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Marketing / Public relations, PR

Publicity stunts: Doing a Richard Branson

When was the last time you did something out of the ordinary and pulled a publicity stunt to market your business? If you’ve never ventured beyond your beautifully designed website and informative e-newsletter, it’s time to do a “Richard Branson”.

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Just as Google is synonymous with search engines, Richard Branson is renowned for his crazy publicity stunts. In fact they are so successful, he’s almost better known for his publicity stunts than the companies he’s aiming to create the publicity for.

If you are already in the spotlight, pulling a publicity stunt is easy. Consider the very public row between Gordon Ramsay and newsreader Tracey Grimshaw. Even the Prime Minister got involved. I don’t know if it was a publicity stunt or if there’s a genuine dislike between the two, but the Marketer in me says that the publicity created by this was gold. One thing’s for sure. It was talked about A LOT, and not just in the Australian media.

It’s not just people who are used to media attention however that are capable of grabbing the limelight. Frenchman Alain Robert, who climbed RBS in Sydney recently is a great example. Imagine for a second if he had flown a flag with your logo when he got to the top. Might that have generated some interest in your business?

"Publicity stunts don’t have to be dangerous, just creative and newsworthy."

I’m not suggesting that you should put your life in danger by climbing one of the tallest buildings in Sydney. I just want to highlight just how much publicity the act generated.

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Publicity stunts don’t have to be dangerous, just creative and newsworthy. My mother-in-law Dorothy was the proud owner of a very successful chain of several hairdressing salons in Scotland in the 70’s & 80’s. One night a disgruntled competitor put a brick through one of her shop windows. After the initial shock had worn off, Dorothy grabbed a pot of white paint, and extended the cracks in the smashed window to create a more dramatic effect. She then invited the local papers to take photos and convinced them to run a story with the headline “Our customers love us so much, they couldn’t wait for us to open in the morning”.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

Ultimately your aim is to get people talking about you. Stuck for publicity stunt ideas? Two heads are almost always better than one (depending on the heads in question). So why not grab a glass of wine, as well as a friend, colleague or mentor and have a brainstorming session? Let your imagination run wild. If you need a bit of inspiration try a book called “How to Have Kick-Ass ideas” by Chris Barez-Brown. Any of Mr Richard Branson’s books would do just fine too.

Right, I’m off to bungy jump naked off the Harbour Bridge now. Look out for me in tomorrow’s papers.

Yesim Nicholson

is a small business Marketing mentor.

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