Creating coverage: Record breakers

Staging a Guinness World Record attempt is a great way for PROs to promote their campaign. Kate Magee looks at three successful cases studies and reveals some top tips for securing maximum media exposure.

Snaring a Guinness World Record (GWR) can be a great way of getting media coverage for a campaign. The GWR PR team demonstrated this when it launched its latest book last week. The details that were released on the world's new smallest man secured articles in six national UK newspapers and several online pieces.

GWR senior VP sales and marketing Sam Fay says breaking a record is useful for PROs because 'it offers the opportunity to come up with a great picture, eye-catching broadcast content, rich human interest stories, multi-location events that unite places across the UK or the world, and regional stories that boost local pride'.

All of which are great for a PRO on a crusade for media coverage.

But while breaking a record can add a much-needed news hook or spark to a campaign or product launch, it is not a guarantee of media interest.

GWR has more than 40,000 records on its databases, and as Ed Staples, The Red Consultancy MD for consumer brands, says, 'journalists can be pretty cynical about such stories'.

So what can PROs do to make sure their record stands out? 'The trick is to build an extraordinary picture or angle, rather than relying on the "record" tag,' says Staples.

Frank PR account director David Brady agrees, adding that record attempts should always be a fit with the brand: 'You have to be clever with it. Just breaking a record isn't important, it has to have something that is relevant to the brand.'

When there is not a strong link, Fay says the media are likely to forget the brand and focus on the record itself. To avoid this, she advises PROs to be clear on their objectives when planning the event. 'The first step for PROs is to determine their aims, who they want to reach and the kind of coverage they hope to generate,' she says.

Overleaf, the PROs behind three record-breaking attempts give their advice on how to maximise the opportunity.

CLIC SARGENT - Marathon run dressed as a nurse
PR team: In-house
Record: The fastest marathon runner dressed as a nurse
Date: 25 April 2010

- What happened?

CLIC Sargent was the official charity for the Virgin London Marathon 2010, so it wanted to take full advantage of the PR opportunity to stand out from the crowd. It set up a GWR attempt for one supporter, Andrew White, to become the fastest marathon runner dressed as a nurse.

The attempt was part of a year-long PR strategy to raise awareness of the charity and the work it does to support children and young people with cancer.

All of the charity's other runners were encouraged to dress as nurses and 'cheer teams' were positioned around the course to support the runners.

CLIC Sargent's director of comms and campaigning Liz North says: 'Lots of marathon runners wear fancy dress, so attempting a GWR seemed like a great way to generate extra interest.

'The outfits also provided a great canvas for branding to get our logo and messaging in front of the world's media.'

White broke the world record and raised about £80,000 for CLIC Sargent. His original goal had been to raise £45,000, enough to fund a CLIC Sargent nurse for one year.

He appeared on The One Show the night before the race, took part in the official GWR press conference and photocall, and picked up radio interviews on the finish line.

North says: 'We still have sponsorship money coming in from the event, but we have already beaten our target of raising £1.5m from the marathon. This was helped enormously by the increased awareness and support generated by our speedy nurse.'

The advice North advises PROs to start planning early. 'You'll be surprised how many weird and wonderful records there are to break,' she says. 'Consider what you want the record to say about your aims and objectives. Our link was clear. We needed people to dress up and run to support the work of our nurses and other care professionals right across the UK.'

ACTIVISION DJ - Hero does the Isle of Wight Festival
PR team: Frank PR
Record: Largest audience for video game performance
Date: 11 June 2010

- What happened?

Frank PR is the retained agency for Activision, the game manufacturer behind DJ Hero, and was asked to secure coverage for the game when there was no real news hook.

DJ Hero already had a longstanding partnership with the Isle of Wight festival as a sponsor and had managed to get competition winners to perform on stage in previous years, but the agency thought it could make more of this opportunity. During research, Frank discovered there was a GWR for the largest audience for a video game performance and decided trying to break the record would create a good media story. Frank PR invited journalists from Zoo and MixMag to break the record. The resulting piece in Zoo was a feature-length first-person piece discussing how the journalist broke the record. MixMag also covered the attempt.

