The world of television PR is exciting and dynamic. Stunts are frequently large and elaborate, often involving a slew of celebrities and high-profile coverage. Even though their budgets are more modest, small business owners can take inspiration from these big-budget publicity events.
The Stunt – Five identically dressed Miss Havishams took to the London Underground, to promote an upcoming TV adaptation of Great Expectations. Candlestick and book in hand, they also visited Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
What to Learn – A stunt doesn’t necessarily have to be big to make a large impact. This event was inexpensive to produce, simple to execute, and probably only witnessed by a handful of people. However, the striking photographs caught the eye of news editors across the web, and the stunt soon went viral.
When organizing a PR event, consider the staging in advance—and invest in a good photographer. It’s significantly easier to get news coverage if your press release is accompanied with a set of high-quality images.
Penguins Can Fly
The Stunt – In 2008, the BBC turned their traditional April Fools’ Day prank into a PR opportunity for their new iPlayer service. Viewers were left perplexed by a realistic BBC-style documentary, which claimed to show a recently-discovered flock of flying penguins.
What to Learn – CGI has come a long way since 2008, and audiences today would probably spot the computer wizardry. However, at the time, thousands of people fell for the trick—largely because the BBC is known for reporting facts and upholding journalistic integrity. The BBC also saw similar success in the 1950s with an infamous straight-faced segment about Swiss spaghetti farmers.
When devising a PR stunt, don’t be afraid to be playful with your own image. Going against type is a good way to get people to take notice of your stunt, and could ultimately boost your coverage.
The Stunt – To promote season four of The Walking Dead, producers set up a series of ‘Zombie Pits’ in New York. Teams of bloodied ‘zombies’ lay in wait beneath floor grilles, before coming to life and scaring unsuspecting passers-by. A hidden camera crew captured footage of people’s reactions, and the video was later uploaded online.
What to Learn – Static images are often popular online, but funny or interesting video footage is far more likely to go viral. Videos can also be produced on a fairly modest budget, making them an ideal tactic for small businesses.
‘Reaction-style’ campaigns—like the infamous stunt for 2013 horror flick Devil’s Due—tend to be particularly successful. However, you must always ask your unsuspecting victims for permission before publishing the footage online.
The Stunt – A vast dragon skull—roughly as big as a double-decker bus—was seemingly washed up on Dorset’s Jurassic coast with no visible company branding. The stunt was organised by Blinkbox, to celebrate the launch of the third series of Game of Thrones.
What to Learn – Blinkbox took a risk by neglecting to include any obvious brand names or colors, relying on natural curiosity to drive interest in the story. Fortunately, their gamble paid off—the hashtag #dragonskull rapidly began trending on Twitter, and they were swiftly ‘outed’ as the brains behind the stunt.
Social media can make or break a PR stunt. If you’re organizing a real-world event, assign someone to man your social media accounts. A handful of well-placed tweets and images can hugely amplify the success of a campaign.
A PR stunt doesn’t have to be large to make a big impact, as many of these examples show. Fire up your creativity, take inspiration from these successful campaigns, and devise a way to get people talking about your company.
Author: This post was written by Jade Symons of Westminster Live, an internationally recognized television studio based on the banks of the River Thames.
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