If you can create and launch a successful PR stunt, you can easily get tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of free publicity. A half page ad on the front of your local newspaper might cost $5,000, but with a good PR stunt, you can get on for free.

What does a great publicity stunt entail?

==> It Makes Heads Turn

Your publicity stunt should be so unusual that someone who sees a picture of it or reads a teaser in a headline will instantly turn their heads.

Remember that a newspaper’s goal is to sell papers. For them to put a story on their front page, they first need to know that the story will turn heads. Make sure your story has true attention-catching potential.

==> Gets People Talking

If people are talking about it, the newspapers will cover it.

When Virgin launched their line of brides’ dresses, Richard Branson wore one of them publically as a stunt. This got people talking and the stunt quickly picked up a lot of publicity.

With social media today, this is even more important. Do things that’ll get people sharing on social media.

==> Related to Your Company, But Not an Advertisement

Your publicity stunt should be related to your company, but your company can’t be the main event. The unusual thing or the stunt itself has to be the main event, while your company is just the sideline.

When Pillsbury first did their “Pillsbury Bake-Off” event in 1949, it was designed as a publicity stunt. People from all over the world submitted recipes and it got a ton of coverage.

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This definitely helped sell Pillsbury products. However, the Pillsbury brand was just the sideline. The bake-off was the main event.

==> Go Where the Press Are

If you’re a small company, it can be hard to get the attention of the press, even with a great campaign. So what can you do? You can go where the press are.

For example, when RunKeeper’s founder Jason Jacobs wanted to promote his iPhone app, he asked himself what he could do that would get press attention?

At the end of the day, he dressed up as a giant iPhone with his app on the front and ran the Boston Marathon. The press loved it and gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of free coverage.

If you don’t have the contacts or the leverage to create a press conference yet, then leverage events and topics where the press are already at.

PR stunts require creativity and often also require a ton of effort to pull off. However, the resulting free publicity is often much more effective than spending money on advertising.