A PR stunt, or publicity stunt, is a coordinated public relations event intended to raise positive awareness about a brand, product, cause or event. While this overarching goal is similar to that of a TV commercial or billboard, PR stunts are set apart in how they gain attention. Unlike traditional advertising and marketing tactics, these events typically take a more unique and memorable approach to engage with their target audience. With bold, eye-catching (and sometimes “over the top”) stunts, brands can differentiate themselves and leave a lasting impression that, ideally, earns mass media coverage.
For a PR stunt, getting people talking is the biggest win, and one of the most proven ways to do so is getting an audience involved. An interactive campaign that allows people to “participate in the fun” gives them reason to share the experience with others, translating into sales, donations and support for your brand.
Contrary to popular belief, not all PR stunts have to be elaborate and grandiose—nor do they need a big budget. While a 30-second TV commercial can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, PR stunts can offer an unmatched return on investment for far less money. In fact, the greatest resource in developing a successful event isn’t money at all, it’s creative thinking. On the flip side, the biggest expense behind a PR stunt is the inherent risk of trying something new.
How can your business use a PR stunt to gain positive media exposure? Tips and questions to ask your team when planning an event.
- Identify your media goals. We know that a PR stunt aims to be “outside-the-box” enough that you are memorable, but what do you want to be remembered for? Are you trying to build general brand awareness, or promote a specific product or service? Do you want to fundraise, or generate more website traffic? No matter what PR tactic you use, if you don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve in the first place, you won’t be able to measure the success of your efforts.
- Get to know your audience. Once you’ve determined who your target clients, stakeholders and customers are, do your research! What do they care about? What triggers their attention, or what has in the past?
- Consider the risks. A PR stunt can significantly improve your brand’s reputation, but if you aren’t careful, it can also cause serious damage to your image. Throughout the planning process, ask for feedback from people outside of your organization. People can (and are known to) interpret PR stunts in a variety of unexpected ways, so the more perspective you have on possible response to your event, the less likely it will be to backfire.
- Evaluate success. As outlined in tip #1, identifying your PR goals first is necessary for evaluating performance later. While going “viral” across TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have become widely regarded as the gold standard for public relations success, identifying specific metrics, such as increased Google searches, or mentions and shares on social media, will help you determine whether your PR stunt achieved what it set out to do.
- Prepare to be flexible. Even with the most seasoned public relations professionals at the helm, PR stunts don’t always go according to plan. Just as it is important to evaluate the possible risks and negative consequences, it is equally necessary to have a mitigation plan in place so that, if things go awry, your brand can efficiently and professionally adapt.
Carlie recently had the opportunity to sit down with Alexandria Sands, a new reporter at Axios Charlotte. Check out their conversation about Alex’s journey in journalism and Charlotte homecoming!
Tell me about yourself… where are you from and what brought you to Charlotte?
“My name is Alexandria Sands, but you can call me Alex! I grew up in Apex, North Carolina and studied at UNC Charlotte because I loved the campus and the city. After graduating, I moved to Leland and worked in Southport at their newspaper, where I had worked as an intern during college. From there I went to a Wilmington virtual newspaper, Port City Daily, for about a year. It was then that I realized I wanted to come home to Charlotte, so I applied at Axios and here I am! I stayed up to date on Charlotte news while at my other jobs and realized I wanted to be a part of covering some of the bigger stories that were developing in the Queen city.”
How did you get interested in journalism?
“Back when I was in middle school, I got my first camera as a gift and brought it everywhere. My parents suggested that I was going to be a photojournalist when I grew up, and that really stuck with me! Later in high school I did yearbook and newspaper as extracurriculars, slowly writing more than I was taking photos. By the time I got to UNC Charlotte, writing had become my biggest passion. I joined The Niner Times and devoted myself to improving those skills while working a few internships on the side. I juggled four internships while being a full-time student but loved what I did so I just kept going!”
How did the opportunity come about to join Axios and what are your goals as a reporter at Axios?
