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This is the second of three entries on Word of Mouth techniques for PR agencies and professionals. In the last entry, I talked about the first word of mouth tool, guerilla marketing. Today, it’s the publicity stunt. Granted, one could argue that they are very similar, but in my book there is one basic, but important difference: the stunt is about media coverage, including consumer generated media.

A stunt is an unabashed and often brazen play for publicity. Again, Red Bull has a great example: the Flutag. Otherwise normal, semi-emotionally balanced folk leaping from great heights in a hilarious, self-effacing attempt to fly on contraptions of their own design. You can’t help but look, and it makes great TV.

Stunts are easy to spot: skydivers, streakers, even the ol’DJ-on-the-billboard are stunt stereotypes. But to be successful, stunts have to do more than just grab attention. They must create compelling images, a can’t miss photo op. TV and print photo editors think of what looks good on the screen or a page, and it doesn’t always need to be outrageous.

Before baseball player Johnny Damon defected from the Red Sox to the Yankees, Gillette had extensive coverage for the launch of its new razor thank to him. Johnny agreed to shave his Grizzly Adams beard in public for a local charity. Complete with attractive female barbers (it’s a man’s razor, after all), they captured the city’s attention. Johnny’s clean-shaven face looked great on the evening news, leading all to believe that the M3Power must be one helluva razor.

But the best part of stunts these days? You don’t need the traditional media to be successful. We have YouTube. Still, it’s a crowded viral world out there. To be successful, you should the same press-savvy thinking to your viral videos as (good) PR pros have for years with the Stunt.

And in a shameless plug, check out a video of a stunt my firm, CBC, did for Nantucket Nectars back in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. The World’s Largest Thank You Card brought thousands together from around New England, and made it all the way to the network news. Enjoy!

Next Up: Grassroots marketing.

PR agencies spend so much time talking about PR 2.0, bloggers, online media, social media and the like, as marketers we forget that we live in the real world, too.  And often, what we do in the real world is the very fire that fuels success in online marketing and spurs word-of-mouth across it all.  

To this end, I overheard a conversation at lunch where two marketing execs were talking about what they could do to drive Word of Mouth.  Aside from the fact that they shouldn’t talk about plans in an Au Bon Pain, it was clear that these guys were confused on some of the basic tools, such as guerilla marketing, publicity stunts and grassroots programs.  The terms were jumbled together in a mashup of craziness and swag, seemingly with very little direction.  Never mind they seemed to be clueless how to translate their ideas to online or social media marketing.

For what it’s worth, I thought I’d take a shot at providing some context to the conversation.   Hey, I may be completely full of s**t; talk to 50 marketers and you may get 50 different definitions for these same words. But defining these tactical kissing cousins is the key to having a good reference point to begin a plan.

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These days, media relations pros are finding the universe of press opportunities dwindling.  True, there’s a whole host of things your PR agency can do with online and social media marketing, including bolstering search results through smart SEO copywriting, promotional campaigns, Facebook and Twitter.  But the truth is that a huge amount of sway in public opinion is still held by the traditional media.  

Public relations pros still need to reach the national news outlets and magazines that are reporting on trends and products with great depth and authority.

But with advertising support at an all time low, these outlets have less time and space for editorial. So PR agencies need to work smarter for their clients than ever before.  Here’s Three Rules to Getting Ink that should help get bolster your media relations efforts in these times of scarcity: Read more

Looking around these days, and you can’t help think that the deepening recession is in part due to fear. People are cutting back, as are companies, because they fear the worst.  In some respects, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle.

But as I pointed out in the fall in my eBook Simplinomics, the forces at play here will reckon permanent behavioral changes in the American consumer. One is thrift, and its main byproduct, savings.

Last year, the national savings rate hit 1.7%; historically low, but much higher than recent years where collectively we lived well beyond our means. Increased savings is good for the long-term, but exacerbates economic hardships in the short term.  It’s what “the experts” are calling the Paradox of Thrift.

Some say that the savings rate may peak at 6% next year. And I’m here to say, this change will be permanent.  American’s will be a tougher sell moving forward.

So what’s the answer? Innovate products and features that drive against real problems.

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