When Janet Jackson performed at the Super Bowl in 2004, her suspicious "wardrobe malfunction" turned the eyes of the nation upon her, and the furor following the event put her prominently in the news. Whether or not Jackson planned the incident, it failed to sell her CDs or advance her music career.
A publicity stunt is only worthwhile when you are able to leverage the media spotlight to further your communication objectives without damaging your credibility. Here are a couple of publicity stunts that worked and the strategies behind them:
1) In 1984, I broke the Guinness World Record for the most time swinging in a hammock. Interestingly enough, the record I broke was my father’s, and he done this a few years earlier as a way to get media attention for his store specializing in hammocks. The stunt worked for my father, and he got some favorable write-ups that led to an increase in sales.
My hammock record was even more successful in creating publicity because I tied it to a timely event. I sent out press releases and contacted the media notifying them that I was breaking the record as a way to gain attention in a bid to make hammock swinging an Olympic sport. Since I broke the record just before the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the media loved the story and covered it in print and on television. Sales of hammocks rose even higher.
2) John Younger, founder and president of Accolo (an HR recruiting company), read a front page story in USA Today about a controversial Paris Hilton television commercial for Carl’s Jr. It struck him that she had probably never eaten a hamburger in her life – and that this could be tied to the concept of hiring the right person for the job. With this in mind, he proceeded to create a 30 second spoof video entitled “Rethink Recruiting” emphasizing how hiring the right person makes all the difference.
Accolo’s advertisement generated millions of downloads from the company’s website, and it was prominently featured on Good Morning America, Jay Leno, WGN, The Big Idea with Danny Deutsch (MSNBC), the New York Times, New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Business Times, and many more media outlets.
In a recent email from Younger, he wrote “Accolo has considerably more market awareness when we contact prospects, referral sources and candidates… It positively influenced our largest contract to date.”
If you’ve pulled off a publicity stunt that helped your achieve your business objectives, I would enjoy hearing about it and sharing it with others.