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Creating an eye-catching campaign stunt has always been a key tool in a PR’s arsenal. And a picture can tell a thousand words. But does the PR stunt still have a place in a comms world of integrated marketing, indepth analytics and rigorous ROI?

That’s the question I was asked when I was invited to take part in Cision’s PR webinar recently.

And my answer? Yes. But with caveats, and layers.

Because, for every Fatberg, Missing Cat (see here) or other stunt award-winner, there’s a megabucks Michael Jackson statue killing an album launch as it randomly floats down the Thames. And that’s the crucial point: a stunt can’t work in isolation. It needs to be clever, and part of a joined up strategy, with extra communications layers added on top.

So, when clients call me and say ’we just want a stunt’, the first thing I say is ‘why?’.  I ask them to go back to the beginning and tell me the comms problem they are trying to solve and then we will work through the best way to deliver that cost-effectively – via the starting point of the strategy and an idea, not the tactic or channel.

Then it’s how you amplify that idea that’s going to result in success and a killer return on investment – those extra digital, social, news, features, picture or broadcast ‘layers’ provide important touchpoints to reach audiences.

And finally, it’s about following a simple road map, such as the six step process we use below:

  • SIMPLICITY: Keep the message simple – can you explain the stunt in one line?

  • STORY: Is there a deeper purpose, story or something clever about the stunt? Try to avoid stunts that are one dimensional

  • SAME OLD: Try to avoid over-used locations – Potters Fields, the Thames etc

  • SAFETY NET: If the Queen died and your stunt died with it – do you have a back up for securing coverage?

  • SHAREBILITY: Would you share it or talk about it afterwards?

  • SELF SERVING: Does it go beyond the brand or product?

Answering these questions before you invest will keep your budget on the right track, and ensure it doesn’t disappear into a one-shot PR puff of hot air.

Mandy Sharp