New PR mantra: We’re the ‘ones who knock’

Mike O'Connell

You know when PR is really fun? When we get the chance to partner with a client on a creative project that entertains as well as informs.

We’re involved in plenty of content campaigns that energize the staff every day here at PAN. A little while back we worked with our client Bonitasoft to create some videos aping the AT&T “It’s complicated” ads, positioning the client’s brand of BPM as being not complicated. The Carbonite account team created and promoted #WorldBackupDay with twitter memes featuring silly animal sayings (a plaintive Pug saying “Ruff day? It could get worse if you don’t back up your files”). The SDL team does a great job turning data into visuals. That’s just scratching the surface.

This past month we teamed up with client CloudBees on another offbeat campaign. CloudBees is in the software development space, and it wanted to make a splash at a couple of upcoming conferences. The client wanted to engage its audience of developers and DevOps pros with some images that would accomplish three things: 1) reinforce CloudBees’ primary messages, 2) make people smile, and 3) encourage people to share the images via social media.

Working with our day-to-day contact at CloudBees, we came up with an idea to play off of the iconic themes, characters and lines from TV’s “Breaking Bad.”4_CloudBees_BreakingBuilds

To us, this was a no-brainer. “Breaking Bad” is, you might say, popular: 16 Emmys, 58 nominations, the Guinness Book of World Record’s highest-rated cable show of all time. It’s been spoofed all over the place: Jimmy Fallon’s “Joking Bad”; The Colbert Report’s “Breaking Abbey” (genteel Brits brewing up some outlaw tea); CollegeHumor’s “Bill Nye the Crystal Meth Guy.” Our job was to put our own spin on a well-known concept and make it resonate with CloudBees’ audience.

We came up with 10 memes that spun a yarn around the theme of “Breaking Builds.” The memes conveyed CloudBees’ primary message that the process of building software applications “breaks” in countless ways, and you’d better have tools that ensure that it doesn’t. (CloudBees partners with a large developer community centered around an open source project called Jenkins CI that provides “continuous delivery” resources to keep projects from breaking down.)

The open source project’s mascot is a butler named Jenkins. The logo depicts a prototypical butler: diligent, laid-back, polite, calm. CloudBees and PAN have had fun with the butler in the past, creating other memes with the image and dressing up a CloudBees VP as the character at several trade shows.

In this set of memes we cast the Jenkins butler in the complex, chem-teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White role. Jenkins speaks some of White’s memorable tough-guy phrases (“I’m the one who knocks,” “What happened? I won”) and separate taglines connect the statements with the concept of continuous delivery.

Like most successful projects in PR, the campaign was a collaborative effort. Our PR team kicked around ideas in multiple brainstorm sessions, and our CloudBees contact – a big “Breaking Bad” fan – added her own spin. Other PAN colleagues who were fans of the show offered input. My own daughter, an IT student at Fitchburg State, chimed in with several ideas. Having in-house designer Jen Bonney around to turn an evolving concept into colorful, insightful digital gems didn’t hurt, either.

CloudBees rolled out the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ the past couple of weeks. The company used some of the images as signage at the JavaOne conference earlier this month, and it’ll be doing the same at its Jenkins User Conference event in San Francisco next week. Fans are already asking for downloads for their desktops, and they’re obsessed with the t-shirts featuring Jenkins as Walt that the team gave out at JavaOne.

The days of PR being strictly about pitching media are over. Today, it’s all about engagement – helping clients reach audiences and leave an imprint. Pitching is critical. Creative content is, too. Projects like these jazz clients, engage audiences and make it fun to come to work every day.

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