PR Stunts – Are They Risky Business?

Kathryn Webster, account manager, Clarion Communications

When I began researching a career in PR there was one part that really excited me: the big PR stunt.  It’s the crazy idea that comes up in the brainstorm to which people don’t know whether to applaud or hang their head in shame. We all remember the classics - the polar bear on the Thames, Gail Porter on the side of Big Ben and most recently the Pimms giant deck chair on Bournemouth beach. Yes, ultimately some PR stunts do work in securing high profile national coverage but what about the rest of them that are long forgotten by the media and which brands have invested huge sums of money into producing?

So what does make a PR stunt successful? Is there a magic formula? Or is it just luck, capturing the imagination of the media on a quiet news day? It certainly is a considerable risk and the idea has to be incredibly creative, else you run the risk of not delivering for your clients and instead losing their trust and the ability to run anything remotely creative again. You can forget suggesting any social media campaigns, it’s back to the traditional PR method of commissioning a survey and selling-in the results. Yawn.

You might now be thinking; how can she be so cynical? Because it happened to me. We built a 20-foot high limb mountain adorned with mannequin limbs in the middle of London’s Trafalgar Square, to help increase the number of people going in to pharmacies for diabetes testing. An ingenious idea surely. That’s what we thought until we had hoards of people complaining and only one photographer from the Evening Standard turned up...and he didn’t even run the story.

So the real question is – would you take the risk?

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