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PR stunts: fake it to make it

Posted by Ben Smith on 26th July 2017

What is the best kind of PR stunt? If you’ve worked in PR then at some point or another you will probably have heard someone utter the phrase ‘float it down the Thames’ (with varying degrees of irony I’m sure). I can feel your shudders from here.

And yet for many people outside of the PR industry, the idea of PR is still closely associated with massive ‘float it down the Thames’-style stunts. But while Michael Jackson may have made a big splash with a colossal statue of himself standing proud on a boat in 1995, the ‘float it down The Thames’ PR stunt has become an industry cliché.

Of course, that doesn’t stop brands of almost every type trying their hand at a big stunt from time to time. But do they work? Are they a lazy get-out for unimaginative PR teams, or do they deliver the cut through for brands that many people assume they do?

Well the team at Wildfire labs donned their lab coats once more to find out.

Using an independent list of the best PR stunts from 2015 and 2016, the labs team analysed each stunt for total global coverage, social mentions and social likes to determine the overall effectiveness of a range of PR stunts. And the findings make for very interesting reading.

In the age of fake news, it seems fitting that the best kind of PR stunt also involves some sort of fakery. Our experiment found that the best-performing stunts were staged company leaks and the launch of ‘fake’ products — delivering far higher levels of coverage and social reach on average than the solid, if unspectacular, results of more ‘established’ stunt approaches.

So it seems that a bit of cunning and deception can go a lot further than frivolous spectacle. A valuable lesson, I’m sure you’ll agree. If nothing else we’ve just saved you from hiring that flotilla of giant wacky, wavy inflatable, arm-flailing tube men.

It’s ok, you don’t have to thank us. But do watch our full experiment video.

Ben Smith

Ben’s deep knowledge of sectors as diverse as electronics and IT, cleantech and medtech means he has a wide range of experience to draw on for his clients – ensuring that no two campaigns are the same. Ben’s expertise lies in helping his clients to raise their profiles beyond trade media and he has a proven track record in running campaigns that deliver coverage in national, business and consumer publications.