By Sambridhi Shrestha

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” – Seth Godin

As the phase speaks for itself, in today’s generation people not only buy the products and services but also seek for good relations with the brand. There is so much more than just the exchange of goods and services. In fact, in the current scenario of head-to-head competition, good relations and value exchange is very essential.

Understanding the need of good relations and value exchange, many brands have performed PR stunts to improve their relations and advertising. Some of the stunts have failed, and some have become the best PR stunts ever performed.

One of the better PR stuns happened in 2015 when Carlsberg unveiled the ‘best poster in the world’ in London’s Brick Lane in which a billboard dispensed free beer. It was an incredibly simple concept but perfectly on-brand. Unsurprisingly, the stunt generated a lot of interest on social media, with #probablythebest generating over 3 million Twitter impressions in just one day. This was one of the simplest PR stunts which created quite a buzz.

Not just in the food and beverage sector, but also in automotive, there have been exceptionally simple but effective PR activities. For instance, Jeep’s car-parking stunt put outlined parking spaces in areas normally considered to be no-parking zones to highlight the vehicle’s durability. This stunt was short-lived for only a few weeks in 2008, but it utilized the power of the internet to create free press.

These PR stunts challenge the notion that public relations activities are expensive. Even a simple idea can create a huge impact in the public eye, but we can’t deny that sometimes we need something very unique to differentiate the brand and stand out among all the others.

At times these stunts are very important to remind people of the existence of the brand because they get publicity and also create memories for the public to remember whenever they hear the brand name. It sends a positive message to the public who respond to the idea positively, but sometimes these stunts can damage the reputation of the brand.

In 2009, two of Domino’s employees posted a video on YouTube of themselves preparing food in disgusting ways. Domino’s didn’t react right away, but instead waited two days before responding to the situation. They offered an apology, but by that time it was too late. According to The New York Times, consumer perception of Domino’s brand turned negative within hours.

Not long ago, the most talked about incident became one of the worst PR failures for United Airlines, when a video depicting a customer being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight went viral. The public went into an uproar. In the video, a passenger screams as he is dragged off a plane, bloodying his face in the process. CEO Oscar Munoz addressed the situation but did not do much to quell the public’s outrage. In a statement, he wrote, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” He also called the passenger “disruptive and belligerent.” The stock rates of United Airlines dropped, and within a day, social media sites were filled with the incident details. People became skeptical towards the organization and the company is still trying to regain the public’s trust.

With strong emerging social media, it has become very important for brands to maintain their public relations because it just takes a few hours for the news to travel, and it impossible to control the news that is communicated through social media. The well-known brands must always be careful with what PR stunt they are pulling off. Pepsi faced an immense criticism when the brand launched an ad which featured supermodel Kendall Jenner at a photoshoot. As she sees a multiracial protest outside, she is moved to leave the glamour behind and head into the crowd as just another protester. There, she ends a stand-off with a police officer by handing him a can of Pepsi.

This ad was criticized for making small of world issues, and the advertisement showed some hints of racism. Pepsi had to apologize for the poor taste of the ad.

All these PR campaigns examples show it is better to be proactive than be reactive. A simple idea can make a positive impact, but one wrong PR fiasco can damage a brand in a short time period.