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.

Targeting Attention: Marketing in 2019

Colorful dart board with bullseye.

The Evolution of Targeting Blogs: 

Do you remember Digg? Think early Reddit. For me, the casual dial-up internet user, one of the early ways to discover interesting content on the internet.        You could “digg” an article and the more diggs, the more exposure on the site.

Digital Marketing
Testing Digital Marketing

What does a defunct discovery site have to do with marketing in the crowded fight for attention online? A lot. 

Targeting Attention

Today, there are thousands of companies with social software features plugged into algorithms with the same goal: surface popular content. Upvote, like, subscribe, support, heart: actions a user can take to increase the visibility of a specific voice, product, idea, video, image or a tweet that contains all of these things. 

As a growing company, you’ve hopefully reached product market fit (you have happy customers and you want a lot more like them). It’s time to grow. The traction channel we’re talking about today is targeting blogs. Since Traction was originally published in 2014, our team here huddled and modified the traction channel to speak more to 2019: targeting attention.

So what does this traction channel look like on the ground floor? The visual I used at our daily-standup when we talked about targeting attention, was the visual of a dimly lit room and a marketer huddled over a computer deep in a rabbit hole of comment sections on popular blogs. And while that image is bleak, there’s no way around hustle and grit when it comes to this traction channel. It takes effort. Finding, targeting, and thoughtfully engaging with the people behind the websites, handles, and sources of information your customers are paying attention to takes work.

Working Hard

Finding Fit:

There are 19 traction channels for a reason. And there’s a bullseye method for a reason. With time being your greatest resource, you can’t test all 19 traction channels at once and you can’t execute on all cylinders in all 19 traction channels. Some will drive growth and other won’t. We love the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. The same is true of Targeting blogs. In fact, it might be closer to 95/5. 95 percent of your traffic will come from 5 percent of the blogs you target. Let’s quickly review a couple key places to find those targets with the help of our Digital Marketing expert, Kassi!


Our Digital Marketing Manager, Shawn, went to MozCon (an SEO specific conference held in Seattle, WA) and they had a rule: don’t be human spam.

Human Spam

Don’t show up to the conference and spend the whole time peddling your software or services. Don’t join a conversation just to wait your turn to speak. Contribute! This can look different by channel:

  • Guest blogging
  • Influencer Outreach
  • Be a guest on a podcast
  • Comment and contribute to industry discussions
  • Start a group or join an online community.

“Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers.”

– Voltaire

It’s 2019, Voltaire, how about we change that quote to judge all people, not just men! Regardless, the quote applies to targeting blogs, influencers and attention. Ask questions, be genuinely curious and listen. Here’s a case study that we’ve executed internally for our software product: GeoFli.

Traction Tactic: LinkedIn Admin

When GeoFli launched in 2016, we were specifically targeting users in the higher education vertical. 

LinkedIn Marketing Tactics

Identify Customer Persona:

Identify the customer persona you’re targeting. Marketing 101: who is your customer. Not just male, age 34, median income. I’m talking about “Meet Ted. He’s got the newest iphone and it cost him 50% of his monthly paycheck. He prioritizes technology and lives in a downtown apartment so he doesn’t need a car. He’s taking a trip to rock-climb this weekend with some friends. Now that’s a persona!

Where are Personas Spending Time?

Where is Ted Spending his time online? How does Ted make purchasing decisions? What are red flags or objections you’ll need to overcome to move Ted closer to consideration?

Here’s what it looks like when we approached our LinkedIn Attention Targeting Strategy:

Step One: Identify a persona.

 At GeoFli, we built out many personas. Since this strategy was focused specifically in higher education, we built one specific to that initiative. Early adopters and entrepreneurial types exist in higher-ed staff, and it’s a pretty close-knit community because in a world of red-tape, it can get frustrating to try and move fast. Our persona was based on a couple of our earliest customers, specifically the ones that love our product and love working with us.

Sara is working in university communications and is five years out of school with a marketing degree. She’s analytical, though isn’t the one managing the website and gets frustrated by the approval processes required to tweak minor marketing-focused language. She’s interested in improving conversion rates on her website. She’s got a dog, chooses experiences over belongings and shares an apartment with her friend that works at the local coffee shop. 

She’s a decision maker, but can only make decisions that are less than $2,500. 

Step Two: Identify Where Your Persona is Spending Time

Vertical: Higher Education

Attention: Where are Higher Education professionals (specifically early adopters in the enrollment marketing space) spending their time? We chose LinkedIn but not just as a channel to target (organic social) but instead, we chose LinkedIn Groups.

Step Three: Make a Plan

I joined a lot of LinkedIn Groups to monitor (not be human spam) and see what people were talking about. Were there questions being asked I could help answer? Was there value I could provide? It quickly became clear that most of these groups had been overrun by sales-development-reps with a social-media-scheduling software screaming into the internet. To say it was noisy, thirsty and crowded would be an understatement. 

What could I do? Become an admin! I emailed (at least four times) the admins of one specific page (with over 25,000 members) and listed some ideas to improve the group. Primarily blocking people that weren’t contributing useful content. 

After numerous efforts, they accepted! I was in as an admin and was able to clean up the Group quickly. I could pin articles to the top of the group, accept or decline requests to join and send out monthly messages to all 25,000 members. It was a big windfall for our marketing efforts. 

Step Four: Measure What Matters

You’ve heard it from us before: don’t celebrate publishing, don’t celebrate impressions and measure what matters (we’re kind of downers in that way). We’re here again to remind you that insanity is not doing the same thing over and over again, it’s doing the same thing over and over again and now knowing the results. 

We like to use the simple Google Analytics screen: Referral. This tells us from a helicopter view which pages are driving traffic. More importantly, if we’ve set up Google Goals, this screen will tell us which pages are actually driving real results. 

Here’s a quick look at a referral screen. You can see what sites are driving traffic. What we’re not seeing here is the ecommerce conversion rates by channel and the pages-per-session by channel. 

Google Analytics Referral

Targeting attention can be used for any business in any vertical of any size. Understand your customer persona, decide how to find the right person and channel for your targeting, come up with a launch strategy, make sure you have access to Google Analytics and you’re ready to start testing!

Want to learn more about targeting attention? Be sure to check out our podcast episode on this topic!