The art of a PR stunt: What makes it successful?

Manchester commuters were stumped at the beginning of September after seeing large posters popping up around the city. The posters detailed a break up note from a certain Adam to his supposed girlfriend, Lauren. Upon clicking the link published on the poster, confused passers-by were directed to a video of ‘Adam’ on a Metrolink tram explaining his reasons for the heartbreak.

Dubbed ‘Leaving Lauren’, the stunt caused a stir on Twitter, with users debating the identity of the mysterious couple. However, the bright yellow colour used by the campaign was undeniably that of Transport for Greater Manchester, and with the new tram services recently back up and running, it was clear which company was responsible.

Publicity stunts have been a tactic used by brands for decades. They create a buzz around the brand, generate word of mouth quickly, and simply increase publicity. But, what ingredients are needed to orchestrate a successful stunt? Here’s a round-up of some of the best, and why they were a hit.

A good publicity stunt should:

  • Be entertaining and engaging

Private-hire company Uber took advantage of London’s hottest day of the year and announced it will be delivering ice creams to scorched Brits. This stunt involved two things that the British public love; free food and ice cream.

The ice cream was a hit, with customers taking to social media to express their delight, as well as achieving the aim of the stunt game: free publicity. The success of this stunt lies in the engagement with consumers. Boiling Brits could receive the ice cream if they ordered an Uber. The push to get people on the app and ordering ice-cream laden Ubers was a fantastic way to show all the benefits of the revolutionary app, with an added sweet treat.

  • Ride the conversation wave

It is often much easier to join a conversation than to start a new one. Especially when it comes to generating free publicity. Many brands will opt to ride the wave of a current trend, which is quicker and less of a risk than orchestrating a planned out stunt.

This was certainly true when it came to the dress that took the internet by storm. Yes, THAT dress. The ‘is it blue and black or white and gold?’ dress. The internet was flooded with brands hopping on to the popularity of the indecipherable garment. But, one stand-out campaign was by The Salvation Army.

The charity created an image of a woman wearing the exact dress in white and gold, with blue and black bruises covering her body, to raise awareness of domestic violence.

The powerful image is the perfect example of how a brand can jump on the bandwagon and create something that is both poignant and creative.

  • Be audacious, original, and brave

There is nothing quite like brands poking fun at each other; it injects a bit of personality to the normally faceless corporations. Virgin is rather unique, as the face behind the company is very much Richard Branson. His aviation company, Virgin Airlines, has pulled numerous stunts against rival British Airways. However, one of its most memorable happened in 2000, when British Airways were the proud sponsors of the London Eye.

Unfortunately for BA, during the press conference, the wheel was unable to be erected so Branson took it upon himself to show up his rival. A large airship with Virgin branding was positioned over the wheel exclaiming: ‘BA can’t get it up’.

The tongue-in-cheek airship from Virgin was a success due to its size but also its audacious message.

  • Have the ‘shareability’ factor

Last, but by no means least, the final quality of a publicity stunt should be its ‘shareabliity’. The term has been branded around a lot recently in today’s ‘always on’ world. In order to garner the necessary publicity, it’s integral that a post can be shared easily. A textbook example of the definition of shareability is Cancer Research UK’s No Makeup Selfie.

This stunt saw women (and some men) across the UK upload a picture of themselves with no makeup on in order to raise awareness of cancer. Many of the posts were accompanied with a donation to the charity meaning that, within 24 hours, Cancer Research UK has raised £1 million. In total, the charity raised around £8 million, an incredible example of the importance and power of the shareabilty factor.

We hope these stunts have provided a little more insight into the world of publicity stunts. Why not take a look back atour favourite stunts of 2015? If you’ve seen any other compelling examples, we’d love to see them. You can send us a tweet or get in contact on our Facebook page.