Is all press good press? This is one of those philosophical questions that have haunted PR professionals and business owners for ages, probably since the dawn of Western commerce. Much like "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" there is no clear-cut answer.
Except, this time there is an answer. Short of your product maiming or killing customers, (obviously not good things) press coverage should be sought after.
Let go of the idea that you need complete control over your message. Very few companies are able to maintain control and still create buzz. Apple comes to mind, but think about how much the company must spend--all the time and resources necessary to maintain such a tight-lipped atmosphere.
For most of us, it's better to throw the message out there and then let it do its work. A true virus, after all, is not something that can be controlled or instantly reined in. The same holds true for business communications.
Recently, I tossed out a viral message. "Author Threatens Nude Streak" read my press release, published on the Mass Media Distribution website. If my book didn't break onto Amazon.com's Top 100 list within three days, I vowed to streak nude through New York's Times Square.
Of course I asked for the opinions of respected colleagues before sending this release out. One PR professional raised a common concern, to paraphrase her e-mail, "Why would you subject yourself to such mockery from the press?"
My answer: Why not? A nude streak isn't the best publicity stunt for someone running for political office, but for an eccentric author who writes about viral marketing, it was perfect.
The press release was distributed to approximately 11,000 journalists all over the world.
The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. I fielded interview requests from all over the world--even as far as the top morning radio program in Australia. My release garnered two sarcastic, but still excellent, stories on CNBC's "Funny Business" column and a mention on PRNewser.
Ultimately, I didn't streak in Times Square. My editor was less than thrilled about the possibility of me getting arrested. But the stunt succeeded, regardless.
Popular blogs, including MediaBistro's AgencySpy.com, mocked the stunt. A little mockery is fine if it sells product, which it did.
In the aftermath, I asked Todd Pree at Mass Media Distribution why he thought the release had received so many interview requests--understand August is the month most media contacts are off vacationing.
"Crazy or downright bizarre press releases work extremely well," he explained. "Everyone remembers them and they create buzz...On the other hand, if you do something that has been done a thousand times, no one will notice or even care."
I asked him if that was fair to companies and individuals with a more conservative PR approach.
He responded, "This is the way the world works, it is that simple."
The necessity of creating buzz is a key point for all of us to remember when marketing ourselves or our businesses to the media. Remember, this is simply how it's done.
If you want boring and safe, if you want complete control, that's fine--but don't expect many interview requests. Don't expect any ink.
Take a risk, though, and you may be pleasantly surprised--even in the "slow" months.