The Blog

by Aimee Knox

Why Most PR Stunts Just Don’t Work

Mention the words “PR” and “stunt” together, and you may see me start to twitch. I will stand by my belief that, by and large, most PR stunts just don’t work.

I’ve led/organized/participated in countless brainstorms predicated by clients saying, “We need a stunt;” all-the-while expecting to land that ever-elusive Today Show segment. We challenge ourselves to come up with that crazy idea that will break through and become a national news story. Rather, we need to challenge ourselves and our clients to be honest about an idea and the expected outcome. We try so hard to be so over-the-top creative that we lose focus on what we’re really trying to do and why media – and consumers – would care. And there-in lies the problem. We. Try. Too. Hard.

By far, the most successful campaigns I’ve worked on are those that are rooted in the simplest of ideas. Simple ideas that are: Relevant. Authentic. Differentiating. If it takes you more than 30 seconds to explain the idea, chances are it’s not a good one. Or at least it’s too complicated. And if that’s the case, go back and strip away the unnecessary layers. Get to the heart of the idea – that one nugget that rises to the top – and run with that. Once you do that, use that good ol’ gut-check gauge. Do you just feel like it’s a good idea? Chances are, if you do, it is.

At C+F, we took our own advice when The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience came to us with the opportunity to launch an exciting new Bruce Lee exhibit. Outside of Hong Kong, this would be the only Bruce Lee exhibit in the world. Given the universal appeal of Bruce Lee, nearly everyone at the agency raised their hand to work on this assignment. We knew it would be a labor of love, so armed with a small budget and big ideas, we got to work.

We knew we only had one chance to make a big splash for the grand opening. We needed a hook that was relevant, authentic and differentiating (there are those three magic words again) and allowed for natural social media amplification. That led us to one of the best-known Bruce Lee visuals – the yellow jumpsuit he wore in his movie Game of Death. Our concept centered around blanketing the city, and social media, with yellow jumpsuits, inviting politicians, actors, celebrity chefs, reporters, and representatives from Seattle’s biggest attractions to show their support by sharing photos and videos of their best Bruce Lee impressions. That’s it. That simple idea, however, generated a stream of social shares, and we quickly caught the eye of local and national media. Everyone from Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott to actor Tom Skerritt, suited up and showed us their best moves. And from there the idea took off.

I will tell you, the idea did not start off this simply. As excitement for the campaign grew, so did the ideas. It wasn’t until we took a hard look at the resources, execution and exactly how we were going to do this, that we Found That Thing that rose to the top. We often say here, the essence of strategy is sacrifice. And that sacrifice definitely paid off.

Our efforts packed a Bruce Lee one-inch punch and response to the exhibit opening was incredible. The yellow jumpsuits accelerated social buzz and from there the campaign took on a life of its own. Check out these results:

  • Twitter impressions: 32 MILLION
  • Television segments: 36
  • Traditional news/sites that covered: 64, including:
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bloomberg News, BusinessInsider, BusinessWeek, Chicago Tribune, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Seattle Times, Seattle PI, Tacoma Tribune, The Olympian, USA Today, U.S. News and World Reports, Washington Post
  • International coverage in 13 countries, including:
    Australia, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Panama, South Africa, Switzerland, UK
  • 1,886 visitors for the 3-day opening weekend compared to 245 visitors last year for the same time period – an increase of more than 670%. For the period of October 3 – 19, The Wing has seen 177% increase compared to last year.
  • General admission revenue for opening weekend is estimated to be up 900% compared to last year.General admission revenue growth has continued strong since the opening – The Wing is up 525% compared to last year.
  • On-site museum memberships increased by 1,300% over the same time period in September.
  • The Wing’s web site traffic was up 616% compared to the month prior.

I don’t mean to make light of coming up with big ideas. And I’m not saying it’s easy rather, the idea itself should be simple. So go ahead, give it a try. Give yourself permission to dumb it down a little. The results will likely surprise you.