Nothing gets PR professionals more excited than planning a PR stunt to promote a client. PR stunts that get media attention are a balancing act of creativity, news savvy and brand messaging that when done well, can garner incredible positive attention and are the pride pride of publicists.
The launch of Star Trek’s beloved star William Shatner into outer space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space ship on October 13, 2021 is an example of a well-executed publicity stunt. Why? It had all the elements necessary for PR success:
- Celebrity Involvement – the choice of William Shatner could not have been better aligned with the space mission. Consumers worldwide identify Shatner as a space traveler who has “boldly gone where no-one has gone before,” a public persona that Jeff Bezos is spending millions to create for himself.
- Public Interest – At 90 years old, Shatner (who for multi-generational Star Trek fans is frozen in time in his 30’s) pulls on everyone’s heartstrings – and drew hopeful suspense about his ability to complete the mission. His enthusiastic comments before and after the flight were nothing short of PR gold.
- Brand Messaging – Aligning Blue Origin with Star Trek was genius for Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin and Amazon. It not only catapulted a second Blue Origin mission from “here we go again” to OMG, but also conveyed every key messaging point for these corporate entities, without even having to say a word.
The danger of PR stunts is that they are risky. In this case, the risk was physical harm to a global icon, which happily did not occur. However, there are other less subtle risks inherent in devising a PR stunt, such as:
- Choosing a controversial celebrity
- Alienating the company’s consumer base by being political or in any way disrespecting the brand’s audience
- Garnering news attention that does not reflect – or can be construed as contrary – to what the brand intends to convey.
Experienced public relations professionals know how to avoid these landmines and create PR stunts that convey brand messaging and make news. On behalf of the PR industry, thanks to Captain Kirk for blasting off a perfect PR stunt.