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The 10 Biggest PR Winners of 2013

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Toast of the town

Yesterday we gave your our list of 2013′s biggest losers, so now it’s time to go positive (in keeping with #4 on this list) with the biggest winners of the past twelve months.

Through some combination of skill, good fortune and great public relations, these ten had a pretty good 2013.

Here’s to the promise of a new year; be sure to let us know who we left out.

10. Banksy

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Question: how many contemporary artists do you know by name (or pseudonym)?

Marina Abramovic got a lot of attention in 2013, it’s true—but even Lady Gaga wasn’t famous enough to make her famous. No one succeeded at bringing “highbrow” to the masses quite like this master of self-promotion, and he did it on the cheap thanks to a great PR team and a little guerrilla marketing.

9. Digital Agencies

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Yes, some people tell us the agency model is dying. And yes, 360i‘s product is marketing, not PR. But after the Oreo buzz, does anyone doubt that agencies can be famous in their own right?

8. The Nonprofit Sector

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Social media and charity came together this year in a big way. As a society, we give more now than ever before, and social grants us the power to better target our messages and measure our results.

Networking, crowdsourcing, sticky content…charity is a fine art, and in our humble opinion the tools we use to promote it finally “matured” in 2013. Perhaps most importantly, those who give may now see the results of their donations in ways Sally Struthers could never have imagined in her day.

At the same time, there’s always so much work left to do, isn’t there? We expect 2014 to give us a string of even more impressive stories.

7. The “Everyday” Celebrity

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When will the backlash against Jennifer Lawrence and Beyoncé begin? Short answer: it won’t, because unlike other actresses and pop stars who made headlines in 2013, these two proved that you don’t have to create a scandal or make yourself look like an idiot to get attention. You just have to do great work.

The point is that, as a personality looking to relate to the public, you must be relatable—not awkward or snobbish or unapproachable. It certainly sounds simple enough.

6. The Semi-Celebrity Outrage Industry

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While JLaw and Queen B proved that one can have a great career by avoiding scandal altogether, manufacturing controversy is still the easiest way to get attention. Just ask Gina Rodriguez. Better yet, ask A&E as they laugh all the way to the bank thanks to a show based on a bunch of “dumb redneck” cliches with an optimum lifespan of, what, five years?

At least we almost forgot about Honey Boo Boo.

5. Content, Content, Content

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The walls have broken down; even holdouts like Edelman and The New York Times joined the paid/sponsored content team this year.

If the word didn’t appear in every other work-related sentence you uttered in 2013 then you were just out of the loop, man. Now it’s time to fine-tune your writing skills.

4. Positivity

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Two words: Upworthy and Batkid. As much as the Internet loves snark or smarm or whatever they’re calling Gawker’s editorial tone these days, they also love a good uplift as long as it’s real (and sometimes even when it’s not). Want to go viral? Go positive.

3. Journalism

shutterstock_91706285-1It’s the only entry to appear on both our “biggest losers” and “biggest winners” list. While Americans’ trust in journalism reached an all-time low this year, we also witnessed so many examples of reporting at its best. Edward Snowden and Ariel Castro and the Boston bombing made the biggest headlines, but the year brought us top-notch reporting on events that didn’t necessarily make for easy clickbait: things like the civil war in Syria, the factory collapse in Bangladesh, the challenges of the Affordable Care Act and, hey, even Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed.

Traditional journalism is struggling to (re)define itself right now, but we have great confidence in its ability to prevail—and that doesn’t just apply to Glenn Greenwald.

2. The Public Relations Industry

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A good portion of the population still views us as paid liars, but you know what? They think the same thing about journalists. And they’re wrong.

Here’s the thing: we don’t know whether to blame the rapid spread of scandal via social media or the fact that we spend way too much time reading about this stuff, but more and more people with no ties to the business have begun to realize the value of what we do even if they don’t completely understand it.

We’re here to stay. The industry is doing quite well on the financial front despite some lagging problems like, say, diversity. And while some don’t appreciate us, they’re realizing more and more how necessary we are.

1. The Catholic Church

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We’ve seen some criticism of Pope Francis pop up recently, but it primarily comes from those who argue that we should “stop fawning” over him as a game-changer when the only thing he’s changed is the way the Church delivers its message.

Is Francis a liberal reformer ready to perform gay marriages and tear down centuries of orthodoxy? Of course not; don’t be silly. If you want some reminders of the fact that he is a traditionalist at heart, then check out this excellent longform New Yorker profile.

Seriously, though: has any institution, especially one as troubled as the Catholic Church, undergone such a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time? For that you can thank Francis…and the PR people behind him.

Well, that was fun. We would promise to follow our own advice and be a little more positive in 2014, but then what would happen to our traffic numbers?!

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