By Abby Forman, Account Coordinator, R&J Public Relations
Teen sensation, Justin Bieber recently fell victim to robbery when his laptop and digital camera were stolen out of his hotel room. Or did he? In fact, Justin was not the victim at all; he was the instigator himself. He tweeted last Friday, October 12, 2012:
“Since I was 14 I have had a lot of things said about me, from dying, to taking hormones, to dying again, to stuff about my family, to saying I had a baby with a woman I never even met along with nude pics, drugs, my family, my character…but today…today I get to be in on it.”
Justin and team created a story via Twitter that his laptop and digital camera had been stolen. They created a fake twitter account, tweeted to Bieber that he should beware, and that at noon on Friday, private videos from his laptop would be leaked to the public. Millions of “Beliebers” around the world waited anxiously for this secret video (and you know what kind of secret video I’m talking about) to be revealed. However at noon, instead of the “personal” video people were waiting for, fans were given a sneak peak of his new music video with fellow artist Nicki Minaj. Some fans were displeased, some credited him for a creative and well thought out prank and some did not care either way. However, by 3:30pm on Friday, the video had already reached over 20,000 likes on YouTube, and Justin Bieber was the most searched name on the internet. While it’s possible some Bieber fans may have been displeased, this is a perfect example of a publicity stunt that that went exactly as planned. And let’s be serious… Justin Bieber fans pledge their loyalty to him and that pact is one you cannot sever.
Publicity stunts are planned events designed to attract the public’s attention to the event’s organizers or their cause. They have been around since the early days of marketing, advertising, and public relations, and are not going away any time soon. They are widely used among celebrities, politicians, and companies to generate that greatly-desired “buzz” in their particular market or industry. As PR pros, it is our job to know the difference between good media coverage and bad media coverage. Yes, some clients may think that any media coverage at all is a good thing, however we know better. Publicity stunts that are pulled off correctly, as in Justin Bieber’s case, can yield great results and dramatically increase media coverage. It’s when they’re not pulled off correctly, however, that companies can find themselves in trouble.
You may have heard about the company charged with promoting South Australia to businesses. They came up with a catchy tagline: “Be a big fish in a small pond.” Then they developed a memorable PR stunt to go along with it – the delivery of live goldfish to select targets. And it was memorable, and it did get lots of coverage — but it was because most of the fish died. By the time the debacle was over, the campaign had been slammed by everyone from marketing commentators to the RSPCA.
Publicity stunts can be tricky things. Business owners, entrepreneurs, celebrities and politicians will sometimes go to great lengths to drum up publicity for themselves or their companies. But as PR pros, it’s our job to keep them aware of what they’re getting into. It is our job to make sure the benefits outweigh any potential foreseen drawbacks. If there is risk involved, we must have a plan prepared to mitigate any possible collateral damage.
Each publicity stunt is different, and is designed to yield different results. If they are positioned correctly and succeed in creating that positive “buzz” that we PR professionals seek, they can be well worth it in the end.