Magazine article Marketing

Tempt Media with Creative Gimmicks

Magazine article Marketing

Tempt Media with Creative Gimmicks

Article excerpt

How can PRs create a buzz about their clients' brands? Maja Pawinska considers effective ways to gain attention from the media

One of the biggest challenges in media relations is getting cynical journalists excited about press releases and launches. How on earth can PR people get past journalists' jaded assumption that the best place to file most press releases is in the bin?

One of the most effective ways, assuming it's not an earth-shattering announcement by a sexy brand, is to use some kind of gimmick to draw attention to your client's news.

Fresh ideas

And we're not just talking bribery with bottles of booze. The latest gimmicks, teasers and stunts have to be imaginative and enticing. As Lee Stone, senior campaign manager of digital specialist PR consultancy Carrot, says: "The best ideas have an element of originality. PR gimmicks are only really gimmicks while the media still sees them as original, innovative and a break from accepted methods."

Stone cites examples such as Shandwick's work for Sea World in Florida, which had to launch its Journey to Atlantis ride the month after Universal Studios had flown journalists over for the opening of its theme park. Shandwick knew journalists wouldn't have time to cover the event so soon after a similar one. So it brought the ride's designer to the UK and arranged interviews on roller-coasters around the country.

A good rule of thumb, according to Cathy Pittham, managing director of Weber Group Europe and chief executive of Weber Shandwick Technologies, is that to be effective the gimmick should tie in with the brand and client message, and should be a useful item.

But PRs should be aware that some gimmicks can do more harm than good. Putting confetti in an invitation, for example, could irritate a journalist if it spills out and makes a mess on their workspace. Pittham adds: "Potentially destructive gimmicks are gadgets or stunts that are offensive, patronising, or just plain irritating. A cuddly toy that plays a jingle every time it's bumped will soon be tossed into the bin."

Fox Kids puts together gimmicks for children's programme launches about four times a year. For the launch of the animated Jackie Chan Adventures this Easter, the company picked up the Chinese theme by sending journalists a 'Chinese takeaway' brown bag. In it were fortune cookies, each containing facts about the show; a press release that looked like a Chinese menu; and a foil food container with a video of the first episode inside.

And for its annual summer party, Party at the Palace, it sent a jester's hat to journalists with the invite. Fox Kids director of marketing Allan Stenhouse says gimmicks that involve items to eat or to play with also works.

Gimmicks that work well include branded items that can be kept in the office and that continually reinforce a brand in the journalist's mind.

The trend for teaser campaigns involving technology is also paying offfor PRs. For a launch by client Lexmark, Buffalo Communications sent 40 pagers anonymously to IT journalists. Buffalo then sent the pagers three messages, at different times, building up to the launch. This achieved a 95% response rate.

Managing director Kerry Hallard stresses the importance of picking a relevant gimmick. "So often gimmicks fail because there is no link to the news, event or product and it's forgotten about," he says. …

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