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PR stunts: getting your message straight

Posted by Ben Smith on 6th September 2017

As part of our latest labs experiment, we’ve looked at what makes an effective PR stunt. While it seems that more ‘traditional’ stunts are struggling to deliver the impact you might expect, we’ve also analysed how a bit of fakery and the unexpected can deliver spectacular results for brands.

However, there was another significant insight from our experiment. Six of the top ten stunts in our analysis were delivering a ‘serious’ message. In fact, all of the top three stunts were campaigns with a strong meaningful message behind them, including Dove’s ‘Choose Beautiful’ campaign challenging unhealthy perceptions of beauty – overall the best performing stunt in our analysis – and NHS Blood and Transplant’s #MissingTypes campaign to boost the numbers of blood donors.

The top 10 also featured some of the innovative campaigns we’ve mentioned previously, such as Addict Aide’s fake Instagram account, which also delivered profound advice about spotting the early signs of alcohol addiction.

At the other end of the spectrum, more ‘frivolous’ experiential stunts – pop up shops, giant slides and so on – were all among the worst performing stunts in our experiment. While these types of stunt all have, and please excuse the technical terminology here, a passing ‘oh that’s cool’ factor, it seems clear that they are not resonating deeply with audiences.

And this is the key point. Ultimately, PR is about making connections with your audiences. Putting up a massive branded bouncy castle might be fun and display a bit of brand personality – but is that enough to justify the investment and the use of your precious PR budget?

While not every campaign is going to be about serious health or political issues, even doing a ‘frivolous’ stunt needs to have a strong message behind it that genuinely builds those connections. If a stunt can’t deliver that value, then you need to question the wisdom of doing it in the first place.

As our experiment has shown, the stunts that have got their message straight are the ones that make the biggest impact.

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.