the client company itself, particularly with cases like this where the client has a large role to play in generating publicity. However, this is not an issue with the model itself but rather the lack of resources to effectively isolate the results of efforts from the PR firm. Thus it should not reduce the effectiveness of the PR model as mentioned in Week 3 as a whole.

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2 Responses to “Week 4: Critique of the Methodologies of Public Relations Using a Case Study of Google Australia’s Homepage Logo Contest”



  1. 1 Week 5: A Critique of Media Relations « Communication Studies Blog Trackback on February 23, 2011 at 2:55 am
  2. 2 Week 8 Blog Journal: Evaluation Techniques « Linked – PR Consultancy Trackback on November 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm

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