There was a letter in The New York Times yesterday by Howard J. Rubenstein about a PR specialty that we haven’t touched on: stunts. It’s especially timely during this summer of the chilling Ice Bucket Challenge, which, indeed, seems to be what prompted Mr. Rubenstein, who’s been in PR for 60 years, to write his letter.
“A great stunt,” Mr. Rubenstein noted, “has the power to penetrate. In fact through social media, stunts have greater velocity and the ability to demand more attention than ever” – like the ALS Challenge to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“Some memorable ones,” he recalled, “include calling attention to high taxes in New York City by putting in front of City Hall a rubber alligator (‘the city is taking a bite out of taxpayers’) and a man dressed in nothing but a barrel with suspenders (‘after taxes, the taxpayers are left with nothing’); and sheep, herded down Broadway, to promote wool producers."
As Mr. Rubenstein noted, a great stunt truly has the power to penetrate. The ALS Association announced yesterday it has received an astounding $22.9 million in donations during the period of the Ice Bucket Challenge (July 29 to August 19) compared to $1.9 million during the same time last year. The donations came from existing donors and, amazingly, 453,210 new ones, an “unprecedented” gain.
Now, stunts can wear out their novelty. So don’t don’t rush to dream up a new one until after the “Challenge” has run its benevolent course. But do include recollection of its tactical power in your PR archives. And be mindful, also, of the ALS Association’s appreciative resolve in the face of its icy bonanza: “We want to be the best stewards of this incredible influx of support,” said Barbara Newhouse, the association's President and CEO, “To do that, we need to be strategic in our decision-making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in ten and twenty years, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS.”
Indeed, may that prove to be the case.
(In the photo, the Today Show's Matt Lauer takes the Ice Bucket Challenge in response to a challenge from Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman.)