“I had previously worked with Emma Way (now deputy managing editor of Axios local) through my previous internship at Charlotte Magazine, so that was my connection to Axios. I’ve always looked up to a lot of the writers at Axios, especially Michael Graff (Axios Southern bureau chief) and Katie Peralta Soloff (Axios editor). I’ve also always admired Axios’ format, so I was eager to become a part of that. Axios does a great job of focusing on the reader and their needs, making access to news as quick, convenient and accessible as possible. I aim to respect our readers’ time and get to the point in why the news matters to them specifically.”
How would you describe Axios in three words?
“Innovative, informative and fun!”
What is on the horizon for Axios?
“We just got acquired by Cox Media and are planning to expand to multiple cities across the country. The goal in those new markets is to provide similar coverage to what Axios Charlotte does in the local community and beyond.”
What kind of news do you find most interesting to report on?
“I personally gravitate toward smaller stories that make you feel connected to your community as well as bigger picture, progressive stories that focus on what Charlotte is becoming and where the city is headed.”
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned so far while working in the journalism industry?
“I’ve found that we are all so caught up in our phones, work and personal lives. Journalism for me provides the unique opportunity to pause what’s going on in my own life and focus on understanding another person in a very deep way that I would likely not get to do in another career. Journalism has helped me to appreciate that every person you pass on the street has a story and the opportunity to tell that story to the best of my ability.”
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
“I am very committed to staying in Charlotte and evolving as a journalist that serves my local community. I want to contribute to the community in a positive, impactful way and gain Charlottean’s trust in delivering them news related to Charlotte and beyond.”
To learn more about Axios Charlotte and stay up to date on local news, be sure to join 113,687 smart Charlotteans who wake up to the Axios Charlotte newsletter each morning at 6 a.m.
If the whole point of “branding” your business is to publicly distinguish it from others like it, then wouldn’t posting the same messages, information and types of content over and over again be redundant and boring? Not quite. Repetition of the same language and visual elements is actually one of the most proven ways to place your brand in the forefront of your target audience’s mind. And the reason lies in human psychology.
Compared to other species, human beings are largely known for their social, relationship-driven nature. We have an innate desire to “belong,” and often satisfy our need for community by building relationships with those we trust. And while humans may consider themselves to be logical creatures, the reality is almost all our decision-making is led by the emotional side of our brain. Therefore, it follows that when we determine who and what we want to associate ourselves with, we are doing so based on whether we feel they deserve our trust in the first place.
Branding works the same way. For an organization to gain (and retain) the attention of its target audience, it must give that audience reason to believe it is trustworthy. That is, if you want people to follow, share and interact with your content on a regular basis, these people must feel confident that your brand will follow through on its mission and values. Every single time.
But if your audience isn’t familiar with your organization, how can they trust you?
This is where brand consistency comes into play. The best way to become recognizable across numerous media channels is to present a clear and consistent identity of colors, logos, visuals, messages—even emotions—that viewers can associate with your brand. Do it enough, and these elements will eventually become synonymous with your brand, making it easy for people to not only recognize, but want to interact with you.
How can you build and reinforce a consistent brand image?
Consistency gives people the confidence to expect the same user experience every time—translating into sales and repeat customers. Here are a few ways to achieve this:
- Make your approved branding materials easily accessible to all members of your organization. This can include branded icons and logos, social media templates, boilerplates and mission statements, fonts and color palettes. If these elements aren’t readily available, people will deviate—or worse, they will try to recreate “similar” (but surely off-brand) elements on their own!
- Furthermore, it is important to have an established set of brand guidelines that employees can follow. With these guidelines, people will know how and when to use branded materials. Brand guidelines can also include descriptions of proper tone and voice, grammatical and stylistic preferences and even a reference list of competitors with similar brands.
- Create a schedule for social media posts, newsletter distribution, quarterly updates and shareholder reports. People will come to expect your content—you don’t want to confuse them or leave them hanging.
