Guerrilla marketing often aims to offend people in order to gain their attention. It’s not for every organization, but it can work. Officials at the Lung Cancer Alliance seem to have a good understanding of the concept. The group recently launched a campaign that includes posters saying things like: “The tattooed deserve to die” and “Cat lovers deserve to die.”
What the..? Hey! I love cats!
Upon visiting the group’s website, you see a countdown clock until the big reveal of a mysterious disease that doesn’t discriminate: lung cancer. The clock has been removed and replaced with:
“Many people believe that if you have lung cancer you did something to deserve it. It sounds absurd, but it’s true. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither should you. Help put an end to the stigma and the disease.”
The American Lung Association has always been the top dog when it comes raising awareness/funding for lung cancer research. But this guerilla marketing campaign really put the small Lung Cancer Alliance on the map. I had honestly never heard of the group until recently. Many angry comments posted across social media sites prompted me to check it out.
Well done. I see what you did there, Lung Cancer Alliance. You let the ticked off people do your dirty work for you. Here are some excerpts from the Lung Cancer Alliance Facebook page:
Some would argue for the end of this campaign. It’s certainly not appropriate for all issues or groups. But for a small, cash-strapped non-profit trying to raise awareness about a deadly disease, I applaud the effort.
Most media and public relations people look to the Associated Press Stylebook as the final arbiter of word usage, terms, punctuation and other rules regarding how we write our news, photo captions and the like. I always keep one inches away from my keyboard.
So when the AP provides an annual update to its stylebook, it’s a big event to those who use it daily. The 2012 edition was recently released. And, as usual, it set off at least one debate between traditional and more colloquial language advocates.
The commotion was over the acceptance of the word “hopefully” to mean “it is hoped.” Most of us use it this way on a routine basis as in “Hopefully, the next Congress will be more congenial than the current one.” Grammarians are upset since hopefully is an adverb and doesn’t modify a verb in that sentence. But English is a living language that regularly incorporates changes in use, new words and spellings on a regular basis. The AP editors just reflect our evolving culture.
A few of the other 270 changes to the stylebook that I like are the addition of fracking, modified tweets and Velcro. I know Velcro’s a brand name, but what else do you call those ubiquitous hook and loop fasteners?
In any case, if you do the external writing for your organization or employ an outside agency, make sure to stay up-to-date with the AP Stylebook. Editors expect it. And every year there are new surprises.
As a general rule, before I pick up the phone to pitch a media contact, I know their name, have researched the outlet, skimmed through recent stories the journalist has written and have an idea of why they would want to hear my pitch in the first place. This ladies and gentlemen, is the art of romancing the media.
It’s surprising how many PR professionals still operate with the old “spray and pray” method, thinking that quantity pitching rules over quality pitching.
In fact, I just read a great white paper by Cision When in Doubt that outlines the very reasons why we PR pros shouldn’t do that. The most important lesson you can learn in this industry is to research everything you possibly can about the outlet/beat of the person you’re pitching. In all honesty, those that skip this huge step really do damage to themselves and the company they represent. They also do big disservice to industry as a whole.
It just gives PR a bad name. We want the media to see us as a valuable resource, not as annoying spammers. I’m sure it would be maddening for a real estate reporter to continuously get pitched to cover the latest beauty product.
Researching the details is more time consuming, but the paybacks are better quality and even quantity coverage.
Aside from doing research before you send anything to or contact the media I have a couple of suggestions I’ve picked up from my experiences for when I pitch and follow up on the phone:
- Check out editorial calendars. These can be a gold mine. Even if they aren’t interested in covering your news now, it could be perfect for them at a later date. Follow up.
- When you call to follow up, instead of going straight to your pitch, introduce yourself and ask what they are working on. It could be in connection to what you’re pitching. Use your discretion if they sound hurried. By being natural, conversational and not just pushing your pitch, you earn their ear and respect.
- But be ready to deliver the main points of your pitch in less than 20 seconds. More often than not you will run into an editor that has no time for nonsense. Prepare for that.
Of course don’t leave out social media as another avenue for media outreach. It offers valuable insights into what journalists’ are writing about and their interests.
Above all, know that if you continue to spray and pray, it may take a few reporters giving you a piece of their minds before you never again forget to research before you reach out.