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Think Twice

Most people would be content for six months with a $100,000 salary and lying on an island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  With this job, you will only have to feed several hundred fish, clean the pool and check the mail.  Other days may consist of trying out the latest spas or snorkeling through coral communities.  Also offered with the position is a fully furnished three bedroom, two-bath house with no utilities to be paid.  The only real duty is to regularly blog about the island with pictures and video posts.

Tourism Queensland  is the sponsor of the latest public relations stunt to hit the Internet.  The campaign was created in hopes that the increased attention would encourage travelers to vacation to the island. Measurable tourism numbers can not be seen until later years, but interest in the “Best Job in the World” may remind tourists where they can vacation next.  The Internet was the best medium to gain attention but such a stunt may not be the best decision for all.

Publicity/PR stunts are “planned events made to gain exposure and get public’s attention”.  A celebrity’s recent romantic rendezvous, a company’s product giveaway or outrageous leaks to generate excitement about a brand are all examples of PR stunts in the recent years. 

So is a PR stunt really the best way to get the public’s attention?

No one has compiled a list of the best and worst publicity stunts. Each year brings new attention grabbers for the public to take in.

Some bloggers say Twitter is just a PR stunt for celebrities. Twitter has created followings from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Matthews and John Mayer. Current updates from celebs instantly alert followers of daily activities. Generating buzz and advertising upcoming performances, Twitter is another medium for celebrities to be talked about in the media.

Everything can go wrong, even the best laid plans.   In the news lately, the Octomom has graced every entertainment blog and has seen her way on the 24-hour news channels.  The public backlash has been one of disbelief and questioning of reproductive technology physicians.   Perhaps she hoped to gain notoriety in the entertainment business, but bad news will stay with someone forever now thanks to the Internet.

Another recent PR stunt that may have not been one of the best thought-out plans was the Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast on Feb. 3, 2009.  Anyone could get a free grand slam breakfast from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only catch . . . lines were an average of three hours long.  Denny’s spent millions in advertising during the Super Bowl and the following days, along with several millions more of free food across the country.  Denny’s hoped this PR stunt would generate increased business, but their plan did not work that well.  People will still eat at Waffle House and IHOP, as one free breakfast won’t change a devoted customer’s mind. 

Some public relations practitioners have debated whether or not PR stunts are a good way to build relationships with target publics.  PR stunts generate attention to the sponsoring organization but that soon dies with time.  The public may look further into the company’s products or goals, but most of the time, stunts will not garner lasting attention.

If a PR stunt is in your organization’s future, there are a few things to help ensure success as quoted by a PRWeek article:


  •  Think about how the event will reflect on the brand identity and the message it will send to consumers.    
  • Create fun and engaging visuals for the media that will look good on camera.
  • Make sure you give the media a very clear idea of what those visuals will be in advance of the event.


  • Let bad timing steal coverage. Make sure you check for conflicting news stories.
  • Aim for publicity for publicity’s sake. Be certain your event is appropriate for the client’s product or service.
  • Don’t underestimate the problems that can occur. Being prepared for the worst-case scenario is essential.

Movie production companies, restaurants and tourism boards all implement PR stunts to get people talking, but PR stunts can put your organization in the worst hall of fame.  The best advice . . . think twice.

-Julie Brown

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