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How to perform the perfect PR stunt by Kent experts from Edwards Harvey, Maxim, Pillory Barn, thinkzest

29 August 2014
by Chris Price

A humble cafe in a small town drummed up big publicity when it put a 7,500 calorie gut-busting breakfast on its menu earlier this month.

Papa Joe’s Cafe grabbed headlines with its 10Terden Terminator fry up, featuring 10 servings of each item.

The mega fry-up  at the diner in St Michael’s, near Tenterden - which has 7,500 calories and 512g of saturated fat - is so huge it has to be ordered 24 hours in advance.

The 10Terden Terminator breakfast

The 10Terden Terminator breakfast

It prompted Kent Business to get in touch with four marketing and media-relations experts from Kent debate the merits of the PR stunt.

Pip Clarkson, managing director, Edwards Harvey PR & Marketing, Maidstone

The main reason for staging a PR stunt is to grab instant attention and encourage take-up.

It’s also a mechanism to influence feelings and create associations for products and businesses.

The type of stunt largely depends on the target audience and should be geared accordingly.

The star-studded opening of Fremlin Walk was a successful PR stunt for Edwards Harvey

The "star-studded" opening of Fremlin Walk was a successful PR stunt for Edwards Harvey

It doesn’t always have to cost a lot or even be planned weeks in advance. Often the simplest idea can yield results.

Take the release of a former British soldier from the worst jail in the world in Afghanistan.

On receiving the tremendous news, his family didn’t have to celebrate in front of the media at their home in Dover with champagne.

Instead they used Kentish Spitfire Ale and the footage made the national news and was shown round the clock on BBC 24 news.

Edwards Harvey pulled off a last minute PR stunt when they got the family of Bill Shaw to celebrate his release from an Afghan prison with a pint of Spitfire

Edwards Harvey pulled off a last minute PR stunt when they got the family of Bill Shaw to celebrate his release from an Afghan prison with a pint of Spitfire

After the bright idea, planning time was short and involved a few branded glasses and bottles of Spitfire.

PR stunts can be imaginative public events.

Maidstone Fremlin Walk’s glamorous Hollywood-style opening was an amazing night to remember and attracted thousands.

The shopping centre was full of sparkle and glitz including a very convincing Marilyn Monroe.

Edwards Harvey managing director Pip Clarkson

Edwards Harvey managing director Pip Clarkson

An example of a PR stunt for a defined audience is demonstrated with Japan’s number one lager Asahi launching in the UK.

The brief was to engage with bars and pubs across the country. This was achieved by staging the UK’s very first Sudoku Championship.

The simplest stunt I remember was when Heinz announced it was going to suspend manufacturing of salad cream because of falling sales – I immediately went and bought two bottles.

Jodi Eeles, senior PR office, Pillory Barn, Maidstone

We are so bombarded with messages every day, that if you can capture someone’s imagination and attention, then you have started a dialogue in the hope of creating a positive perception for your client’s brand or service.

This can work well for clients who are launching products, or for brands who need to reinforce their image and maintain loyalty with their target audience.

A few particular favourites we have produced here at Pillory Barn over the years include an invitation to journalists for A Midsummer Night’s Dream made with real ivy and supported by pavement art, a flashmob singing ‘walking on sunshine’ for a children’s charity client and the guerilla planting of spring bulbs for another charity client.

Pillory Barn senior PR officer Jodi Eeles

Pillory Barn senior PR officer Jodi Eeles

One piece of ‘accidental’ guerilla marketing happened when we were working on the Ashford Shared Space project and the CABE architect leading it decided to demonstrate how safe the new street layout was in comparison to the old system by laying down, fully suited in the middle of a busy road.

While I stood to the side praying it didn’t turn into a media disaster, it made some of the best press shots we had and helped the message to really hit home.

Social media has also accelerated guerilla marketing and PR stunts with the strong use of image-sharing on sites such as Instagram and Facebook, campaigns can go viral in hours, which can be a PR dream.

We are currently in talks with a local tourist attraction with regards to one of our clients who may be hosting a PR stunt very soon. Watch this space for something strange that may hit the news soon.

Andrew Metcalf, director, Maxim, Tunbridge Wells

There is no denying that stunts attract attention – but is that a sustainable way of getting your message across and are you reaching the right audiences?

A stunt is likely to be a one-off with the aim of attracting attention from the press and public.

When executed well, they can be very effective and don’t always have to be big-budget affairs.

Many remember a giant rubber duck floating down the Thames in December 2012 but not many people realise it was part of a marketing campaign for online gambling brand Jackpotjoy.com

Many remember a giant rubber duck floating down the Thames in December 2012 but not many people realise it was part of a marketing campaign for online gambling brand Jackpotjoy.com

If you are going to carry out a stunt, make sure it is relevant to your business or a specific campaign.

For example, it’s difficult to forget the giant dead parrot suspended in London last month was to promote the Monty Python show.

However, can you recall the name of the company that floated a giant rubber duck on the Thames or set up a huge deckchair on Bournemouth beach?

They both attracted a huge amount of attention but if the brand isn’t instantly recognisable, is that a success?

Maxim director Andrew Metcalf

Maxim director Andrew Metcalf

Before you invest in any activity, think about whether it will enhance your company’s reputation in the long term.

We deal with organisations that understand that PR works best when it is a drip-feed of information over many months through a variety of channels.

A carefully planned campaign aimed at specific audiences should have much more impact and achieve many more objectives than a one off-stunt could.

Terry Hewett, chairman, thinkzest, Lordswood, Chatham

We call it guerilla marketing, rather than a PR stunt. The Kent Road Safety stuff we have done has been very successful.

When we launch a campaign, we try to get people of the target demographic involved in the message.

People don’t like being preached to so if we are doing something with young people, we will go to a local college or school.

thinkzest chairman Terry Hewett

thinkzest chairman Terry Hewett

When we were trying to teach people about speed limits, we had staff going out dressed as lamposts.

At shopping centres we ran a gameshow. No Your Limits, getting people to play the game while learning.

When we come up with an idea we run focus groups first to make sure we are not wide of the mark. If something gets a positive response, we decide to develop it.

They key is not to create something so creative that people don’t understand what it’s trying to say.

You have to keep it real and keep it relevant. That is the most important thing. It is so easy to get wrapped up in an idea you like, but it is no good if people will find it difficult to digest.

The master of guerilla marketing is probably Richard Branson. He is a great at getting publicity to promote the Virgin brand.

Look at when he jumped off a building in Vegas, slightly injuring himself in the process.

He shows of his entrepreneurial spirit and combines it with his willingness to take a risk with his personal safety to create something the press will turn up to.

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