Every year, more and more small businesses emerge on the market. Each one is eager to carve out a niche, which makes it important that your business stand out from the rest in order to achieve professional longevity.
It’s expensive to hire your own PR person, and not all small businesses are ready for that level of investment. But you’ve still got to get your message out to the public in as many relevant channels as you can. While there are PR tools you can use to help cover the bases, you’ve still got to think of a way to create a buzz that can gain traction with the public and garner interest from the media.
The daily goings on of your business may be your lifeblood, but they don’t offer much in the way of excitement for the public. The need for a newsworthy story (one that grabs the attention of your target media outlets) is more important than ever. The right public relations tactics work to draw attention to your cause.
A cleverly planned publicity stunt can work miracles for small businesses. For a PR stunt to be effective, it must preserve your core message within it. We’ve curated some great PR stunts that have worked well, garnering media attention, raised brand awareness, and made an impact.
Declare your own holiday
7-Eleven created their own holiday called, “Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC) Day.” Customers could bring any size cup to a store and could fill it for only $1.50. Right off the bat, people began questioning the definition of “cup,” and the rest is history. For one day, people would bring buckets, Crock-Pots, helmets, anything that can serve as a cup. The result? Once a year, 7-Eleven generates renewed excitement for their brand, and finds themselves in local newspapers around the country.
While we’re not condoning public nudity, there’s something to be said for shock value in your campaign. The television provider, Now TV, took the opportunity to use a heat wave announcement for London to make a sure bet on getting media attention. They offered Londoners and opportunity to enjoy the heat and sunshine (not so common occurrences for London). They created a rooftop garden exclusively for nudists to soak up some sun (NSFW).
The best part about this stunt? Their message was baked in. In the press release, Gidon Katz, managing director of Now TV, ties the stunt to their contract-free TV service: "As a nation, it seems we’re increasingly avoiding being ‘tied down’ in life—which is exactly what Now TV is all about. With the Now TV Combo we’re offering people the freedom to get the latest and best TV, broadband and calls, all without a contract. And we’re not stopping there. We’re going to keep breaking away from traditional conventions; firstly contracts, and now clothes, with the Now TV nudist terrace."
Support a charity
If you didn’t take the Ice Bucket Challenge, you probably know someone who did. Chris Kennedy started the phenomenon with a simple video that tied ALS fundraising to the ice bucket challenge. The ice bucket challenge was a social-media friendly idea: short videos showing people’s hilarious responses all for a good cause. The best part of this was that local and national news started talking about the event. Some reports themselves took the challenge on air.
PR stunts with a charity bent tend to gain serious momentum, because the event has a newsworthy angle.
Not to mention, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is getting more press two years later, after they release the report on how they used the $115 million donated from the challenge. Keep in mind that if you sponsor a charity event, you can have additional press release material down the road as you disclose how your funds were spent to support the cause.
Invite participation on social media
Of course, social media is the center of audience participation. From Facebook Live to Twitter hashtags, people digest the world around them on their phones and share their experiences on social. Many times social media buzz and traditional media buzz build on one another, where one picks up on the other.
Snapchat’s immediacy makes users feel close to the action and embedded in the event, so Snapchat is a great way to build buzz. Las Vegas announced that they would launch the Vegas Snapchat channel with the “King of Snapchat,” DJ Khaled. For a day and a half, DJ Khaled snapped his way around Vegas. Now, the fact that he had around 6 million followers at the time gave this event huge momentum, but the event was a newsworthy story on its own that easily landed big media attention.
Respond to other local news items
Sometimes, you can take advantage of the momentum of trending news, especially quirky local news, to promote your own brand. In this case, that’s exactly what Giffgaff did. Diane Cartwright, owner of a dog grooming business, was having trouble with her mobile signal, which cost her business in missed customer calls. Despite the service issues, EE would not cancel her contract. So she staged a protest.
It doesn’t appear that Cartwright intended her protest to be a PR stunt for her business, but EE’s competitor, Giffgaff seized the opportunity. Swooping in as the heroes of small business, Giffgaff put out a full page ad for Cartwright’s dog grooming business to help her regain some of her lost customers. Giffgaff was able to piggyback on a current event story to build their brand, and Diane Cartwright’s “Peacefull [sic] Protest” put her front and center in the news.
Take a hint from the Richard Branson playbook
[PHOTO CREDIT REUTERS]
A piece on PR stunts wouldn’t be complete without referring to Richard Branson. While most of his stunts aren’t really repeatable, (such as driving a tank into New York City and inadvertently blowing up the Coke sign) the philosophy behind his outlandishness very much is: “The idea to have Branson be the face of the Virgin brand was first suggested by the late Sir Freddie Laker, who shared some advice on how Virgin Atlantic could more successfully rival the bigger, wealthier airline with a multimillion-dollar advertising spend.
‘Get on the front pages of the papers even if it means to make a fool of yourself,’ Branson says he was instructed. "So for our inaugural flight when we had only one plane, I turned up dressed as the captain and we made the front pages."
This, perhaps, is the best way to think of PR stunts. When they work, they grab the attention of the media and your brand can get significant mileage out of it. That mileage can put you ahead of the competition, even when the competition outspends you in other areas.