In PR, "stunt" should not be a dirty word

PR stunts are the source of a massive amount of the news for the public.

Evel Knievel's rocket on the launch pad at Snake River Canyon, September 8, 1974. Getty Images.
Evel Knievel's rocket on the launch pad at Snake River Canyon, September 8, 1974. Getty Images.

Generally, the phrase PR stunt — whether it refers to the latest celebrity brand management scandal or political chess move — is considered a bit of a dirty word.

But in the consumer media world, PR stunts are the source of a massive amount of the news that is digested by the public.

A key point to remember when looking to place news is to not only focus on what you want the public to know — the brand, its history, and the offer — but also what the reader is looking to digest; a new trend, something shocking, or something they can win.

Launching a PR stunt can help you with both chores by, putting it succinctly, helping you cut through clutter. More specifically, stunts help when:

You're in a crowded marketplace and looking to stand out. The alcohol space, for example, has a tremendous amount of competition. The top relevant editors could be receiving upwards of 400 pitches a day.

You want to target a new audience. Brands often try to target a niche publication and audience even when they're not a fit. But editors can easily identify inauthentic marketing pitches aimed at their niche population. Instead of trying to stretch your appeal to fit what they are looking for, well-conceived stunts can help you create a bridge from your industry to their interest.

You're a newer name in the market. Being a new player means competing with legacy brands, celebrity-owned competitors, and cool-crowd darlings. Disruption is key when you're forging a brand identity as a new entity.

Your niche is trendy. Trends move a mile a minute and when pitching to the media, you have to be an hour ahead of that minute. Instead of playing catch up, create your own storyline.

Your category does not get substantial organic press. Many editors keep strictly to their beat making it difficult for PR people in some categories, like apps for example, to place stories. Creating a storyline that interests feature editors allows people working in narrow categories to branch out more widely.

You're looking to grow your social presence. Stunts do particularly well with millennials and Gen Z because they spread quickly on social media. If possible, ask people to follow your brand during the stunt. Depending on its virality, it could lead to thousands of new followers and converted customers.

Once you've decided to launch a PR stunt for your brand, how do you come up with a catchy storyline? Ask your publicist. It's their job to think creatively on your behalf.

Blair Dawson is an account supervisor at Marino.

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