Some of the most successful advertising campaigns have used unorthodox methods or clever timing to promote companies and products to new heights. The media world makes competition in business a dog-eat-dog affair, but some of history’s most successful businesses cut ahead of the competition by making the most of successful publicity stunts.
While some advertising gimmicks prove to be useless (and others, dangerous), the power to create and use publicity effectively separates the winners from the losers. Not all advertising success involves quantity or quality of media usage; success outside of traditional media advertising involves business creativity, courage, and persistence.
Employ New Trends in Self-Advertising
Be among the first to grab a piece of history or be linked to the latest discovery. Many businesses find self-promotion lies in being part of the latest trend. From innovative technology to breakthrough scientific discoveries, anything that grabs media headlines and turns heads is a potential advertising strategy.
Leaping ahead of the pack by linking to headline news requires creative thinking. Is it worth it to launch an app for the latest internet phone? Or partner with a science team on the cutting edge of medical research to create a scholarship program?
Create Unique Publicity Stunts
Publicity stunts are nothing new in the business world; many firms shy away from them given the “crash and burn” nature of publicity stunts gone awry. Great business success, however, can be linked again and again to successful and over-the-top publicity stunts that grabbed public attention.
From Red Baron’s advertising scheme involving WWI-style planes in flight to P.T. Barnum’s elephant plowing fields along train routes in Connecticut, a clever stunt can be irresistible to the press and to the consumer. Stunts small and large, when executed properly, are a powerful tool, including offering self-challenges with a guarantee to back the claim — just be prepared to deliver when the press (and potential consumers) call for a demonstration.
Link Business Name to a Cause
Being part of something bigger than the business industry doesn’t have to be a publicity stunt by name. A more conservative (and traditionally safe form) is the decision to support a charity or cause; a more secular form involves indirect promotion, like contests, demonstrations, or setting goals.
Host a cancer walk or a talent contest; form a committee to encourage local business affairs or draft a sign on to publicly break a world record.
Learn from Mistakes
When even the best-laid plans go awry, the businesses that pull themselves up the fastest have an edge over their competitors. Bouncing back from publicity or business failure requires swift thought and action, but companies that linger at the bottom to feel sorry for themselves are wasting valuable time that could otherwise be used to draft a more successful campaign.
Advertising doesn’t have all the keys to success in its pocket, but few businesses in history have ever succeeded without it. Finding new strategies to engage the media and the consumer, from publicity stunts to positive public relations, is the best means of employing advertising to its maximum business potential.
How to Use Events to Get Press Coverage
One of the quickest ways to build awareness is to get a story in the local newspaper. There are many ways to earn media coverage, and one of the best is to plan a special event. Businesses can host contests, anniversary celebrations, or carnivals related to a certain holiday. Whatever the event is, though, it must be related to the type of business and it must be something that hasn’t been done before.
Plan Events that Are Related to the Product or Service
If the primary target audience for a business is children, like a toy store, then maybe a free children’s safety fair is the way to go. Arrange for the local police department to do an ID station, the fire department to host a fire safety presentation, and the local hospital to do a first aid demonstration. The more local organizations there are to partner with, the more likely the event will get noticed by the press. Spa owners may want to sponsor a relaxation fair with free 10-minute massages, samples of products, and tastes of relaxing teas. Organize the event, write a simple press release and send it to the local newspapers, radio, and TV stations two weeks in advance. Follow up with a phone call to increase the odds of capturing the reporter’s attention.
Match Events With a Timely Holiday to Be More “Newsy”
Gift ideas at Christmastime are not unusual. But, there are many other holiday opportunities throughout the year to match up with your product or service. Joan Stewart, otherwise known as The Publicity Hound, has many suggestions how businesses can earn media attention. For example, Stewart recommends that bookstore owners sponsor programs that tie into holidays like Mother’s Day.
Pair Events With Donations to Maximize Press Potential
Certain special events can generate more interest among the local media than others. For instance, an event that involves a charitable donation automatically becomes more newsworthy. Donations are also a wonderful way to show customers that a business is community-minded. The best way to choose a charitable organization or project is to read the local paper and see what’s going on in the neighborhood. There will be many stories about schools, non-profit organizations, and families that may be in need of help.
Once a cause has been identified, decide how to help. A percentage of sales made on a particular day or week is one way to help, but there are others. Owners of an ice cream parlor may decide to work with a local school to offer an ice cream party for the class that reads the most books. Pizzerias can offer a free slice to customers who bring in 5 non-perishable items to donate to the local food pantry.
One final thing to remember — businesses that choose to host a community event, or sponsor a charitable project, must do it because they want to be charitable. Press coverage is not like advertising; there is never an absolute guarantee that a great feature story will come out of an event. But, business owners will increase their chances of getting some press attention, while building loyalty among existing customers, and adding new customers to the bottom line. In this economy, every bit of attention helps.
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