How State Farm Proactively Promotes Their Public Image
With insights from Chris Pilcic
By: Blake Bergeman
Today I’m going to be breaking down some public relations campaigns and tactics that State Farm has used recently to promote its image. I’ll also be including insights into these activities from a conversation with Chris Pilcic who was State Farm’s senior public relations, media relations, and issues management leader for the Dallas/Fort Worth area until he moved to a position as a leadership development associate in April 2022. But before we get into all of that, we need to establish a definition of what good PR is so we have something to compare our examples to. According to Rebecca Poynter, Professor of PR Communications at UNT, the practice of Public Relations is defined as, “Positive, proactive strategic actions by an organization which builds goodwill with audiences, support the brand and maintain a positive reputation.” As we go along, we’ll be able to see how State Farm’s campaigns and strategies highlight several of the key points within this definition.
Which Pitch Placed? - the Game Show for PR Nerds
On September 21, 2022, Chris Pilcic stood in front of a room of public relations interns - tossing them State Farm-branded fidget spinners and foam soccer balls. These were the prizes for his brand new game show, Which Pitch Placed? The game itself was simple: look at two pitches side by side and guess which one was more effective in getting coverage from a reporter. The message, however, quickly became poignant. With each attempt, Pilcic would put up an example of a long, formal pitch (such as a press release) and an example of a shorter, more informal pitch directly to the reporter via text message or email. Every single time the short pitch was the one that got more traction.
He also took time to discuss the importance of pitching reporters at a good time based on their schedule and generally making things easier on them. What can be learned from this? Simple, the reporters one plans to interact with are one of the organization’s public too! Modern reporters are busy, and it’s important to maintain a good relationship by communicating with them on their terms.
Jake from... NBA 2K?
Moving past media relations and now into some innovative public relations campaigns, there are a couple of recent examples of State Farm really pushing the envelope to find new frontiers for promoting its brand.
First o, we all know Jake from State Farm, but what you might not know is that the likeness of the spokesman/cultural icon was recently featured in the popular basketball video game, NBA 2K22. Jake had been seen in live-action commercials with sports stars like Chris Paul and Patrick Mahomes many times, but this marked the first time the well-known brand character would join the stars “in the game”. I think this aspect of State Farm’s PR showed great depth, because, not only did it put a lot of eyes on the brand, it reminded people of the bigger cultural impact State Farm has had. Even in a video game, the character of Jake from State Farm is instantly recognizable.
The addition of Jake to NBA 2K22 was coupled with a “Jakeover” event, which was live-streamed on Twitch. The event featured several influencers known for playing NBA 2K22, in an attempt to engage with the gaming audience in an authentic way. The company dove into promoting virtual worlds again last year. This time the organization launched an NFT Treasure Hunt using alternate reality in the State Farm app. The alternate reality experiment was a proactive attempt at capitalizing on recent AR gaming trends, and also just a really cool way to get customers to use the State Farm app and think about the company's services.
Using the Past to Drive the Future
Across State Farm’s web content and mobile platforms, the company can be seen celebrating its 100th year as an organization. However, rather than letting the organization’s centennial go to waste, State Farm has developed a strategy of bringing the focus on the past directly into the future. By reflecting on the things that have been learned over the course of 100 years in business, State Farm portrays itself as well-equipped to adapt to changing consumer needs. The website uses this opportunity to promote State Farm’s “future-forward” services (such as banking, investing, and small business insurance), showing that this is the company with the experience and the vision to meet the needs of those it serves.
The identity of a future-forward company also serves to support State Farm’s positive reputation as a company that provides meaningful solutions for its customers. Meaningful solutions are the idea behind the slogan, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Overall, I would say that State Farm does an excellent job of exemplifying our definition of good public relations. The company is very good at not only being proactive but truly innovative in some of the ways it drives stories and narratives to support the brand. The company already has a very strong reputation which is embedded in the American cultural consciousness, but State Farm’s PR is doing an incredible job of honing in on the things that people like about the company and then highlighting those things in ways that are fresh and fun. All while continuing to show an ability to find meaningful solutions for the public.
Image Sources: State Farm Insurance (smarthomeamerica.org) https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/0sJXZBkt7h5-YHzpGWHtG372vAI=/0x0:3840x 2160/920x0/filters:focal(0x0:3840x2160):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/ chorus_asset/file/22943121/E_sT4SFXIAId7nC.jpg Good Neighbor Stories (statefarm.com)