Unconventional Content: PR Stunts for SEO

 

Why would a stunt work for SEO?

SEO is ever evolving, and here at Distilled, we have been looking at more interesting and unusual types of creative to generate brand awareness.

We are growing our creative outputs as the Google Gods get ever more powerful and all-seeing. One of the ways we’ve done this is with PR stunts. A stunt is a great way to involve your target audiences, create a dialogue, increase social engagement and, contribute to your branded search volume. Larger companies with decent audiences on social will benefit best from this type of play.

What was our idea?

This post is about the whys and hows of a stunt we created for Interflora (the UK’s largest flower delivery network) for World Kindness Day. We asked members of the general public to pass on a rose to a stranger, all in the name of kindness. The client's goals were:

Goals

  • Organic performance (through brand awareness and links)
  • Brand awareness

Primary KPI’s

  • Social impressions
  • Page views

Secondary KPI’s

  • Editorial links from top-tier publications

How do I create a stunt that works for my brand?

Your stunt will need to have a product or brand message tie-in, or both.

Fortunately for us, we were able to give away flowers during the stunt - if your product is cars or yachts, you might have to think up a different approach. Your stunt doesn’t have to feature your product, but it must feature your brand message/ethos in some way, whatever that might be e.g.:

  • Green living, clear conscience
  • Fast broadband, spend time on the things that matter
  • Reaching your personal best is all you need

How did our idea tie in with Interflora's brand message?

Flowers are all about reactions. Flowers are given to make another feel happy, loved, or even reflective. Instead of spreading happiness just to those close to us, we decided to widen the net, and show how a gesture of kindness to a stranger could make someone feel better. London can sometimes feel like a cold unfeeling city, everyone is in a rush and often people are sceptical when approached by a stranger.

But when challenged we found this facade dropped and people were genuinely warmed by our experiment. We found this warmth and conversation continued online, into trackable and measurable KPI’s. People even went as far as to talk to us about their own small gestures of kindness.

How to find a narrative for your stunt

People need to feel a connection to the characters in your video, to empathise with their plight, to be willing them on, wishing for them to succeed (or fail, if that is more amusing). Like all great stories, you need a beginning, a middle (the reveal) and an end. To add greater depth and meaning to our narrative we interviewed a psychologist specialising in “kindness” and elements of this were interspersed throughout the video and related press releases.

Questions to ask yourself to make sure your stunt hits those KPI’s

  • What emotions are your viewers going to feel? 
    Sadness, empathy, elation, informed, moved, empowered, nostalgic?
  • What is going to spur your audience into taking action? 
    Liking, tweeting, commenting, challenging a friend, or following your brand.
  • Not always easily trackable but later on, at the bottom of the funnel, the purchase. If you can make your audience feel something, your brand will be front of mind when it comes to the crunch. We remember emotions. Stunts can even inspire action from your audience.  

But isn’t a stunt a risky thing to do?

Carrying out a stunt can seem risky, there are lots of variables and a lot of time and money invested in something that relies on the participation of the general public. Promising a client a viral video, saying ‘oh sorry the stunt didn’t work’ is never going to cut it. Don’t worry, there are things that you can put in place to ensure your project is a success.

Plan for each eventuality meticulously

Plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best. Within reason, always overcompensate, whether that is with time or the number of products you need. We had 200 roses on the day of our shoot. For the shots we used, we only needed 50, but many others were required for those shots that didn’t quite work. The roses that were left over at the end we were able to distribute to the general public during the 5 pm rush hour. These stems now made their way into the hands of loved ones houses within the commuter belt, again reinforcing the brand; so nothing lost there.

  • Plan early
    To shoot on a ‘red route’ and in the borough of The City of London, we needed to have two permits, which had a 2 week processing times. These are not costly, but early prep means you can be sure your location is free for shooting.
  • Allow lots of time to work with the general public
    Working with the general public takes time. You will need to explain to them the purpose of their participation. Often numerous takes are required, they are not actors and can not be expected to be fantastic on camera first time. After the footage has been captured get a consent form signed, so there is a paper trail, just in case any appearances are disputed at a later date.
  • Be aware of unavoidable eventualities
    During the rush hour on London Bridge people were much less likely to get involved, they were busy rushing to work. Whereas the stampede of people was great for those ‘masses of people holding yellow roses in a sea of grey shots’ it was not so great for getting people to participate in giving out a rose.

