Just finished reading Peter Shankman’s book, Can We Do That?! It covers a lot of ground from PR basics, media relations and events to creative thinking, crisis communications and account management.
Shankman’s conversational style makes it an easy read (no small feat for non-fiction). His hard-earned experiences recounted in the book make it credible (no small feat for a business book). The end result is an entertaining read I recommend checking out.
That said I define some words differently than Shankman. He calls certain PR tactics—stunts. To me stunts are tactics lacking strategy. Stunts are for Evel Knievel. So we exchanged five questions and answers via email.
1) SPR: Every tactic, no matter how creative or bombastic, should be driven by a larger strategy. Your thoughts?
One of the first rules in the book - PR for the sake of PR is a waste of time. Consequently, a PR stunt for the sake of a PR stunt is a waste of time. If you're not getting people thinking, reacting, and talking about your COMPANY, and not just the stunt itself, you've wasted money.
A great PR stunt is part of a larger strategy, that's already working 100% at getting the press you desire and results you want. It's only after that's implemented that you can say "OK, let's see what ELSE we can do."
When we did the Yarn Bus for Flying Fingers, we were already in a massive pitch mode for the previous six months, having landed everything from local TV to morning shows, about edible yarn, only at Flying Fingers. The bus was the secondary component in an already great story.
2) SPR: Tell us about the book. What's your elevator speech for it and why should people buy it?
While the book is called "Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts and why your company needs them," the stunt aspect is only one part of the book, much like a stunt should be only one part of a PR campaign. The real concept behind the book is what I want to simply call "COMMON F*ING SENSE."
It still, to this day, amazes me how many publicists, some with a TON more experience than you and me, still think it's ok to mass-blast a press release to a thousand reporters who share one commonality, that of "breathing," and are then shocked when they not only don't get placements, but get told to get lost.
This isn't rocket science. It never will be. If one person learns how not to be a dumb ass when dealing with a reporter or a client, it was worth writing the book.
3) SPR: What is your advice for selling a new and different idea to a client that they are nervous about doing?
I devote like, half a chapter to getting through a stopper. A stopper is a lawyer, a scared client, etc, someone devoted to killing your awesome idea before it ever comes to life. Famous stoppers include Bill Lumburgh from Office Space and Smithers from The Simpsons.
The key to getting by a stopper is killing them with facts and figures. I call it having to ROAR. Responsibility, Opportunities, Awareness, and Results.
You're gonna have to answer questions like, "how much will it cost? Do we have insurance? Can anyone be killed? What's the downside? What if it rains? How many advertising dollars does this equate to? Who will run it? What if it snows? etc., etc., etc.
The more facts, figures, and answers you can provide WHEN ASKED, the more likely the client will be to say, "OK, they seem to know what they're doing - let's give it a shot."
4) SPR: What are some of the big problems you see that get PR people singled out by media and blogs like the Bad Pitch blog?
Pitching something that has NOTHING to do with what the reporter writes is the biggest one. I'll go on record and say it: Bacon’s Media Map, CornerBar PR and other PR resources ARE NOT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. THEY WILL SCREW UP. PEOPLE CHANGE BEATS AND DO NOT TELL THEM.
Don't pitch and say "Hey, Media Map says you cover small business. I've got a story about a small business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. If this is the small business reporter for TIME Magazine, unless that small business in Portsmouth is making a cure for cancer, good luck.
KNOW. YOUR. REPORTER. Don't just email them out of the blue. Try to establish a relationship with them FIRST, before you pitch them. I threw tons of examples in the book about that - people who just simply DON'T FREAKING GET IT, but hit the same reporter, time after time after time, thinking "hey, maybe this time it'll work!" Sigh.
5) SPR: Name one pr campaign out there that makes you think, "Wish I'd thought of that."
Taco Bell's "If Space Station Mir Hits This Target, Everyone in America gets a Free Taco." Brilliant. And Paris Hilton. She's the ultimate PR stunt.
For more from Shankman, check out his blog, PR Differently.
Cross-Posted To The Bad Pitch Blog.