Frank PR's account director David Brady says: 'The ethos of the game is that it lets you be the life and soul of the party. That's how the coverage came across. The journalists wrote about how they were the life and soul of the festival on stage with DJ Hero.' The record was broken in front of 16,000 people.

The advice Brady advises other PROs to make sure they are confident they can break the world record: 'Otherwise you put a lot of time and money into something that's not a story.'

This happened to him for an Indiana Jones game he was trying to promote. In an attempt to break the record for the number of whip cracks in one minute, he had flown the current record holder over from the US. 'We put him outside the Natural History Museum for a great picture story, but he failed to break his record. All the picture desk editors said it was a great picture, but there's no story,' says Brady.

Luckily, the team had arranged a series of 'whip-cracking' media master classes, so coverage was still secured. 'Make sure you have a back-up plan for media coverage so you are still able to show ROI for the activity to your client,' he says.

PR team: In-house
Record: Highest concert ever performed
Date: 29 June 2010

- What happened?

Insurance brand More Than and parent company RSA Insurance wanted to secure media coverage for RSA's 300th anniversary. The brands already had an ongoing partnership with Heart FM in place.

More Than marketing director Peter Markey says the campaign had to 'entertain key stakeholders within the business and create cut-through over and above the level of investment'.

Together with Heart FM, the PR team arranged the world's highest concert 'The Gig In The Sky' with singer James Blunt. Tickets for the gig were given to Heart FM listeners who won competitions either over the phone or online. On the day, Blunt played a 21-minute and 15 seconds set at 42,050ft on a private jet. The set was broadcast on Heart FM and was witnessed by GWR editor-in-chief Craig Glenday.

'We were lucky with flight conditions on the day. Almost immediately after James had finished his set, we hit some bad turbulence,' says Markey.

The campaign reached almost 7.5 million adults and secured a range of consumer and trade press articles including Metro and City AM. It was also covered on the radio and online.

Markey says the record also 'demonstrated More Than's brand promise of "we do more"'.

Advice Markey says trying to break a world record can help to attract a high-profile figure to take part in your campaign, which can help secure more media interest. 'Framing the event around a world record story enabled us to secure the best talent in Blunt, and a story that would play further than the typical branded event,' he says. 'Breaking a record with a favourite Heart artist adds extra excitement.' He advises PROs to 'think big' when coming up with record-breaking attempts.

Top tips: How to break a GWR

All suggestions for records must be made through the GWR website, which receives 1,000 claims a week.

These are reviewed by the records management team. If a record already exists, the claimant will receive details of the current record holder, the guidelines for the record category and information on how it should be attempted. For a new category, the team researches the record to determine whether it is measurable, verifiable and breakable. PROs have to submit evidence of their recordbreaking attempt and, once verified, GWR will send a certificate to confirm a claimant is a record holder. The process is free and takes six to eight weeks. Alternatively, GWR provides a range of paid-for services that include having an adjudicator present on the day of the record attempt.

'In our experience, almost 90 per cent of PROs we work with hire an adjudicator to attend their event.

It's the only way the media can report that a new record has been set on the day and fully capitalises on the window for exposure,' says GWR's Fay.

Top tips from GWR's team

Make it entertaining: Record breaking is an opportunity to inject excitement into a campaign, so PROs should let their imagination run wild

Have an obvious link: The association between the record and the brand or cause should not be tenuous or difficult to explain

Be clear about what you are offering: Is this a picture story? Is this a feature? Can the journalist get involved in the record themselves? Does the record holder have an interesting back-story to their record attempt? Determine what opportunities your record attempt provides to journalists, then be clear about what you can and cannot offer the media

Plan, plan, plan: Successful record breaking takes time, commitment and plenty of preparation.

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