Five Unconventional PR Campaigns and Why They Worked

Upside down Mcdonalds sign.

We can all name a company who has pulled off a crazy stunt or unique campaign. But do we know why some are easier to remember than others? Here at Pintler Group we are diving in to find out why some of these ideas stick and some are forgotten. Public relations (PR) is the act of creating and maintaining a favorable public image. Unconventional PR is simply maintaining this image by using unexpected and abnormal methods. It can surface in many ways including publicity stunts, viral videos and customer appreciation. Here are five successful unconventional PR campaigns and why they worked for the brand who pulled them off. 


#1: Banksy’s Self Destructing Painting 

On October 5, 2018, many wealthy, art enthusiasts gathered at a Sotheby’s auction where one of the pieces for sale was a painting done by the mysterious artist, Banksy. Right as the hammer fell to indicate the sale of his piece, the painting titled “Girl with Balloon” began to self destruct by shredding. 

Typically, we think of PR as a way for businesses to maintain a positive image. But brands and individuals such as Banksy use it as well. This stunt was successful because not only did it draw attention to Banksy’s art from all over the world, but it also addressed a social problem that the artist found to be important – the obsession we have to apply a monetary value to art.

Watch the video below and try to not let your heart break a little bit as the $1.4 million painting is shredded. This stunt sure has shock value. It also makes each viewer reconsider their values which is a powerful and memorable thing to do as a brand.

The painting is now estimated to be worth $2 million now. So we can say with confidence that this stunt did a great job of increasing the value of Banksy’s art. 



#2: McDonald’s Golden Arches

To celebrate International Women’s Day, McDonald’s flipped their famous golden arches upside down to showcase a “W.” 

There were some people that didn’t like it, which is a risk of unconventional PR. But many did like it and McDonald’s did a great job understanding the political climate of the time and making a move that would resonate with many of their customers. This simple flip caught the attention of many people around the country and gained a positive image from many. 



#3: Frito-Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Competition

One way to use customer appreciation in unconventional PR is hosting a contest for people interacting with their brand. The Do Us a Flavor competition by Frito-Lay is a great example of this. First, Frito-Lay calls for flavor ideas from the general public. Next, they select the top ones and have them created. Then shoppers can buy the new flavors and vote on which one should stay. 

This is a successful campaign because not only does it get customers involved in product creation, but it encourages people to purchase and try all of the new flavors. Unique flavors that were dreamt up by every-day-people and made a reality are very popular to other every-day-people. This competition increases brand awareness, customer loyalty and, of course, sales.



#4: Volvo Epic Split Video

A very popular and well known viral video example of unconventional PR is the video of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two moving trucks (watch below).

With over 92 million views, there is no doubt that this unconventional PR attempt was effective in gaining attention. The point of the video was to showcase the stability of their steering system. But beautiful imagery and a very unexpected and extremely difficult stunt captivated audiences and made the video viral.



#5: Dollar Shave Club Blades Video

Another great example of an unconventional PR viral video is’s “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.”

With over 26 million views this video is successful because the content is very funny and entertaining yet it very clearly addresses the value proposition of their business and introduces the viewer to the exact problems their product solves. Try not to laugh when you watch the video below. 



To learn more about unconventional PR check out this video and be sure to follow our channel on YouTube!



Visit our blog and listen to our podcast for more information on the 19 Traction Channels. 

5 Steps for Modernizing Press Releases

Stack of newspapers.

In a time where technology allows for instant access to content, journalists and bloggers are always looking for a new story. For many years, press releases were a solid channel for sharing company news and receiving free publicity. Nowadays, the chances of small businesses gaining coverage through press releases are dwindling. According to a report conducted by Muck Rack and Zeno Group in 2018, approximately 53% of journalists surveyed in the United States don’t look to use press releases as new story topics. However, just because the reported numbers are down doesn’t mean your business should nix the channel of press releases completely. The way we look at it, these numbers tell us that journalists are bored and that there is an opportunity to revolutionize the tired, traditional process of writing press releases. 

So how can your business capitalize on this opportunity? Mix in the new with the old.

Step 1. Establish the goal of the press release.

Press releases need to be drafted with a goal in mind. What news are you trying to spread? Are you actually sharing something newsworthy or are you writing just for the sake of writing? Take the time to plan out what you want the press release to achieve and then determine whether it makes sense to push it to media outlets or if should it only live on social media or your website.

Step 2. Write with your audience in mind and provide value.

Targeting the right audience can make or break your marketing efforts, and press releases are no exception Keep your audience in mind when writing. Consider their language, the value they will receive from your business – or highlight it if they are not aware of it! – and make it known that your business cares. To take targeting one step further, segment press releases based on your audiences when considering what media outlets or platforms to share with. Writing a press release for the launch of new tech? Push to technology-focused bloggers and post on LinkedIn targeting users you know would benefit from your services.

Step 3. Tell a story.

Out with the bland, in with the storytelling. While there will be some releases that need to be “just the facts”, take the time to get a little creative with your writing. Think of how social media is used to share the news but in an engaging manner and try replicating a similar narrative for the release. Readers will retain the message – and your brand – better when they can associate a feeling with the content.

Step 4. Include infographics or media assets.

It’s no surprise that attention spans are changing in the age of technology. According to Wyzowl’s descriptive infographic, the attention span of an average person lasts about 8 seconds. When it comes to information, humans are gravitating more toward descriptive visualizations in a clean-looking format or watching short videos. To mix in new with the old, consider infographics or adding media assets to the press release. Capture the focus of the readers and entice them to continue by offering more than just black and white text. 

Step 5. Maximize your efforts.

Don’t be disheartened if the media does not pick up your press release. It will happen. We all can empathize seeing our efforts not live up to our expectations. However, take advantage of this channel and incorporate SEO and keywords into press releases. Just because the media didn’t run with your release doesn’t mean you can’t still drive awareness of your brand. Align these methods with the goal and audience of the press release and strive to push traffic to your brand. Two birds, one stone.

Bonus Step. Build relationships with media. 

Pitching press releases can be rough. Try to make meaningful connections with the journalists and bloggers you want to reach. Nothing frustrates a journalist more than receiving bland pitches of equally boring content. Check out this Twitter account for real-life examples to avoid. Be thoughtful with the narrative of your pitches, but keep them short and simple. Avoid gimmicky subject lines and keep it respectful. Make the effort to meet journalists in your community.

For more insights on getting the most out of publicity, check out our podcast about press release strategies and this video about publicity in the digital world.