Everyone loves a good stunt. They are amusing, they are fun, and they make up the last 30 seconds of the local 6.00 PM newscast – if you are doing a good job at the public relations aspect of the stunt.
But, do PR stunts actually translate into better public perception of a company, or is it just a one-shot of press, to get some buzz going during a time when you have no news and need to get your name out there? Is the money spent on a stunt worth the return? SimplyHired – a company that aggregates job listings in one place, and competes with other sites like Indeed, HotJobs, Monster and Craigslist among others – has launched a contest for SimplyFired. The premise is that the best stories about being fired – something that people love to relive, that they were let go for incompetence, stupidity, or the inability to keep their mouth shut and stupidly blog everything that comes to mind – will win a cruise with the losers from The Apprentice.
The contest by Simplyhired is being judged by a few people that I have worked with, and a few people that I respect.
But, I commented on another blog that
I’m not sure that a contest celebrating a lack of common sense is that great a contest idea. And, yes, it really is a simple lack of common sense that gets people Dooced.
Why not have a contest about people getting hired through Simply Hired, and celebrating people that actually found employment? That seems to be less a negative thing.
And the head of PR noted that they would likely highlight people that have been hired by the site for their next promotion. And, that’s a good thing.
But, stunts usually backfire. When I was with a company, I was pitched a stunt involving 50 Santa Clauses dressed in orange riding Vespas down the Bay Bridge. It had a great visual, but my question was at the end of the day, what was this going to do for the start-up. And, that’s the key – as a start-up, you have a limited budget and need to be scrappy, and spend your budget in a smart way. Getting those last 30 seconds on the news is great press, but is the public going to remember the name? Right now, SimplyHired/SimplyFired has had some good press, but is it increasing traffic to the site or just contest rovers out on the Web?
Now, if you are an established company, and want to get some buzz out there for a name that is already known, then stunt PR makes sense. At those times, stunts can cross with guerilla marketing, which have their places and work well.
I was approached by a car dealership for ideas on inexpensive guerilla marketing campaigns, that could be also be used for press outreach. The idea that I thought would work best was inexpensive, and would have generated press – water soluble paint graffiti on the college campus, since that was the target audience. Yes, there are some possible fines – but it’s Arizona, it never rains, so the water soluble paints would have stayed for a while before they were washed off. The idea is to paint at 2.00 AM, call the press in the morning, and generate interest and buzz – yes, a stunt, but a stunt for a dealership that had been around for awhile.
Stunts can work, but you have to think about long term and short term goals, and if it will create more customers or traffic. Or, just be that 30 seconds that people forget in a few months.