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Recognising national press worthy PR ideas

Hurrah for silly season we cry! Soon the Olympics will be over, and us PRs will relish the joyful opportunity of more potential press space.

So will our clients. . . hey, anyone can have a great PR idea, right?

True. And herein lies the challenge for the PR rep.

The enthusiastic client, usually successful in business because they know a good idea when they see one, and eager to flex their creative muscles and ‘have a bit of fun’, begins throwing ideas out faster than a popcorn machine on overdrive.

I should stress at this point, I love to work closely with my clients and am always keen for them to get involved in their PR – it’s a great way of working and the best PR ideas can come from even the most unlikely places – picture that gem of a conversation between a PR rep. and a Displays Supervisor about what enrichment activities the creatures were doing which resulted in the global PR success of ‘Paul the Octopus’ during the World Cup in 2010.

But how to juggle those curve balls and effectively put them into practice… or not?

In my experience, potential PR ideas clients want to target to press will fall into one of these categories:

Enhanced consumer experience.
Ambient PR
Online PR & Social media
Press worthy PR

That’s not say one class of PR can’t support another, or that there won’t be some overlap, but generally you can find your starting point by classifying which of the above categories your idea will fall into.

Some of the ‘PR ideas’ clients would like to target to national press I get questioned about regularly are as follows . . .

1. ‘Clean’ graffiti and 3D floor and wall art
Unless you have a huge budget, Banksy is going to do it for you, or you can invest thousands in a truly spectacular display combined with a strong newsworthy message for why you are doing the projection, this will produce nice ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from passers by, but is unlikely to get that coveted national press picture.
Great its own sphere – if you want to raise awareness with people walking by and get their reactions etc for use in social media, these can be fab.

2. Product partnership launch photos
These ideas have usually involved a costumed character from one business experiencing a product at the other. These can make appearances in local press if you can create an unusual scenario for a brilliant picture or get schools and kids involved, but I haven’t come across a circumstance yet where I would use this for a national press story pitch!

3. Projections on buildings
As for clean graffiti.

4. Facebook competitions
Social media
I’m a huge fan of facebook as a PR tool … in the right sphere. Unless you are offering a money can’t buy, out of this world prize that’s highly unusual, or the competition is highly controversial, it’s unlikely to garner national press coverage. By all means use facebook as a competition vehicle, but choose carefully where you target it as a primary key message.

5. Lookalikes
Enhanced consumer experience
The Royal Wedding last year saw lookalikes of the royal family sky rocket to fame. I would advise this as the exception rather than the norm. Generally, using lookalikes is unsubtle and a turn off for a lot of journalists. They may give customers/ guests an added highlight at your event, but are unlikely to get you that national press picture.

6. Free promotional gifts
Enhanced consumer experience
Unless you are throwing banknotes out of the window of your building causing a mass mob, you’re unlikely to get press attention by giving away even quirky promotional gifts. Though perhaps if Apple gave away the newest version of the ipad before its general release that may get some coverage.

7. You tube videos
Social media
A good viral video or quirky you tube vid can work wonders and i’m a huge fan …. but do be satisfied with web awareness where it’s due. It’s a rare gem that would garner press coverage in its own right at a national press level. The effects of social media, however, can turn into a great story. Dave Caroll of United Guitars fame will ever remain one of my heroes.

8. Pop up photo ops/stunts
Ambient … she says warily…
I’m writing this with a wary hand. I’m not saying these never get national press coverage – there have been some great PR stunts of this kind… the polar bears on the Thames etc.

But I am saying approach with caution. These stunts usually cost a lot money to create something truly sensational and are 50/50 as to whether they will pay off and get you national coverage.

But given the success of the Pimms giant deck chair stunt in March just gone to celebrate the start of summer, it’s a type of PR I’m watching with an open mind.

With the Pimms giant deck chair, two noticeable attributes are: scale – the thing was huge! And a lack of branding on the chair. I noticed a lot of marketeers condemning this as a ‘missed opportunity’ and completely disagree. Branding the chair up would have been a huge turn off for press who were bound to mention who had placed the chair on the beach anyway. Top work with the lack of over-branding I say! I digress…

But every now and then ,of course, your client comes up with a winner leaving you leaping for joy shouting ‘yes yes yesssss!’ at the top of your lungs… these are usually stories of contrast, or seasonal gems… i.e: ‘We just had a rare white albino lobster come in and it’s Christmas… what do you say?”

I say hello ‘Santa Claws’ and hello picture in the national press!
Everyone’s a winner.

In a an industry as creative and flexible as PR I never like to say never, and i’m sure there are instances that are exceptions to the points I’ve outlined above.

But generally, when I hear these ideas, I approach with caution.

Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your comments, if it’s one thing we can safely say about PR, it’s an industry where we are constantly learning.

Thanks for reading,


Ellie Cowley is a PR Consultant at Bournemouth based integrated marketing agency Cuco and tweets at @cucocreative. Before joining Cuco she spent four highly successful years managing PR for Merlin Entertainments’ Dungeon and SEA LIFE tourist attractions.

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