Traction channel: Unconventional Public relations (PR)

unconventional PR

This blog article is based on the 3 Things This Week’s edition dated 17th May 2018. The theme of this edition is “Unconventional Public relations (PR)”, one of the interesting channels for startups!


Companies rarely use unconventional PR as their core channel, but when done well, it can yield amazing results. There are two types of unconventional PR: Publicity stunts and Customer appreciation. Unconventional PR is mainly used to build a strong, positive brand image, while publicity stunts are events or actions that are designed to get people talking.

There are many success cases:

  • com temporarily renamed a small town in the U.S. to their company name and earned publicity for creating jobs there.
  • WePay pulled a stunt to criticize PayPal for freezing user accounts. It placed a huge block of ice at the entrance of PayPal’s developer conference, converting disgruntled PayPal customers into fans of the daring startup.
  • Hipmunk sent custom-made luggage tags and a personal note to the first several hundred people who mentioned the brand on Twitter. Since the luggage tags were well-designed, many people used them when traveling and shared the brand on social media.
  • In its earlier days, reddit sent free t-shirts and personal emails to contributors.
  • com has sent candy, baked goods, Starbucks gift cards, and personal notes to say thank you to customers.
  • com held a competition called Build a Business with a cash prize for the winners.
  • Dropbox created an online scavenger hunt called Dropquest, also with prizes.

Unconventional PR can be cheap, yet yield a very high return.

Some tips to use this traction channel are: Do something big, cheap, fun, and original; do good things for your customers; and know that some stunts may fail, but that’s okay.

Here are this week’s 3 things on unconventional PR:

Thing # 1:  6 Unconventional PR campaigns and the Impact They Had 

Unusual PR campaigns are a risk to companies that attempt them. If they are successful, the buzz and positive coverage are wonderful. However, if the campaigns fail, the negative backlash is just as damaging. Some of the campaigns covered here are  – Healthy Choice, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Taco Bell. Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Nathan’s Famous, and Oprah’s Free Cars. Some went successfully while others flopped.

Thing #2:  Guerrilla Marketing Tactics – 18 Top Case Studies and Examples  

When a guerrilla marketing campaign is executed successfully, you’ll probably hear about it. They’re risqué, highly visible, and attention-grabbing.  What distinguishes guerrilla marketing from mere public stunts is cost-effectiveness.  Guerrilla marketing is utilitarian, not extravagant. It’s using existing resources – and a lot of nerve – to inspire mass participation and make a statement.  In this article read the stories of 18 case studies that show that guerrilla marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be epic and visible.  Key learnings from these case studies – keep your strategy fun, simple, and witty; physically travel to the influencers in your target communities; engage influential bloggers through mutual plugging; flatter your audience – always make them look good; make social phenomena the core of your campaign; be outrageous; dare your audience to test your services; create a viral video that is humorous and pokes fun at yourself; leverage existing communities, events and platforms;  and create controversy by challenging your competitors.

Thing #3:  Publicity stunts: a cheap trick for startups  

Publicity stunts sometimes backfire but with sufficient thought, preparation and not much investment, they can propel a startup to new heights. There are many ways that a publicity stunt can be kind to the company coffers and at the same time propel a brand to the next level.  With the right idea and execution, small can be epic. It’s always going to be tough being a start-up but you shouldn’t let your size constrain your ideas.  Here are some specific take aw ways for startups from this article – Publicity stunts succeed because they speak volumes about what the brand stands for: disrupting an industry and challenging the norm. People think that publicity stunts are done for publicity stunts’ sake but really the successful publicity stunts aren’t the ones that generate coverage; they’re the ones that generate business growth and are born from a brand identity rather than from one bold idea.  The question a start-up needs to ask itself is ‘can any other brand do this?’ If the answer is yes, don’t do it. It has to be a stunt that amplifies and magnifies what the brand does rather than what the category does.  Giving journalists something that they don’t have to research or analyze, but that still provides them with content, can work for both them and the startup.


I would be happy to know how you have used this traction channel for your business and if you have some lessons to share with fellow entrepreneurs.


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