Public relations (or PR) is the efforts of a company or organization to build and maintain positive relationships with their consumers. Today, it primarily means communicating via online platforms with their followers, generating interest, and reinforcing a positive reputation. It is an element of wider marketing strategies, and when implemented effectively, the response can be immense.
Here are some dramatic, risky, and extreme PR stunts that shocked and impressed the world, and left a lasting impression.
Paddy Power - #shavetheworld
When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, there was a golden opportunity for Paddy Power to generate a PR storm. With all eyes focusing on the game and a distinct absence of conversation about the extensive deforestation occurring in the Amazon Rainforest, the company decided to combine the two subjects in a way that provoked and angered people world-wide.
They leaked a birds-eye image of the worlds ‘C’MON ENGLAND, PP’ crudely ‘shaved’ into the trees of the Amazon. The stunt sparked huge outrage with people taking to social media to vocalize exactly what they thought of the British company, some quite explicitly so. A conversation had begun, and the extent of the disgust felt for the deforestation caused by Paddy Power demonstrated that, in fact, people did care about the environment.
After 24 hours of online abuse being shouldered by the company, they then took back to social media to reveal – it was a fake! The image had been professionally doctored so that even the most eagle-eyed photo-shopper hadn’t really questioned its authenticity. The reveal explained that the stunt was actually an awareness campaign and was accompanied by a similar image stating ‘WE DIDN’T GIVE THE AMAZON A BRAZILLIAN.’ Unsurprisingly, ‘#savetherainforest’ and Paddy Power themselves instantly began to trend. The company was then praised on their efforts and the PR stunt, though risky, was a huge success.
Village Roadshow - #ITMOVIE
The creative agency responsible for the publicity of the IT movie release in 2017 took to the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane in Australia. People witnessed clown inspired street art and red balloons tied to drains popping up across the cities accompanied by the tagline ‘It’s closer than you think, #ITMOVIE in cinemas September 7th’.
Stephen Kings novel is about an evil clown who uses temptation, such as balloons, to lure his child victims to his watery sewer lair. The stunt allowed people to speculate as to what may lie in the sewers beneath their own feet and gained vast online coverage and extensive praise for its uniqueness and creativity. This tactile, guerrilla, real-world PR stunt is proof that your activity doesn’t have to start online to become an internet sensation.
IKEA – Game of Thrones costumes
PR requires planning and creative thinking, but sometimes opportunities present themselves organically and can be jumped on with very minimal effort. Such a case occurred when HBO revealed it had used IKEA rugs as capes and pelts in the iconic Game of Thrones TV series.
When news occurs, it is necessary to act quickly, IKEA jumped into the discussion with their PR team and rapidly produced a PR social media campaign showing their own staff wearing the rugs in true Game of Thrones style. This low-cost act started an online interest that saw searches for their rugs increase by over 700%!
Coca-Cola – Festival Wrist Bands
Coca-Cola are not novices to PR activity, with some of their most well-known efforts including:
· The Christmas Truck tours
· ‘Share a Coke’ campaigns
· ‘Happiness’ campaigns
· Tiny Soda Stands for miniature coke cans
· Sports, dance and music-related campaigns
One you may not have heard about occurred in Romania and was inspired by studies that showed that 4 out of 10 Romanian teenagers had not had a Coke in more than a month. The company issued packaging that had a detachable band which could, if you got lucky, become your entry into one of several large partnering music festivals in Romania. The Coca-Cola wristband campaign required buyers to purchase a bottle, detach the band, scan the code on the app and, if successful, the band would activate into a functioning ticket for entry. It came in 8 edgy designs and quickly reached a whopping 75% of Romanian teenagers.
Banksy – Self-destructing Artwork
The illusiveness of Banksy and the political and ethical, thought-provoking nature of his work has landed him as one of the most famous artists of the modern-day. However, this does not prevent PR activities occurring to ensure consumers continue to talk about it.
One such occasion occurred in 2018, where the famous artwork, ‘Girl with a balloon’, sold in auction for over £1 million - only to self-destruct moments after the gavel had fallen, sliding into an integrated shredder within the frame! The stunt was discussed widely in the news and on social media with many noting that this is likely to have actually increased the value of the piece over anything else.
Other publicity activities included ‘Dismaland’ a Disneyland-Esque parody pop-up exhibition that was held in Weston-Super-Mare, England. The ‘park’ exhibited a range of works by over 50 international artists, in an interactive experience that saw a dismal ‘staff’ force mope around insulting visitors and appearing outright bored. The event ran for just a few short days with visitors itching to be one of the lucky few to secure a ticket. Set in an area synonymous with economic decline for UK coastal destinations, the attraction successfully drew attention and publicity back to a previously abandoned space, as well as inspiring and entertaining visitors.
The Skill of a Marketer
Marketers and PR professionals need to think outside the box, be creative, adapt to trends and keep abreast of the competition in order to stay relevant and have an impact with consumers. Studying for a degree in marketing can give you access to the skills and buyer behaviors fundamental in shaping marketing and PR strategies. You don’t even have to head to university; it is now entirely possible to undertake an online master of marketing through distance learning and study alongside your career in the marketing industry. Allowing you to develop your skills and improve your consumer relationships.
The Power of PR
PR activity has the power to make or break a relationship with consumers. If you strike the wrong chord, you risk compromising the reputation of your brand and thanks to digital platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the misjudgment can spread like wildfire. Boycott hashtags have historically trended off the back of ill-timed postings, particularly those that insult a minority, race or culture, or make light of serious issues such as politics, natural disaster, or welfare issues.
However, when done right, it has the power to create a movement, influence change, inspire, drive sales, and raise a brand or company reputation to brand new heights. If you are looking for PR inspiration, why not take a leaf out of these PR books and do something that will shock and inspire. It’s a big pond out there, and sometimes you need to do something big in order to create a decent splash.