Publicity stunts can be eye-catching and draw considerable interest in an organization’s products or services if planned and executed properly. But creating an effective publicity stunt takes more than just selecting a location and making something outrageous happen.
Unlike other advertising and marketing methods, publicity stunts are largely impromptu, and it is difficult if not impossible to predict what could potentially go wrong or backfire with one in advance. Agencies need to gain clarity around every aspect of the related campaign before they decide it’s the direction they want to go.
To help, 12 leaders from Forbes Agency Council examine some of the critical factors marketers should consider before setting out to stage a publicity stunt to ensure it goes off with less chance of a major hiccup.
1. The Larger Purpose
Is the stunt a stunt for its own sake, or does it serve a larger purpose? Publicity stunts are by nature opportunistic, but don’t let opportunism take precedence over strategy. Have your buyer personas and messaging strategy in place before considering publicity stunts, and if your ideas for it don’t advance your strategy, don’t pursue them, no matter how clever they might be. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
2. What Might Go Wrong
Publicity stunts and campaigns are very different tactics. In either case, particularly with stunts, consider every possible thing that might go wrong because a high percentage of them do more harm than good. – Gordon Andrew, Highlander Consulting Inc.
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3. Tone And Current Environment
Check for tone and the current environment. Will it blindside you with public backlash? Make sure there is diversity in the room while putting it together. The more diverse experiences you tap into, the more successful it can be. – Julie Veloz, IPG
4. Potential For Multiple Iterations
A campaign should have multiple iterations. Rarely does the public or your target audience digest it on the first take. Tap into multiple forums, from earned media to sponsorships and social media. Ensure the consistency in messaging remains constant across all platforms, and eventually it will permeate and resonate. – Ethan Parker, Treble
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Timing is the most important thing to consider. The same campaign and same message can have a completely different impact on the market. It’s like riding on a wave. Attaching your message to a much larger dialogue of the times is key. – Kashif Zaman, Uptok
6. Disruptive Potential
Make sure that your “stunt” is more of a disrupter than a cheap trick. Your audience is smarter than you think, and gimmicks that are not well-thought-out or are deceptive in any way are an instant turnoff. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
7. Fact And Sense Checking
Fact and sense, check it twice. Also, make sure you understand possible localization and cultural implications. You don’t ever want to use terminology that could be perceived as offensive to other cultures or languages when translated. Check local marketing regulations and advertising standard codes to ensure your stunt is within legal compliance guidelines. – Lee-Ann Johnstone, AffiliateINSIDER
8. How People Will Take It
One of the most important things to consider is the way that people will take it. A publicity stunt can make things very comfortable or very difficult based on the context of the stunt. What that means is that it is critical to ensure that you are aware of the way the stunt will be received by everyone. – Jon James, Ignited Results
9. The Risk Of Backfiring
The key thing to consider is the possible risk that your stunt or campaign may backfire. Try to punch some holes in it before you do it so that you are armed and prepared if it doesn’t go as intended. How many times have we seen a campaign that had good intentions but missed how it could be interpreted by different groups? – Dean Seddon, Maverrik
10. Testing Before Launch
Test it before launching it! It’s imperative to look at the stunt or campaign through multiple lenses. Ask many people from different cultures for their feedback on your plan. With today’s hyper-aware times and tweetstorms about perceived injustices, it will be harder and more expensive to handle backlash repercussions than it is to develop the stunt itself. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications
11. Engaging Local Media
Engage local media if appropriate. You can get quite a bit of free airtime if the stunt is covered by local news stations, radio, etc. Be sure to publish press releases and invite your fans to be involved or witness the event. Cover your liability bases. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC
12. The Message You’re Sending
Really consider the message you are sending. Weigh the gains and the losses. If your stunt fails, will the effort, cost, cleanup and mark left on your brand be worth it? Brands need to remember that, in a year like 2020, brimming with stresses and an ever-changing social climate, it did not take much for a message to be misinterpreted or come off as tone-deaf if not perfectly executed. – Bernard May, National Positions
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member