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top 2017 PR stunts, best 2017 publicity stunts, fearless girl

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Public relations teams work hard to win media mentions and goodwill. PR campaigns typically require many hours and days of crafting articles, contacting journalists, and monitoring the media. On the other hand, a creative, attention-grabbing PR stunt can obtain enormous amounts of publicity in short order.

The stunts often involve giving away large numbers of free products, running a contest, or setting some sort of world record that involves the company’s product or service. These are some of the most successful publicity stunts of 2017. PR pros can learn from these three outstanding examples.

Fearless Girl

PR and marketing agency McCann partnered with asset management firm State Street Global Advisers to place a bronze statue of a young girl defiantly staring down Wall Street’s charging bull statue. The agency and its client built the statue for International Women’s Day, hoping to pressure companies that State Street invests in to add more women to their boards and to promote State Street’s SHE fund, which invests in companies with women in top executive roles.

The Fearless Girl statue was dropped on Wall Street in the middle of the night and became famous within 24 hours. The campaign went viral on social media with the hashtag #FearlessGirl and received global media coverage. Tourists, celebrities and politicians have their photos taken with the fearless girl. State Street estimated the campaign generated between $27 million and $38 million in exposure, according to The Wall Street Journal.

On the flip side, 300 women and 15 black employees alleged State Street Corp., the advisory firm’s parent company, paid them less than their white and male peers. State Street paid $5 million to settle the lawsuit but denied wrongdoing.

The lesson: Before starting a PR campaign involving a social issue, make sure that your organization cannot be accused of improprieties or hypocrisy.

Bullying Jr.

Burger King promoted an anti-bullying message in its Bullying Jr. campaign. Thirty percent of school kids worldwide are bullied each year and bullying is the #1 act of violence against young people in America today, Burger King says, citing nobully.org.

The social experiment sought to show how people often refuse to stand up to bullying. Burger King tested its customers to find if they would defend a high school student being bullied or if they would defend a “bullied” (smashed) Whopper Jr. burger. In the test, adolescents bullied another boy in a Burger King. Customers didn’t’ know the youths were actors. Meanwhile, a restaurant employee smashed, or bullied, burgers before serving them to customers.

Almost all customers reported their “bullied” burgers to restaurant staff. “Did you order a bullied burger or a non-bullied burger?” an employee asks.

Only 12 percent defended the high school student. In a heart-lifting moment, the video concludes with customers who helped the student.

Wendy’s and the Nugget Boy

Wendy’s reaped a PR windfall from an unplanned PR stunt. Carter Wilkerson, a 16-year-old high school tweeted: “Yo @Wendy’s how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Wendy’s replied: “18 million,” probably jokingly.

His plea went viral with the hashtag #nuggsforcarter. As retweet numbers skyrocketed, Wendy’s offered to donate $100,000 to The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, begun by and named for the chain’s founder, if Wilkerson set a new retweet record. He did. He surpassed 3.4 million retweets to beat the previous record held by TV host Ellen DeGeneres. Major media outlets, including DeGeneres, covered the teen’s tweeting trials and ultimate triumph. Wendy’s granted the nuggets request even though the teen didn’t pass the 18 million mark. Lesson #1: Be prepared to capitalize on PR opportunities.

The episode shows the value of monitoring social media and responding to customers. While the teen astutely included the Wendy’s handle in his tweet, many customers cite companies by name without social media handles. Some even spell the names wrong. Lesson #2: It’s advisable to monitor misspellings of corporate and brand names.

Bottom Line: These public relations stunts can offer inspiration to PR and marketing professionals. PR players can get ideas for their own campaigns and learn lessons from the successful PR stunts.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.