3 of the most iconic PR stunts of all time

A few people realise that PR practitioners are the invisible puppet masters pulling the strings behind every element of media you see today.

Of course, you’ll not be able to recount the 1,000s of campaigns you’re exposed to each week, but there are campaigns that tend to leave a lasting impression on your memory, without even realising that they are the result of a carefully crafted engineered process by the PR practitioner.

In recent years the internet has transformed how we interpret and receive messages, this has in turn meant that PR stunts have become quite transparent. Seemingly the truly iconic PR stunts of all time took place 50+ years ago!

Let’s talk about this iconic image:

Marilyn Monroe "Seven Year Itch", 1955
Marilyn Monroe “Seven Year Itch”, 1955

To some it would seem Ms. Monroe was the victim of a poorly timed subway train causing her skirt to billow, giving photographers ammunition to capture the most iconic image ever.

At the time, Marilyn was attending a photo call to promote her movie ‘The Seven Year Itch’. Just as photographers began to assemble, a wind machine hidden under the steel grate was activated, the result of a carefully orchestrated stunt by the movie publicists who were responsible for not only an iconic image for the movie but it’s the image which people remember when they think of the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

Of course stunts don’t have to simply increase a celebrity profile, they are often done for the greater good.

During the 1920’s the intensity for equality for women after the war heightened, after all the notions of traditional gender roles was contradicted when women proved they could do the same work as men, and do it better.

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The symbol of women’s liberation came from an unlikely source, cigarettes. At the time the social stigma attached to women smoking was rife. By no means was George Washington Hill concerned with the liberty of women’s rights, however he was hungry for success. He drafted in PR’s founding father, Edward Bernay, to help with his endeavour.

On March 31st, 1929, during the Easter parade, led by Bertha Hunt (Bernay’s secretary), who lit up a lucky strike cigarette on fifth avenue, other women soon followed. Combined with the papers reporting enthusiastically of the event, branding cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom,’ seen Bernay’s replaced the social stigma surrounding cigarettes and repositioned them to a symbol of freedom.

Moving on to more modern times, the Queensland Tourism campaign was dubbed one of the most successful tourism campaigns ever.  In 2009, the tourism board began their search for applicants to fill the ‘Best Job in the World’ role. The primary objectives for the campaign was to generate global awareness of the Great Barrier ReeAS3f in Queensland and to increase visitation to the Great Barrier Reef. With the intention to appeal to youthful travelers who wanted to seek a global travel experience.

Approximately there were 35,000 applicants spanning over 200 different countries who applied for the job with nearly AU$ 430 million public relations value generated.

An editor from the UK’s Sunday Times stated, “Not since Willy Wonka and the golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars, has something came along like this.”

The outcomes of the job advert seen global news coverage, listed 8th place on the world’s top 50 PR stunts of all time, a huge rise in visitors to Queensland and won huge awards. The successful applicant, Ben Southall from the UK was appointed caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef in 2009. During the role he was interviewed more than 450 times, visited 100 Queensland destinations and blogged throughout the entire trip, check it out by clicking the link below.

http://bensouthall.com/blog/

PR stunts are fantastic ways to get essentially ‘free’ media coverage for a brand. If a stunt is done well, the coverage is usually instant as these days people are always photographing and videoing, however, this is only on the basis that the stunt is interesting enough people feel it’s worth sharing. Carefully crafting a PR stunt and generating publicity for something which grabs the public’s attention is difficult, but the long lasting effect it has on a brand could be the key to the business’s life span and success.

Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a