The publicity stunt is a way of gaining attention for your company that can offer a gigantic payoff--BUT it is always a gamble since there is no guarantee the media will cover it. If you have been trying to come up with a way to make the news, there is a book that can help you increase your chances for a win.
Publicity Stunt! was written by Candice Fuhrman who headed her own PR agency in the San Francisco area for 10 years. Her clients often asked for news-making ideas, so she began to explore what makes an idea so irresistible that it becomes page-one news.
She acknowledges that today, most PR agents disavow any connection with stunts, pointing to their role in creating a client's total image. However, her research led her to an appreciation for the special genius behind the publicity stunt.
Following are examples of stunts that were successful.
Story creation... In the 19th century, fledgling newspapers would create stories to build circulation. The New York Herald sent journalist Henry Morton Stanley to Africa in 1871 to search for the missionary-explorer Dr. David Livingston. He sent back stories all along the way.
Outrageous acts... The publicist for The Return of Tarzan caught the public attention by checking into the Hotel Belleclair in NY City with a large box said to contain a piano. The next day he asked room service to send up 15 lbs. of raw red meat, prompting the management to inspect the room and discover a full grown lion in residence. This brought the police and reporters, and rescued the Tarzan sequel from oblivion by linking the stunt with the movie.
Attracting a crowd... may be as easy as putting a sandwich board on a man and as expensive as dropping $10,000 in small bills from the top of a skyscraper to celebrate a particular accomplishment.
Photo opportunity... Alerting the media to a situation to be created for an interesting photo can lure reporters. The famous photo of Marilyn Monroe on a street grate with her skirt blowing straight up did not just happen --It was a staged event to publicize The Seven Year Itch, accomplished with the help of special wind blowers installed in the grate.
Daring acts, contests, fake letters to the editor, and other staged events are explored in Publicity Stunt!, and Ms. Fuhrman invites readers to share their own stunts which she promises to publish in a sequel.
Publicity Stunt! by Candice Jacobson Fuhrman. Candice Fuhrman Publisher, 1989.