  • Plan for bad weather
    Shooting on location or outdoors has many more variables than a narrative that just requires a studio. We got a licence to shoot on two days to double our chances of a dry day. Logistically this was tough, the actors and film crew also had to be on standby for a second day of filming. Luckily the weather was in our favour.

  • Don’t stick to the script
    Plan a narrative, but be open to new ones on the day, you never know what could happen. Your camera team will need to be agile, to capture the idiosyncrasies of the general public, who will become the characters in your story. We had one man who took some time to approach someone with his rose. Watching his plight helped entertain the viewer through the full video. They were willing him to succeed, willing him to find that someone’s day to brighten.
  • Let the brand do what they know best
    Interflora was, of course, in charge of the flowers. The flowers arrived at our base at 5 am and were specially treated to ensure long-lasting freshness. The roses had been processed so that they were just the right amount of open to ensure they lasted for a good amount of time in peoples homes and looked great on camera (the real key here).
  • Be prepared for the unknowns
    When the roses arrived in buckets we were surprised at how long the stems were. The buckets looked half empty and the stems looked as if they would topple out they were so long. Action stations! Commence 5 am trimming of 200 rose stems. The roses needed to look the right height in the branded buckets on camera, and the quantity needed to make the buckets feel full.

  • Don’t let uncertainty tame your message/idea
    Don’t let unknowns scare you into choosing a tamer or all-round less interesting concept. Throughout the planning and production of your piece always go back to the message, what it is you are trying to capture/ say/ make people feel. Retaining that message is key. And remember, sometimes the bigger the risk, the greater the payoff.

How can timing affect the launch of your stunt?

Recently we made a piece to push out on World Curry day, only to find when we spoke to a journalist at The Mirror that he had already been approached by 30 other content marketers with every content type and angle under the sun. Tying in with a day, especially the biggest days of the year, e.g. Christmas day or Mother’s day, just really doesn’t make you that original. It also gives you one stab at success. Danger! That said more obscure days can give some tie-in, with less competition, World Kindness day worked for us.

Fanfare: Announcing our very own Jono Alderson’s ridiculous and very comprehensive list of all the possible days you could ever dream of.

Why would people care?

Creating a stunt is a great way to drum up attention and social experiments lead audiences to wonder ‘What will happen? We’re all inherently interested and entertained by the behaviour of other people. A stunt also shows your audience that you are experimental as a brand and willing to try new things.

How successful was our stunt?

Within one week of launch, our stunt was the top viewed video on Interflora’s Facebook page receiving over 150k views. It also garnered:

  • 1.7k Likes
  • 100+ comments
  • 300+ shares
  • Coverage in The Evening Standard (DA 85), Huffington Post (DA 87), BT.com (DA 85)

Here are examples of the types of comments the piece received:

  • ‘I’ve been doing ‘Pay it forwards’ all year. It’s amazing and reminds you that even a small act of kindness can make someone’s day.’ - Laura Preston
  • ‘Giving is so much better than anything else, giving with a true heart is a blessing, watch the smiles grow.’ - Ruth Marshall

How do I maximise the content’s traction online?

Always have a ‘Tease’, ‘Launch’, and ‘Post’ strategy for your content. How will you ramp up the excitement and what will your content calendar look like surrounding the piece to get as much engagement over as long a period as possible? Ask yourself ‘What assets can I make?’ and ‘What questions can I ask the audience to keep the conversation flowing?’ We worked with a press photographer to capture high-quality photography of the day too, these assets were invaluable on both Interflora social channels and for press coverage.

Stunts don’t have to be scary or risky and, as we saw, they can really pay off. Have you created a stunt? What were the lessons you learned?

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About the author
Leonie Wharton

Leonie Wharton

Leonie is one of the longest standing members at Distilled and was here when the company was just 5 members. Her time is split evenly over client and internal work. Client work focuses on linkbait projects for our clients, working closely with the...   read more