Last week on April Fools’ Day, we were reminded of the myriad of companies that make hay out of stunts and gimmicks. During the past few years, the Internet and social media have provided channels for more and more elaborate pranks, some of which have been successes and some of which have been failures.
April Fools’ Day is just one example of when brands try to insert themselves into heavy news days, such as Earth Day or the Superbowl, through gimmicks. While attempting PR antics can be beneficial for your company provided the stunt is successful, the amount of noise surrounding these occasions makes it difficult to stand out. It’s important to approach PR stunts with caution to prevent them from backfiring. Here are three tips to keep in mind when planning your next gimmick:
1. Align the stunt with your brand
Trying to insert your brand into a news topic through a stunt runs the risk of forcing your way into a place where your company doesn’t belong. Many brands decide they want to push out a news announcement or a gimmick in conjunction with a big event, but don’t stop to think about whether or not they can pull it off.
One company that was successful on April Fools’ Day was Lyft. The San Francisco-based company teamed up with another well-loved organization in the city—the San Francisco Giants—to create “the most comfortable seating in major league baseball.” The video they created shares the organizations’ plans to repurpose the Lyft mustache for plush chairs in AT&T Park. While the video was obviously a spoof, it played well into the fun-loving nature of Lyft’s brand.
Consumers can tell when a stunt is forced because it doesn’t jive with a company’s overall messaging and tone. Consider your company’s values and be authentic. If your organization is a leader in STEM, there may be a place for you on Pi Day (3.14). If your company has nothing to do with environmental sustainability, perhaps steer clear of Earth Day tweets and blog posts.
2. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve
Before jumping in too deep with a PR antic, set clear goals of what you are trying to accomplish. Consider who your key audiences are, what messages you’re trying to send them and how you’re going to get those messages to them.
Will you consider your stunt a success if you had no media coverage, but saw an increase in Twitter followers by 20 percent? How about landing coverage, some of which was negative? Think about what your company will consider a win and craft a strategy that will help you get there.
3. Select the right channel
Finding the proper channel for your news-driven stunts is becoming more difficult as news cycles fill up. To cut through the clutter, brands need to get more creative about how they’re sharing their gimmicks.
A couple years ago, Oreo tasked UK food artist Michelle Obowo with creating a portrait of Beyoncé out of “Oreo Pops.” The company created a video of the artist in action, uploaded the video to its YouTube channel and shared it across its social media platforms.
Some campaigns don’t require a formal news announcement. Often, overdoing it with a full-fledge media campaign can come back to hurt you and damage your relationships with reporters. Think about how your key audiences communicate best with your brand and about the messages you are trying to send. Then select a communication channel that will get that message to the right people.
These tips can help you craft a strategy for PR gimmicks that will help you cut through the clutter on busy news days and tie your brand to something lighthearted and fun. Before diving in, consider your brand, your goals and the appropriate channels to help you get there. Remember when it comes to crazy antics, it’s important to be both creative and strategic.