Friday, September 2, 2011

    My PR stunt that never was

    Three weeks prior to launch, I was at the office discussing what we should do for our launch.  Our PR consultant upon checking into our office on foursquare discovered that we were located right next to tech publications GigaOM, Wired and CNET.  That's when she suggested we hang a giant banner announcing our launch outside the office to catch the attention of passing journalists.  The idea was good, but it just did not have enough pizazz for me.  Instead, I suggested that we buy pizza, put our logo on the box as well as a message inside along the lines of “Wasn’t eating lunch together fun? Now do it more often at We launch today!” The proverbial icing to this idea would be that us to delivering the pizzas in person so that we could pitch directly to the journalists.

    It was an idea that was inspired by the story of how the AirBnB founders sold rebranded generic cheerios as Obama O’s at the Democratic National Convention in order to keep their company running.  My PR stunt idea resonated with the founder Hugh and I began to flesh out the idea more. 

    First order of business was to figure out how to brand the pizza boxes.  I played with the idea of printing custom boxes but that was quickly shelved when I discovered the costs.  Instead, I settled on just printing stickers which were cheap and had a quick turnaround time.  If the pizzeria did not have blank boxes, I figured I could get them at Costco and if that did not work out I could put the sticker over the pizzeria logo. Finding the pizzeria was the easy part with the help of Yelp.   

    Our PR consultant pointed out that the publications we were targeting were mainly staffed by bloggers and freelancers who were not regularly in the office.  “No worries” I wrote her, I will just tweet them all that wanted to buy them lunch this coming Wednesday.  So I built up Twitter lists of TC, CNET, Wired and GigaOM writers with the intention of tweeting them all to get them to be in the office on launch day. 
    The whole project was going to by estimates cost around $1000 with 40 giant 18” pizzas going out to 4 offices.  A small price to pay for the potential to be in publications that combined reached well over a million people.  In my mind, I reasoned that doing this stunt gave the journalists two possibilities for writing about, the fact that they would find the service innovative or conversely the stunt innovative enough to write about.  Either way I would get noticed.     

    As the pieces of the stunt started falling into place, the only thing I worried about was how to get past security.  Scenarios of me finessing my way past the security guard and pitching to an office full of bloggers swam around in my mind up to the day before launch. 

    Alas, in the end we got contacts in the publications so a last minute PR blitz was not necessary to get coverage for our launch.  My grand idea was shelved the day before launch and all the prepartion was for naught.  However, it makes one hell of a blog post.