I say PR stunt, you say?


(disclaimer, this article contains swearing. If you’re easily offended, turn back NOW)


I know what you’re probably thinking, “please g_d not another b*****d thing floating down the Thames to promote something no one can remember”. And I’d have to agree with you – from giant green monkeys and huge rubber ducks to houses and even the King of Pop himself (thanks to Michael Jackson’s record company wanting to milk every penny of his History album).


For the last few years, it seems that every brand and its PR agency imagines up the original idea of floating something down there, all in the name of column inches. Poor P. T. Barnum is probably turning in his grave. And Michael Jackson, for that matter.


Let’s take a moment to remember why Barnum was so successful. Not only was he the greatest showman on earth, he dreamt the impossible and made it come true. From jumbo elephants to Siamese twins, his collection of oddities never failed to shock and turn heads.


So, is there still a place for PR stunts in today’s marketing melting pot? Hell, yeah!


Only last week, Brazen took home the gong for Best PR Stunt at the swanky PRCA Dare awards for our lovely client, wilko. Rooted in customer insight (a little boy wrote into wilko to declare his love for his Blox Spaceman) and timed perfectly with the brand’s Christmas campaign ‘Let’s Make Christmas!’, we literally made that little boy’s Christmas wish come true by sending his toy spaceman to actual space, resulting in global coverage and galactic talkability on social.


So, why was it such a success?


Here are my (not-so-secret) seven steps to stunt success. Why seven, you ask? Seven really is the magic number – days of the week, colours of the rainbow, David Beckham’s shirt and even the g_d damn dwarves came in seven!


Plus, I like alliteration.


  1. Disrupt 

Seems obvious, right? But disruption doesn’t necessarily mean BIG. Disruption of the mind is where brands need to play. Do the unexpected. Change the mundane. Get people to sit up and take notice. We like to call them water cooler moments – the sort of stuff office workers chat and tweet about, amongst important things like Love Island and the football scores.


  1. Would your nan get it?

If you can’t explain it in one sentence, fuhgeddaboudit. Stunts shouldn’t need to be deciphered. Not everyone loves a game of Cluedo, babes. If you’re not bothered about your nan, give the poor guy on the picture desk a break and make it easy to caption.


  1. Relevance

Why are you doing this again? What’s your brand got to do, got to do with it? (Soz, couldn’t resist a bit of Tina, there). If your brand’s not integral to the story, good luck explaining that one to your angry client, who’s just shelled out £20K to make The Telegraph’s Picture of the Day minus brand check. Which leads me nicely onto tip 4…


  1. Picture-worthy

A stunt should simply be a visual representation of your story. What’s your picture going to look like? And is it versatile? Remember, scale, quirkiness and mood for the broadsheets, bright, tight and painted with light for the red tops.


  1. Timely

Having a timely hook can be the difference between blanket coverage and your stunt sinking quicker than something heavy on the, ahem, Thames. A stunt for stunt’s sake ain’t gonna float, sunshine.


  1. Go BIG or go home

Yes, I know I said it doesn’t have to be big. But I’m not just talking size, here. Think big. Be brave, bold and brazen – why else would a brand hire a PR agency? The magic happens when you step slightly out of your comfort zone. If you’re not all a little bit nervous on stunt day, you’re doing it wrong.


  1. Plan for disaster

Yes, that’s right. Pretty much every PR stunt has the potential to go wrong. Why do you think account executives s**t themselves upon hearing their boss utter the words: “so, team, we’ve just had sign off on that big PR stunt!”? Stress test it and plan for every eventuality. If only someone had told me that when I rocked up to the High Court with a bed and a tramp (apparently you can’t just park beds outside there for a quick picture stunt – who knew!?)


And, finally, as for that b*****s that ‘no idea’s a new idea’, b***h purrlease! We work in the creative industry. Sure, take inspiration from other brands, stalk your competitors. But if it’s not new, it’s not going to make the news. Clue’s in the name, dahling 😉


Here’s a couple of other stunts that drove great talkability and fame for our clients Madame Tussauds BlackpoolDr Beckmann and Chicago Town 


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About the Author

Sasha Makel