- Don’t forget about other touchpoints aside from social media. Your audience interacts with your brand any time they make a purchase, contact human resources, or ask to speak with a sales representative. Turn your employees into brand ambassadors by training them to present your brand right.
- Perform regular brand audits. One of the biggest challenges organizations face with maintaining brand consistency is exactly that—the maintenance. As your team, audience or services grow, it is easy for your communications to become misaligned with what you originally intended for them to be, so make sure you are occasionally reviewing how your brand is presenting itself.
In the world of digital marketing today, eye-catching design and alluring aesthetics have become non-negotiable for increasing sales. Aside from capturing the attention of an audience, an attractive layout is essential for emphasizing messages, establishing brand identity and raising visibility.
Canva and Adobe Photoshop are both valuable platforms when it comes to cultivating content. But which is right for you and your business?
What is Canva?
Canva is a web-based graphic design application for design beginners. Users can take advantage of the generous tools and ready-to-use templates provided with the free version or upgrade to Canva Pro for $12.99/month. It is best-suited for online entrepreneurs, small-business owners and bloggers who like to get things done easily.
What is Adobe Photoshop?
Adobe Photoshop is a product of the Adobe family. It is a long-trusted tool used by design professionals for image creation, photo editing, raster images and more. This service requires an Adobe subscription, with the Photoshop program costing users $20.99/month.
– Ease of use
– Ample pre-built template options
– Organized file management system
– No software to download or install
– Full layer management
– Create/edit images for both print and web
– Abundance of tools for editing
– Vector-based software
– No vector graphics
– Overused template designs
– No option to download raw files
– Easy to misalign designs
– Extremely high learning curve
– Expensive for occasional use
– Utilizes lots of disk storage space
– Mainly used as a desktop program
In summary, Canva has emerged as a more simple, convenient option for users with little to no design skills. However, a more significant visual impact with very detailed and specific needs requires Adobe Photoshop. All things considered, both programs are versatile and robust in terms of their features and allow for the design of a variety of visual content.
In this increasingly digital age where the answer to any question lies at our fingertips, audiences are continually exposed to and processing communications. Engaging in ethical communications means being truthful, concise and responsible with one’s words and the resulting actions. One understands that messages must be conveyed and expressed effectively and that resulting actions (or consequences) will be based on how the message was communicated. Thus, ethical communication delineates a framework of acceptable principles for transmitting messages that aligns with an organization’s overarching code of ethics.
When audiences perceive a message as unethical, they can typically identify one of three adversarial aspects:
- The message is untruthful. Audiences can frequently differentiate between a casual slip-up and an intentional effort by an organization to deceive or mislead, but the line has become increasingly blurred due to the massive quantity of information and opinions to sort through online. While it may be possible for audiences to forgive the former (to an extent), it is much more difficult to overlook the latter, making it crucial for organizations to pay heed to their messages and ensure it never occurs.
- The message is a violation of confidentiality. Exposing intimate details of an ongoing investigation or personal matter is an example of violating confidentiality. It is important not to make audiences uncomfortable and to maintain a positive and respectful tone whenever possible when relaying messages.
- The message is offensive. Organizations should shy away from sharing messages that involve potential debate over sensitive topics such as race, gender, income level, personal background and/or religion. Even with good intentions, personal stories and jokes have the most potential to backfire in this manner.
Organizations can consider these tips for ethical communications:
- Trust your instincts. Listen to your gut for what seems right and wrong, and how you expect a particular message would be received by specific audiences that are crucial to your organization’s success.
- Consider the repercussions. Once the internal barometer has been consulted, think carefully about the potential reaction to the message. In public relations, it is vital to remember that you represent the client but also your agency, the industry and the potential for future client relationships.
- Educate your team. Ensure that all are aware of your organization’s code of ethics. Consider challenging them with dilemmas and carry out “what-ifs” to establish a mutual understanding of procedures for different audience/client situations. While we should always hope for the best, there is also a professional responsibility to prepare for the worst.