Tradition in marketing and brand planning is to get as much of the communications campaign nailed down well in advance of the financial year starting. Which sometimes means 15 months ahead of any actual living ‘go live’ date.

Makes sense for media buying and advance negotiation, and for the bigger tasks such as making and then screening/launching an ad.

And PR, in the correct spirit of ‘integration’, often follows these rules too. For aligning with an ad launch (although never just ‘promoting the ad’ please) and making the most of that impact, sense is still at play in planning for the big picture.

But this misses two key opportunities where PR is different.

Our discipline is about listening, reacting and engaging. If the last year has taught us anything its clearly that what lies around the corner can’t be anticipated. From the large scale pandemic, to the smaller shift in trends and attitudes that develop over the period of weeks or months. A fully buttoned down year ahead PR campaign misses the potential to be of the moment. To work a brand into a new cultural vibe, and to be more human and less driven by internal marketing mantras.

That’s doesn’t mean be off brand, but it means match brand and audience for the best and most relevant impact and grab the real benefit of being opportunistic.

The reality is that a brand’s reputation is not fully tied up in an ad. Trust comes from many sources, channels and associations. From being part of the audiences’ lives, and being nimble and sassy enough to bring something fresh to a news story or activity that is fresh and unfolding.

So opportunity number one in rethinking norms is to break a PR budget down in ways that work in tune with the best in class ways the discipline works: core integrated support, and then the ‘live’ element that will resonate with the moment. 80/20, 60/40. The more flexible the outlook, the more the benefits that will come. Fix the budget to set the scope and potential, just don’t fix the outputs too far ahead of the game, when the outcomes are what will matter more.

The second part of the opportunity lies in the creativity.  Brand DNA matters, but matching the audience ‘expectations’ that can come from this doesn’t always add the depth of impact or shift or new audience growth that every brand wants. There should be room for interpretation and different thinking.

This might mean big up the category as the hero within it to change some thinking. It might mean go more niche in your focus to capture a new set of brand fans through something quirkier and more directed than the normal ways of marketing and brand storytelling that can be all too dominated by reach (rather than effective engagement).

‘Surprise’ is a sentiment that wins attention, but sometimes our creativity is hampered by needing to be too pure to a brief,  missing the benefit of a stretched and nifty sidestep. It doesn’t mean be alien to the brand, but it does mean trusting the gut. Thinking and seeing things laterally. And not being afraid to change the normal rules of engagement for the brand for a specific purpose. Discomfort with an idea shouldn’t automatically mean it’s a ‘no’ to pursuing it.

So this is the second interpretation of 80/20. Where fortune favours the brave. A 20% challenge to the comfort zone in seeking ideas that can work and challenge, and that should be given their head.

But whether ideas see it through it or not to going live, the 80/20 start point attitude is a healthy one to agree with your agency as it encourages unpredictability, thinking for the moment as well for the long term, and pushing norms. Without that energy in play, you risk missing a prime asset in your marketing mix.