How Special Events Get You Media Coverage and Cash

Special events are one way to create a publicity firestorm that catches fire and blazes a trail from your product or service to your customer and continues that blazing trail right to your bank account. In this blog we’ll look at several ways to think about publicity events and publicity stunts. I have chosen a few examples from different ad and publicity campaigns we have created for companies to show you how even an ad, or simple idea can have maximum impact an can tie in with event you create to drive business.

The object of a special event is to generate publicity for you and your business, no more, no less. It can be for a grand opening, your millionth customer, or the creating the world’s largest Chalupa. It doesn’t matter what the event is, you just have to make sure that everything in the event drives the media and customer attention in order to drive sales.

If you are celebrating a special occasion, plan the event for a slow business day, not the day when you have more customers than you know what to do with. This way you bring in customers on a day that your business is normally slow and can use the boost. I find that for most businesses the slower days are mid-week. If all of your days are busy, aim for a slow time of a particular day.

Publicity stunts are special events but if you are pulling a publicity stunt (something outlandish or weird) you have to be careful, or you might wind up in a bad spot like the Cartoon Channel did with their stunt in Boston a couple of years ago. That “stunt” was considered by some to have terrorist overtones and closed part of the city. Turner Broadcasting agreed to pay 2 million dollars as a fine for that stunt and they’ll have to sell a ton of commercials on the Cartoon Network to make that up, so be careful. (Although they did get a huge amount of coverage nationwide, so maybe they knew what they were doing… Hmmmm…)

Stunts are usually held in one or a few markets, but can be directed at the national, or international market and they are created to cause a media and public frenzy. This photo (click here to view image) is from the grand opening of the Krikorian Metroplex Theatre in Vista, CA. We brought in 40 tons of snow for the release of Cat in the Hat and the event was held about a week before the Christmas Holiday.

We received coverage on TV, radio, and in print as the headline of our press release attracted the media to the event. The PR headline read: SNOW PREDICTED IN VISTA – SNOWBALL FIGHT GAURANTEED We also had Santa and Mrs. Clause on hand to receive the gift wishes of the over 600 children that attended the event and we collected toys for the Toys for Tots program. A huge hit for our guests and for our bank account.

Several years ago when I worked with hen Key Bank in Portland, Oregon as they opened banks in the Pacific Northwest, their Key logo began appearing all over town. On buses, pizza boxes, taxis, movie theater screens, hikers’ backpacks, and more. The campaign lasted for several weeks and by the time Key Bank opened their first branch they had saturated the market and most people knew what they were so they had a very small barrier to market entry when they actually launched. This is one version of a publicity stunt, but one that takes a longer time to implement.

Stunts can also be media related, as in they take place only in the media itself. Here is a photo (click here to see the image) of a billboard we created that promoted THX sound systems in movie theatres when the competition was moving into town and they did NOT have THX. This “Godzilla-like” avatar was seen all over the city and he was crushing everything in his path. The headline was, “If it’s not in THX / Digital Sound, Why Bother Listening…

Another version of a promotion or publicity stunt is to create the “one-off” stunt that draws a lot of attention to one event in a city on one specific day or time. In either scenario you must make sure that the stunt ties in with your brand, your product and your company – Like the example of the snowball fight above. An example of this we created for a florist in Vancouver, WA, was to offer roses at an almost unheard of price on one day and then to up sell the customers on other products once they were in the store. Well… the promotion worked so well, the florist (who had ordered 300% more flowers than normal) rand out in just a few hours. There were lines out the door. When was the last time you ever saw a line at a florist?

There are several ways to create stunts that do not cost a lot of money. You can tie-in with a charity, or can get a local celebrity or media personality to attend. No matter what, you MUST make the event very visual and interesting so television stations will cover it. And, here’s the most important thing to remember… You must make the event newsworthy. It’s the only way to get the media to your location. Think about the age old question, “What’s in it for me?” This is the question every news organization on the planet will ask. You have to give them news, not just a marketing ploy. As part of the stunt, what are you saying that’s new or different? Why is what you are doing news?

All successful publicity events and publicity stunts are well coordinated and executed. Even if it looks like pandemonium from the public’s view, everything behind the scenes, must be coordinated and well thought out. An event or stunt that goes wrong can damage your brand forever. Everything must be planned out in advance and every detail needs to be looked after. Think of it this way: A publicity event is a series of details that are well thought out and executed in a linear manner. Also, for every event that is not a big one-time “stunt” make sure you have banners and posters that are readable from a long distance. I suggest keeping your signage to 10 words or less, including your logo. This allows the television cameras to capture you name and logo while they are filming the event. It’s a bigger bang for you buck.

Look at this advertisement (click here to see the image)for the new IMAX film about Michael Jordan our team created. See the headline… Deeper, Higher… Better… It got a lot of reaction from the media and the public. And we were selling a film bout a man playing basketball…

When all is said and done you want to make sure that your goals have been achieved; more customers, more notoriety, and more cash. To help accomplish this, take still photos of the event and send them with a press release to all of your local media after the event. You may also post your press release and photos on the internet. Take video and put it on You Tube, My Space, or other social networking sites. If you have any industry trade magazines send your photos and information to them. They love to cover these types of events and in many cases your peers (the people who read the trade magazines) will talk about your event and you will get calls from them because they want to work with people who think big and can make money.

Randall Blaum has been called, “The Hollywood Marketing Mogul” and has worked with every major Hollywood studio and has promoted superstars like: Madonna, George Lucas, THX, NEC and other high-profile companies and professionals. For more information on marketing and increasing your revenue go to: