The PR bargain bin

Advertising is dead. A decent marketing drive costs the same as a three-bed semi in Carshalton. But although good PR is hard to come by, a carefully constructed campaign can cost nothing and deliver the world on a plate.
Read on for our five tips from businesses that gave their brand a leg up for next to nowt:
Be there at the beginning
There is no more valuable PR than starting something that is genuinely new. People who generate demand for fresh products and services generally make waves - especially if there is nothing else like it in the market.
Famous examples include Bill Gates and the Windows operating system, Ingvar Kaprad and Ikea as well as Sam Walton's US retail sensation Walmart. But there are plenty of 'lesser' examples that have nevertheless attained significant PR traction.
Take Alex Tew, whose novel idea for an online advertising vehicle earned him more than $1m in sales almost overnight. The simple concept saw companies buying pixel blocks on a static web page for 10 bucks a pop.
The more exposure the idea received the more people wanted a piece of the action; so much so that Tew was able to sell his final piece of milliondollarhomepage.com for a whopping $38,100, just as the site temporarily became one of the most popular websites in the world.
Apprentice entrepreneur Syed Ahmed got a TV series out of his idea for an all-over-body drying device - as the series progressed the idea turned into a lowly hand-dryer, but the outlandishness and originality of the original idea won him the telly exposure.
Then there's Fraser Doherty, who created a range of never-before-seen 'Super Jams' using fruits with antioxidant qualities and sweetened the products with grape juice instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Helped on, media-wise, by the fact he was a teenager when he started the business, Doherty achieved national coverage and today his product is on sale in a host of major UK supermarkets. His latest product is a jam cook book - clearly the sky is the limit.
Free PR rating: Nice exposure if you can get it, but coming up with something new could have you scratching your head for years on end.
Be 'orrible
The Daily Mail is famous for being nasty, but just occasionally it outdoes itself and gets loads of valuable PR as a result. When you live off the public's darker emotions, being controversial can be a bonus.
Just ask Jan Moir, who tempted the wrath of readers by criticising Boyzone singer Stephen Gately immediately after his death, implying he brought it on himself (because he was :gasp: gay and a pop star).
Of course, Moir has her soap box to screech from (rightly or wrongly) but start-up businesses that don't make money from venting spleen can benefit too.
Look what happened not six months later when an anonymous author wrote to the newspaper complaining about the 'excessive' World Cup coverage on TV.
Accusing schedulers of showing too many games, our shadowy scribbler suggested cutting ones featuring 'Bongo Bongo Land' - a not very subtle reference given this was the first time the tournament was hosted by an African nation.
Both events caused a storm on social networks as 'Jan Moir', 'Daily Mail' and 'Bongo Bongo' became unlikely trending topics on Twitter. Meanwhile, the angry mob that flooded the Mail Online unknowingly became the site's biggest revenue generators that day - not to mention boosting the 'reputation' of Moir herself.
And before you complain that 'nasty doesn't sell', reflect on the news that the Mail's website is the biggest newspaper site in the country with nearly 2.5m daily browsers and traffic up 75 per cent on last year.
Free PR rating: Explosive but hazardous; risks bringing fame without improving your reputation.
Be cheeky
One way start-ups can hit the headlines without compromising their morals is by piggy-backing established brands. 'Ambush marketing', as it's called, is hard to pull off on a low budget and assuming you don't have the bargaining skills of a police negotiator.
But some brands just avoid this step altogether and share the spotlight with their 'PR partner' without asking permission first. The technique is fast becoming a sneaky mainstay of the PR bible and has earned some brands exposure on a grand scale.
The most famous proponent of this dark art is beer brand Bavaria, who scored PR wins in consecutive World Cups despite not being a sponsor. In 2006 they decked 1,000 Dutch footie fans out in orange lederhosen emblazoned with their logo in preparation for the Netherlands vs Ivory Coast clash.
The fans were forced to remove their trousers by the authorities and the whole hoopla gained legendary status. Bavaria repeated the stunt in a 2010 tie, replacing the dowdy lederhosen with 36 girls in hot orange mini-skirts. Net result: another piece of worldwide publicity.
The moral of this story is: gatecrash and event with your brand and receive better exposure than the guys who paid millions for the privilege. Of course you could get arrested; but that will only magnify the impact of your guerrilla campaign.
Free PR rating: Not without its dangers; arrest being an obvious one, but a genuine opportunity for worldwide renown.
Be really really really loud
Being noisy is a blessing in business even if it's a curse in polite society. Your own squawking might anger people at a bus stop but for your start-up it's the most basic form of PR there is - and it's completely free. Duh.
If confidence is a prerequisite for entrepreneurs then a certain verbal swagger will help you stick in the minds of clients, partners and the media.
Take Smarta favourite Brad Burton whose rise to business stardom was accelerated by the force of his own personality. He doesn't just wear his business on his sleeve, he is his business: 4networking.biz without Brad Burton is simply inconceivable.
Other examples include multi-millionaire Flowcrete founder Dawn Gibbins, who can talk without breathing for hours on end, and garrulous Ryan Air chief executive Michael O'Leary, who is rarely out of the business pages for want of saying something outrageous.
And who could forget Ling from Ling's Cars - even her website is loud. The list goes on, and so do the businesses.
Free PR rating: A no-brainer. Shrinking violets need not apply for a career in enterprise.
Be insane
Stunts are good PR, just ask the swashbuckling Sir Richard Branson, who can thank his cavalier exploits in ballooning and space travel for his adventurous and glamorous reputation. But you needn't break the bank on a stunt to get some good PR.
Who would have heard of Fathers for Justice if they hadn't camped out on various 'roofs of note', including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, for exactly no cost?
If these shenanigans are too rich for your blood then how about this: when Alan Garrec wanted exposure for his taxi listing business, he dispensed with the normal PR routes and opted to change his name to that of his firm 118 Taxi - or 118 to his mates.
Crazy? Certainly. But it earned him column inches in the trade press and national newspapers, as well as the enduring support of his university paper and a smattering of online articles. Worth it? You decide.
Free PR rating: The risks are obvious (ranging from public ridicule to certain death) but the PR points are just as clear. It's your call, dude.Advertising is dead. A decent marketing drive costs the same as a three-bed semi - not the kind of budget at hand for most small businesses. But a carefully constructed PR campaign can cost nothing and deliver the world on a plate.
Read on for our five tips from businesses that gave their brand a leg up for next to nowt:Advertising is dead. A decent marketing drive costs the same as a three-bed semi - not the kind of budget at hand for most small businesses. But a carefully constructed PR campaign can cost nothing and deliver the world on a plate.

Advertising is dead. A decent marketing drive costs the same as a three-bed semi - not the kind of budget at hand for most small businesses. But a carefully constructed PR campaign can cost nothing and deliver the world on a plate.

Read on for our five tips from businesses that gave their brand a leg up for next to nowt:

1. The art of telling stories

There is no more valuable PR than starting something that is genuinely new. Disruptive or innovative products and services generate interest by the themselves and you'll immediately have a story to tell.

Think big for famous examples. Bill Gates and the Windows operating system; Ingvar Kaprad and Ikea; Sam Walton's US retail sensation Walmart.

But there are plenty of 'lesser' examples that have nevertheless attained significant PR traction from being the first to market - or the first to tell the story, effectively.

Take Alex Tew, whose novel idea for an online advertising vehicle earned him more than $1m in sales almost overnight. The simple concept saw companies buying pixel blocks on a static web page for 10 bucks a pop.

The more exposure the idea received the more people wanted a piece of the action; so much so that Tew was able to sell his final piece of milliondollarhomepage.com for a whopping $38,100, just as the site became one of the most popular websites in the world.

Apprentice entrepreneur Syed Ahmed got a TV series out of his idea for an all-over-body drying device - as the series progressed the idea turned into a lowly hand-dryer, but the outlandishness and originality of the original idea won him the telly exposure.

Then there's Fraser Doherty, who created a range of never-before-seen 'Super Jams' using fruits with antioxidant qualities and sweetened the products with grape juice instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Helped on by the fact he was a teenager when he started the business, Doherty was a natural PR story and achieved national coverage and today his product is on sale in a host of major UK supermarkets. His latest product is a jam cook book - clearly the sky is the limit.

Free PR rating: Nice exposure if you can get it, but coming up with something new could have you scratching your head for years on end. That said, every business has a story. Know yours then start telling it.

2. Ambush marketing

One way to hit the headlines is by piggy-backing established brands. 'Ambush marketing', as it's called, can be risky and hard to pull off on a low budget, but hold your nerve and execute it well and the exposure could be immense..

The most famous proponent of this dark art is beer brand Bavaria, who scored PR wins in consecutive World Cups despite without being an official sponsor.

In 2006 they decked 1,000 Dutch footie fans out in orange lederhosen emblazoned with their logo in preparation for the Netherlands vs Ivory Coast clash.

The fans were forced to remove their trousers by the authorities and the whole hoopla gained legendary status. Bavaria repeated the stunt in a 2010 tie, replacing the dowdy lederhosen with 36 girls in hot orange mini-skirts. Net result: another round of truly global publicity.

Could you gatecrash an event with your brand and receive better exposure than the guys who paid millions for the privilege? Could you do it with getting arrested? (Although this will only magnify the impact of your guerrilla campaign, of course.)

Free PR rating: Not without its dangers; arrest being one and legal action being another, but an opportunity to make a genuine splash.

3. Be really really really loud

Being persistently noisy is a blessing in business even if it's a curse in polite society. Your non-stop squawking might anger people at a bus stop but for a start-up or small business it's the most basic form of PR there is - and it's completely free.

If confidence is a prerequisite for entrepreneurs then a certain verbal swagger will help you stick in the minds of clients, partners and the media.

Take Smarta favourite Brad Burton whose rise to business stardom was accelerated by the force of his own personality. He doesn't just wear his business on his sleeve, he is his business: 4networking.biz without Brad Burton is simply inconceivable.

Other examples include multi-millionaire Flowcrete founder Dawn Gibbins, who can talk without breathing for hours on end, and garrulous Ryan Air chief executive Michael O'Leary, who is rarely out of the business pages for want of saying something outrageous.

And who could forget Ling from Ling's Cars - even her website is loud. The list goes on, and so do the businesses.

Free PR rating: A no-brainer. Shrinking violets need not apply for a career in enterprise.

4. Become a stunt man (or woman)

Stunts rule when it comes to PR, just ask the swashbuckling Sir Richard Branson, who can thank his cavalier exploits in ballooning and space travel for his adventurous and glamorous reputation (conveniently and expertly applied to not-so-appealing financial services businesses).

You needn't break the bank on a stunt to get some good PR - it's all in the idea, the execution and making sure your lovely friends in the press get to hear about it.

Who would have heard of Fathers for Justice if they hadn't camped out on various 'roofs of note', including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, for exactly no cost?

If these shenanigans are too rich for your blood then how about this: when Alan Garrec wanted exposure for his taxi-listing business, he dispensed with the normal PR routes and opted to change his name to that of his firm 118 Taxi - or 118 to his mates.

Crazy? Certainly. But it earned him column inches in the trade press and national newspapers, as well as the enduring support of his university paper and a smattering of online articles. Worth it? You decide.

Free PR rating: The risks are obvious (ranging from public ridicule to certain death) but the PR points are just as clear. It's your call.

5. Be 'orrible

Courting controversy is a tried, tested and age old method for securing publicity - but you before you go down this route, be sure that for you, all publicity really does mean good publicity.

The Daily Mail arguably prompts more outrage than any other title in the national press, yet the PR generated from its most contentious articles drives its notoriety (and circulation) in one vicious circle of self-serving publicity.

When you live off the public's darker emotions, being controversial can be a bonus.

Just ask Jan Moir, who tempted the wrath of Mail readers and the wider public by criticising Boyzone singer Stephen Gately immediately after his death, implying he brought his 'unnatural' fate upon himself (because he was *gasp* gay and a pop star).

Of course, Moir has her soap box to screech from (rightly or wrongly) but start-up businesses that don't make money from venting spleen can benefit too.

Look what happened not six months later when an anonymous author wrote to the newspaper complaining about the 'excessive' World Cup coverage on TV.

Accusing schedulers of showing too many games, our shadowy scribbler suggested cutting ones featuring 'Bongo Bongo Land' - a not very subtle reference given this was the first time the tournament was hosted by an African nation.

Both events caused a storm on social networks as 'Jan Moir', 'Daily Mail' and 'Bongo Bongo' became unlikely trending topics on Twitter. Meanwhile, the angry mob that flooded the Mail Online unknowingly became the site's biggest revenue generators that day - not to mention boosting the 'reputation' of Moir herself.

And before you complain that 'nasty doesn't sell', 'reputation is everything' and opening yourself up to such ridicule would be commercial suicide, reflect on the news that the Mail's website is the biggest newspaper site in the country with nearly 2.5m daily browsers and traffic up 75 per cent on last year.

Free PR rating: Explosive but highly hazardous; risks bringing fame without improving your reputation.

Now Smarta isn't suggesting for one minute that you mirror the extreme examples detailed in this article, but you should think long and hard before signing that next advertising deal: with the money you're handing over how else could you make a splash?

Written by Dan Matthews. Dan is the author of The New Rules of Business.

 

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