Rethinking PR: Getting the right messages to the right audiences

This post is sponsored by Mad Hat Asia.

Ask anyone what their understanding of PR is, and you’ll be met with a multitude of responses. However, elements of “press releases” and “events”, followed by “brand image” and “crisis management”, are ever-present.

In its traditional sense, the core area of PR practice involves understanding a brand, product or service. And then, writing about it and delivering content to the media via events and press materials.

However, Mad Hat Asia suggests tackling public relations from an alternative lens of the trade – getting the right messages to the right audiences.

In an age where people are bombarded with information and content, this home-grown agency has approached PR with the brands’ audiences at the forefront of it all – focusing on connecting with the right audiences via shared and resonant messages.

This perspective encourages the agency to develop messaging from an audience’s (be it customers, stakeholders, or investors) point of view for a more authentic approach to communication. This approach is paired with an omni-channel method of delivery to reach the right eyeballs and hearts, in fitting, captivating and engaging ways.

Rethinking the way we approach briefs

All too many briefs are focused on the USPs, content and messages sought to be “pushed” out. So what next? While it’s easy to get carried away with the details, it’s just as important to dissect the brief from all angles, including the areas beyond traditional PR.

So move beyond the KPIs and ROI with a keen eye to understand the “why” of a brief. Dig into commonalities between the brand’s message and the consumer’s values. After all, connection is built through shared thoughts and emotions (not just reactions). Therefore, the mark of resonant communications is where it puts a smile on their faces, melts their hearts, fuels their passion, or even to send chills down their spine.

Mad Hat Asia was presented with a similar challenge for the Jom Cadbury campaign. Despite being in Malaysia for many years, Cadbury was still seen as a foreign brand. Putting the consumer Hat on (in this case, Malaysian consumers), the key insights derived were that the two main factors that connected Malaysians and their pride of being Malaysian were the muhibbah (multi-cultural harmony) spirit and food.

Building on these insights, Mad Hat Asia centred the Jom Cadbury campaign around the confectionery’s durian flavoured variant (a pride in our food offerings) and the kampung spirit – the birthplace of the “muhibbah” spirit.

Together, these core aspects were expressed via the dusun in the city event, which immersed Malaysians in the nostalgia of simple, and harmonious times. The end result? This approach to Cadbury Dairy Milk’s brief allowed the brand to resonate with Malaysians through shared experiences that were deemed quintessentially Malaysian and further strengthened the brand’s position in the market.

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In an effort to continue paying homage to the celebration of Malaysian culture, Cadbury organised a weekend-long event themed “Dusun in the City” in Sunway Pyramid that saw an estimated 300,000 in footfall immersing themselves in the familiar dusun-setting and nostalgic childhood games, allowing Malaysians to reminisce and relive a truly Malaysian experience.


Rethinking how we execute communications

Thinking beyond traditional PR that often relies on getting the message to earned media, Mad Hat Asia encourages omni-channel strategies which includes not only focusing on generating earned media, but also to extend the PR approach to paid and brand-owned media.

After all, earned media is no stranger to the PR strategy (that is, crafting content deemed newsworthy to be carried by relevant media platforms for the benefit of their readers). This is typically done via engaging said media platforms (most commonly via editors, journalists, producers, bloggers and even influencers) via press materials, creative kits and events.

An example of this can be found in the launch of Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo, where Mad Hat created a creative drop that teased out the product – when two things make something better – peanut butter and jam; coffee and tea; and Gula Melaka and salt.

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(L-R) A creative drop specially curated for Cadbury FC, Sunsilk Natural and Wall’s Minion.

While many brands still view paid media as predominantly encompassing advertising placements, deploying a paid strategy within a PR plan allows for a considerable extension of PR campaigns. This helps to define target audiences who share similar values and interests to those of the brand. Advertorials and creative collaborative content with media platforms, influencers and content creators are examples of paid media options available to include in your PR tool box.

An example of this can be seen in Mad Hat Asia’s work for #SocialiseResponsibly At Home with Heineken® 0.0. The campaign leveraged the current virtual content trends to create a Heineken® social media experience that resonated with Malaysian fans while encouraging them to socialise creatively and responsibly with friends, family and Heineken® 0.0 during the lockdown. This included Instagram live sessions of workout videos and a virtual listening party to take away the Monday blues.

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Heineken® 0.0 provided fresh virtual connecting experiences to engage with consumers through a series of high energy, engaging and interactive home workouts covering HIIT (high-intensity interval training), dance and full body workouts.

As for owned media, it’s all about creating, publishing and maximising content that’s hosted on a brand’s own platforms. This includes websites, blogs and social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.

Consistently leveraging owned media as a PR platform means attracting audiences with resonant content, therefore, allowing brands to grow their audiences and to maintain control over their brand’s narrative.

The Jom Cadbury campaign took a leaf out of this playbook as Mad Hat Asia incorporated animated illustrations by Datuk Lat that were used as digital ads and a campaign wrap up video.

To further maximise the asset usage, the OST (original soundtrack) of the most iconic home-grown cartoon, Kampung Boy, was used in the video as a homage to the legend himself. Finally, visually dynamic motion-tracking shots were also added to showcase the kampung game activities that were available at the event.

Rethinking measurements of success

PR value being measured as a multiple of the estimated advertising value has always been the “standard” measurement in the PR field. But as media consumption behaviours change, which forces us to rethink our mediums of delivery, we, too, should reconsider metrics of success.

Mad Hat Asia utilises multidimensional metrics to account for the complexities of consumer engagement. That means having multiple success metrics for a given campaign and not just PR values. These can include content engagement, shares, backlinks, brand searches, content tonality and audience sentiments via social listening.  

Take Pleasure Seriously by Magnum Malaysia will give you an idea on how this can be done!

As media consumption evolves, so too should a brand’s approach to connecting with its audiences, including rethinking the way we approach getting the right messages to the right audiences.


Keen on rethinking your brand communications and PR strategies? Mad Hat Asia is a creative PR agency specialising in consumer-facing and lifestyle communications. Connect with the Hatters on, Facebook, Linkedinand on Instagram @madhatasia.