The valuable risk of PR stunts

Sep 25, 2013

Consumers on a daily basis are bombarded with advertising and PR messages, so it’s no wonder some people choose to ignore them as much as possible. Trying to get noticed through today’s media is tough and it urges brands to do the extreme to be visible to the public. Red Bull had to send a man to space in order to capture the world’s attention! It is as though everyone in today’s societies holds a ‘nothing shocks me’ complex.

Publicity stunts are good for creating controversy and controversy attracts attention. Companies big and small take part in publicity stunts to try and attract their target markets, alongside gaining free press coverage. Publicity stunts usually play a part of a much larger PR campaign, and they can be brilliant if they get the reaction they were originally intended to create. They create buzz and excitement over a specific product, brand or person, and the stunt is generally under a companies’ controlled environment. In addition, to be able to run a successful PR stunt without exceeding the budget is just another part of the challenge.

An example of a fun and simple yet very effective stunt comes from the well established brand Harrods. In order to promote their 2013 summer sale, they gave one member of the public has the chance to win £1000 of store credit. They combined the essence of their brand with social media. The Harrods iconic ‘Green men’ doormen took to the streets of London to dance and prance around, and in order for a chance to win; passers-by just had to take a photo of the Green man dancing and upload it to twitter using the hash tag #HarrodsSale. This creates an online presence for the Harrods sale using a cost effective method.

Some PR stunts however, do not have the same success. For example, in 2005, drinks company Snapple decided to make the world’s largest ice popsicle in New York. As expected the press and public all came to visit this mouth-watering phenomenon, however no one seemed to predict the obvious. Temperatures were unusually high that day and the popsicle melted! Several streets had to be closed off and the fire brigade brought in to clean up the mess. It became a catastrophe and a failed PR stunt. Snapple certainly gained some free press coverage that day, but it’s likely it would have been for all the wrong reasons.

Combining social media with a PR campaign is the way forward, interacting with consumers to create an increase in revenue but equally to create an online presence for your brand. Brands are advised to take into account a crisis management scheme set up specifically for the campaign or particular stunt. PR stunts can be a life-changing start to a brand’s success, but they can be the end of them too.

"Combining social media with a PR campaign is the way forward, interacting with consumers to create an increase in revenue but equally to create an online presence for your brand."

To go out on a limb with these PR stunts, companies should be prepared at the highest level to deal with a social media outbreak, and technical and economic difficulties that can arise. This is where reputation management and crisis management are crucial to your company. The chances taken by brands are usually bold and exciting but usually come with high risks. As an individual or a company you must be prepared to handle all possibilities during these PR stunts in order to exceed public expectations, or your carefully-constructed plan could go drastically wrong, and damage your business’ reputation.

Article by Denise Watson

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