As a kid, a car accident on the corner of my block knocked a stop sign sideways. The twisted and bent metal bowed nearly parallel to the ground. After remaining that way for a week, my dad led my younger sister and me down the block to fix it.
At the corner, he attached a pipe wrench just above the ninety-degree angle in the post and asked us to try to move the sign. We wrapped our small hands around the wrench and pulled – but the sign didn’t budge. We planted our feet and used elbow grease – still nothing. Stepping in to help, he slid a five-foot pole through the end of the wrench, creating a lever, and asked us to try again. This time we held on to the end of the pole and my sister and I took turns, straightening the sign effortlessly, overcoming the resistance of the twisted steel. This was my introduction to the Archimedean principle of leverage. ”If you had a big enough lever,” he said, ”you could lift the entire world.”
The beauty of leverage is that it facilitates movement of something that seems impossibly stuck, fixed in place and obstinate. Leverage enables movement that is effortless, if you can find the right place to focus your efforts. Leverage as a tool in the PR world is a power I have turned over and over in my head these past few years as an assistant, and now a junior account executive at DKC. Every newly introduced idea, angle, image, concept, or insight is a fulcrum that, if well placed, creates the desired shift or movement.
Leveraging the appeal of a celebrity was initially an easy way for me to grasp the power of PR, as it utilizes a simple transference of force from one movement to another, with a particular intention in mind. Framing the appearance of a well-known celebrity at a product launch, for instance, leverages that person’s appeal to draw media attention and publicity and at least the suggestion of an endorsement.
It is more difficult to grasp and quantify how ideas can be leveraged for mass appeal but more interesting to examine in its subtleties. Companies have long looked to social trends – and have created them – to provide a platform for their brands, leveraging a broad social sense in an effort to secure interest in their products. The ”green” trend certainly falls into this category, as does the use of organic.
The association of a brand with a movement that exists on a widespread level — like being ”green,” retro (nostalgia), or connecting with celebrities who endorse a new technology — broadens a brand’s audience and gives people a desire or reason to connect to it. Tailoring messages in ways to connect positively and strongly with particular audiences, and looking for a particular way to frame things creatively and attractively, is a simple lever that underpins so many approaches to business and even human affairs.
Re-discovering the concept of leverage through the lens of PR was like being inside the mystery of the drivers, ebbs and flows of our economy, politics, the market and consumerism.
Whether using leverage for straightening out something that has gone awry or simply optimizing an opportunity for impact, PR has a kind of leveraging power, similar to what I discovered as a kid. This simple insight brought me a new sense of clarity about the impact of PR.
Posted by: Meriah Burkes-Raines, Jr. Account Executive