Generating attention for a brand is just a standard day in marketing, but there is one type of marketing and public relations (PR) tactic that always gets people talking–publicity stunts. A publicity stunt is a highly effective way to draw a lot of attention from the public, but whether that attention is good or bad often comes down to implementation. Let’s discuss publicity stunts and how to approach them for positive, long-lasting results.
What is a Publicity Stunt?
A publicity stunt, also commonly known as a PR stunt, is a specific marketing and public relations tactic that has one simple goal–to get people talking. These stunts are designed to draw as much attention as possible and can be fairly surprising or even outlandish in nature. The goal is to generate a bunch of attention and traffic, often right before a major launch or kickoff. When planned effectively, publicity stunts can drum up excitement and prepare an audience for a big announcement or lasting campaign.
Features of an Effective Publicity Stunt
While some publicity stunts are great for generating positive attention, others do not yield the best outcomes. Given the substantial and sometimes controversial nature of these stunts, it is very easy for a publicity stunt to turn into a lot of negative press if they are not managed correctly.
An effective publicity stunt will often have these common features.
Publicity stunts are called “stunts” for a reason–it is the concept behind the PR stunt meaning. Everything about them is designed to grab attention. With publicity stunts, many PR managers believe that the bigger the stunt is, the better. As long as it is big enough to get people talking, it has served its purpose.
While publicity stunts are often one-time events, they should not be a one-time experience for those who come across them. The best publicity stunts don’t just grab attention for a short while before fading away. They are forever recorded as a part of the public record, leading people to reflect on them later. A highly effective PR stunt might even influence other companies to follow suit or use a similar method.
It is true that the primary goal of a PR stunt is to generate attention, but a truly well-planned publicity stunt will not be that short-sighted. These strategies should always have another goal that explains the why behind conducting the stunt in the first place.
Yes, a publicity stunt can be used to put a brand back on the map, but good PR stunts have clear goals. They generate excitement for a reason, like a launch, an upcoming announcement, or to generate more sales of a specific product.
In most cases, a PR stunt precedes something else. The reason for carrying out these strategies is to prepare an audience for a new change or announcement. By highlighting the brand or generating attention in a specific direction, PR managers can prepare an audience to receive the news.
Appropriate for All Audiences
Controversy will get people talking, but when a public relations stunt isn’t appropriate, it can reflect negatively on a brand. There are some brands that can target older audiences specifically–and should–but any standard brand should create a plan that gets people talking and can be mentioned around families. Companies that cater to people of all ages and conduct PR stunts that are not friendly for all ages can risk offending their audience.
A good PR stunt should not just be attention-grabbing to whoever sees it–it should also be easy to see. PR stunts should be set up in such a way that they guarantee a significant audience. If a publicity stunt isn’t capable of being seen by a lot of people, it isn’t planned correctly. From physical visibility to funded digital marketing campaigns, these stunts must be seen to be effective.
Though it is easy to see publicity stunts as nothing more than a random event or tactic to get people talking, they are actually built around community. These stunts are a part of public relations work because they are designed to open a dialogue and a discussion with the public. A good PR stunt should always engage the community and ask them to interact in some way.
What Are the Best Publicity Stunts in Recent Years?
Throughout the years, there have been many publicity stunts that have gained mass attention–sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. The best publicity examples focus on gathering attention and generating discussions. These three brands saw a chance to engage their audience and real-time and took it.
Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign
What started as a publicity stunt was actually a kick-off for an ongoing public discussion and lasting campaign for Dove. They made headlines when they called out the unrealistic and limited beauty standards presented in the media through a series of viral videos and images. Each new set addressed the perception of beauty and encouraged the world to question it.
Burger King’s King Pop Corn
When Peru announced a law that people could bring their own food into the movies as long as they were comparable to what movie theaters sold, Burger King–who is known for regular PR stunts–saw an opportunity. They introduced the King Pop Corn, a box with popcorn on top that hid a Burger King meal underneath to skirt the law. It was short-lived when movie theaters caught on and banned them, but Burger King managed to increase sales by 40% while the product was live and went viral for it.
The Denny’s Glitch
Denny’s is well-known for its comical public persona and has entertained the internet with viral social media content for years. In 2021, they kicked off their partnership with Warner Bros. by partnering with known streamer Hungrybox to recreate an iconic Matrix interaction on stream with the goal of encouraging people to sign up for the Denny’s app. It was dramatic and ridiculous, but it worked.
Publicity stunts come in all shapes and sizes, and they all offer varying levels of success. To create a successful PR stunt that generates positive attention, companies must plan every single aspect and know what they want to get out of it. To learn more about how to increase your reach and capture audience attention, contact us at Otter PR today!