Sales & Marketing

5 proven PR stunt strategies to grab headlines at home and abroad

5 min read

12 October 2015

Publicity is the spearhead of any business plan and it’s essential to be visible amongst a sea of competitors. As such, it's sometimes worth going the extra mile to make sure you are noticed.

Here are five recent inventive PR stunts that grabbed the headlines, which gave the companies responsible for them national and international reach.

1. Think Big! Paper Bag Co – world record bagged

The Paper Bag Co, a UK paper bag supplier, saw the recent 5p levy on single use plastic carrier bags (to discourage their use) as an opportunity to show how easy paper bags were to recycle.

The company’s director, Jon Marling, made the world’s biggest paper bag and then recycled it almost immediately into smaller bags for school children. Local and national media coverage ensured the event’s worth.

“We are really happy to hold a world record. As a bag supplier to retailers we make every effort to understand where we can support sustainable solutions using environmentally friendly materials that are easy to recycle such as paper, cotton or bamboo,” said Marling.

2. Go barking mad – Ladbrokes’ Barkingham Palace Gold Cup

In conjunction with Ladbrokes and Kaper, a PR company called Sketch Events hosted a corgi dog racing event ahead of the royal birth – designed to help punters determine the name and gender of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridgeshire’s second baby.

With hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, the event went viral and was even featured on TV in the USA.

Read more on PR stunts:

3. Make time for a mystery – The Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch crop circle

Crop circles have remained a mystery for many years – blamed on UFOs and unknown supernatural forces. It’s fair to say the marketers have been in one cornfield in Rostov-on-don in Russia and made a crop circle smartwatch – specifically a Gear S2.

Samsung eventually claimed responsibility for the anomaly, which measured 10,000 square metres. This may well have been capitalising on recent crop circles seen in Russia and a tenuous news story on the discovery of an ‘alien’ corpse.

Continue reading on the next page to see how Call of Duty sparked terror concerns and why Burger King got on the wrong side of McDonald’s.

4. Call to controversy – Call of Duty developers spread terror 

Bad taste or good marketing? Anyone into video games will know of the war simulation series of first person perspective ‘shoot-em-ups’ under the banner of Call of Duty. 

Recently the game’s Twitter feed sparked controversy by sending out fake messages of a terror attack taking place in Singapore. Whilst obviously condemned as bad taste by many – the screenshots from gameplay of the latest version of the game were soon making world press alongside the story.

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5. Make a whopping gesture – Burger King proposes joining forces with McRival

Burger King announced to the world it proposed McDonalds joined forces with Burger King to make a McWhopper hybrid burger, in line with the UN’s International Day of Peace.

McDonald’s penned a slightly prickly public response saying ‘let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequalled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.’ 

From the invitation to the response the whole exchange erupted in the media worldwide as the result. Arguably this PR stunt probably did both a favour in the international newsfeeds.

It’s not the first time Burger King has been embarrassed in a link to its fast food rival. In 2013, the firm had its Twitter account hacked and the cyber criminals changed all BK branding to that of McDonald’s and sent offensive tweets.

Richard Forsyth works for website marketing company Varn Media