Publicity stunts are on my mind this week. This past Sunday night on the premiere of Mad Men, Peggy suggests paying women to fight over a ham, and scores press coverage for her client. I arrived in Manhattan on Monday morning to find Herald Square turned into a park with an artificial hill, trees and a new Ford Explorer 2011 (which had been revealed on Facebook only two hours prior.)
Launching your business should be a deliberate, calculated event. You should prepare, have press materials ready, generate online materials as well, to make sure that people who want to find out more about you can do so easily. But you might consider the value of a stunt to generate attention and sales.
Jim Kukral, author of the book, "Attention! This Book Will Make You Money", as well as a professional speaker, blogger and Web business consultant has worked with large brands like Fedex and Sherwin Williams. He told me about this small biz example from his book. 'Grasshopper.com provides a virtual phone solution for entrepreneurs who want to sound professional and stay connected…Grasshopper knew that in order to stand out and get some buzz going, and new customers, that they had to do something different. Their solution? Package up 5,000 packs of real chocolate covered grasshoppers and send them out to 5,000 influencers on the Web. People like bloggers and technology pundits and in general people who could, and would, talk about them…This got them a 4,911% traffic increase from April to May, 144,843 video views with 162 comments, 1,500 tweets, 120 blog posts in one month and 7 national TV mentions.'
You might not generate as much excitement as Grasshopper.com. But something as simple as 'Free Ice Cream to the first 10 people who prove they're our Fans on Facebook or show us this Tweet' can be just as much fun on a small scale.
Peter Shankman, founder of HARO and Author of 'Can We Do that?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work – And Why Your Company Needs Them' told me 'A stunt for the sake a stunt is pointless. Tie it into something in the news, tie it into what's going on in the world. Make cupcakes? Send some to Lindsay. Offer career coaching? Give it to Mel Gibson, he'll need it. But don't just put something out into the universe without a bigger plan. PR is an ongoing process. One good piece should lead to another. It should foster growth inside and outside the organization. The blessing of a good media piece is a powerful growth tool, both to clients and to employees as well.' A timely example: Beach Bum tanning salon did a 'Free Lindsay Lohan' rally the other day.
Once you've pulled off your ‘stunt' you need to be able to capitalize on the publicity you've generated. Can people find your store, business or site online? Do you have a special offer for people who have shown up for the first time because of your stunt? Do you have a way for them to sign up for a permission-based email list so you can keep in touch with them in the future?
Doing something people will talk about around the water cooler (real or virtual) is an accomplishment. But being able to capture the attention and turn it into leads and sales is the real trick.
What can your startup learn from the value of pulling a simple stunt?