If you’re thinking up a PR stunt for an existing product or service there’s lots of fun to be had, from changing your name (like Marmite did for the Queen’s Jubilee - Ma’mite) to making fun of your rivals (like Pepsi did when they dressed up as Coca-Cola for Hallowe’en) or even inventing pretend products to fulfil your customers’ needs (such as Ben & Jerry’s lock for their ice cream tubs to stop dessert thieves!)
However, launching a completely new brand or reinventing an existing brand can be difficult if you don’t have the big budgets these brands do.
We can’t all get Ellen to take a selfie.
I’m often asked by clients and friends in business for ideas on how to get noticed, how to be different and show some creative flair without breaking the bank.
Below are some of the fail-safe ideas I normally recommend:
It’s a Press Release, but not as we know it
Sitting firmly in the 2013 “Best Of” lists, this alternative press release example could be considered old fashioned now but it’s still a great idea which, strangely, wasn’t copied as often as it could/should have been.
The image went viral in the media world when UK agency The Corner Shop PR sent the press release launching the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical to journalists on a USB shaped like a Wonka Bar.
Simple but effective.
So many press releases are emailed and lost in the crowd these days. To receive a package from the Postman still excites us all a little. And when it’s chocolate-shaped, fun and creative, it will more than likely garner social media coverage, if not press coverage too.
Let Them Eat Cake
This one is sometimes considered a little cliche nowadays since everyone started doing it, but there’s no denying the joy we feel when baked goods are delivered. The age of the exquisitely-crafted cupcake came… and it hasn’t gone away. Just look at the national frenzy surrounding this new series of Great British Bake Off!
What we should remember here is that it’s not just the design of the yummy treats that’s important, so much as the online influence of the recipient. Everyone remembers the cheap and cheerful cupcakes sent to Stephen Fry to announce the release of the Muppets Movie in 2012, when one camera phone snap reached an audience of millions for the price of half a dozen buns.
It works well these days when it’s personalised and personal. Local company Chocolate Manor (with the help of Pulse PR) does this quite well in my opinion, with their personalised chocolate bars accompanied by heartfelt, handwritten notes.
Whether it’s people in suits or oversized props; I love it. Imagery is so important to both our print and online press that having the wow-factor is always a good idea if you can get it. But rather than stand around awkwardly for an average-Joe press shot, why not be more creative, more interesting.
Like the Clearbox Communications folk who recently took the life-size Minions on a tour of Dublin’s most famous landmarks to launch the Irish release of their self-named Universal Pictures movie. Sure, it’s hard work rowing three 7-foot Minions up the River Liffey. But that’s the kind of gold that gets you on the front cover friends.
Wait a Minute Mr Postman
Like the press release idea above, sending anything by post does feel that little bit more special. You will have gone to some effort (packing, researching addresses, booking couriers), you will have gone to substantial expense (thanks Royal Mail) but you know it’s always nice to receive a surprise package when you’re stuck at a desk all day.
However the media receive a fair amount of “desk drops” and a good proportion of those aren’t great. Sure, free stuff is nice, sometimes even useful, but if they started talking about every free pair of socks or sample beauty product that landed through the letterbox, they wouldn’t get any real work done.
I practiced what I preach and in my own recent desk drop (to announce going freelance) I sent small, inexpensive packages to my target audience members. And it worked. Now I don’t know if anyone actually used the tea bag (it’s a pun, I’m assuming no explanation is needed given my blog name) but it’s the thought, the effort, the handwritten note instead of an email - people appreciate it and if it’s fun, it might get you some social media coverage too.
If you’re a press photographer, send some props. Own a lingerie brand? Send a branded tape measure. It can work on so many levels. Minimum cost. Maximum time input. And that will always be rewarded with a sincere response if nothing else.
For many of us the budget, timing and content we have to work with may reduce us to a single, solitary photo on which to pin all our hopes of digital and media traction. Oh the pressure! In that case results can be achieved but the image is key. Who is in it, the colours/lighting/positioning/editing - all of which hinges on a great photographer - and the overall personality and feel.
Enthuse as much action, angle and meaning as possible into a press shot. One of the great local examples I saw recently was by Birdsong Communications who managed the announcement by Belfast Chamber of Commerce when US clothing giant Gap opened a new 8,550 square feet flagship store in the city centre. The message being a positive signal for the town’s retail industry.
It’s important to bear in mind however, that big budgets aren’t enough to guarantee PR launch success. The quality of the idea and execution still needs to be there behind the dollar bills.
One of the best examples I’ve seen in quite some time in this part of the world was this week’s launch of the Premier Inn’s #PurpleSauce by MCE. I was invited to the media launch which I unfortunately couldn’t attend but clearly many media did as my Twitter timeline was full of pics of the new accompaniment.
In a country of red-versus-brown sauce addicts it’s revolutionary to introduce a new sauce to the breakfast table. And one that is specifically made by a chef to compliment our bacon butty and “Ulster Fry”?! Inspired.
Add to that the fact it just happens to be purple like their brand logo (the base is Blackberry), and comes with a fun survey snippet about Belfast being the “sauciest city”, and this PR launch will no doubt encourage people to try the hotel chain’s breakfast offering more often (I’m assuming this is a business objective given many customers possibly avoid the breakfast charge to save costs as they are budget-travellers).
Yes they must have had a decent spend limit to create the sauce in the first place. But it’s the idea as a whole, the skill in delivery and ultimately the “appetite” for it in the first place that will signal success.
If you’ll excuse the pun!