The First Rule for Businesses in an Attention-Starved World

Written by Abby Nieten on October 22, 2012

Posted in Human Resources

This post is part of a two-post series from Jared Ewy, Community Evangelist for Jared communicates with customers on the company’s social media platforms and encourages open discussion about online presence. When he’s not bragging on behalf of, he’s playing lasers with his two sons. Fun fact about Jared? He’s been hit by lightning.

Here’s a true story: I once hitchhiked naked through Northern New Mexico. To be honest, I did wear a radio station banner, but that’s it. You see, at the time, I was under the impression that such a brazen stunt would garner the radio station for which I worked as a morning deejay some media attention. My morning show partner and I had owned the morning ratings: 32% of all women 18-34 listened to our show, but the syndicated program “Mark and Brian” had just been picked up by our competitor. If we didn’t do something awesome and crazy every day, we would be toast. So there I was, in the chill of an early New Mexico morning, doing live radio reports on a cell phone the size of a car battery (it was 1997) with the hopes that someone would find me. I was finally picked up by a family of five driving through on a family trip. Wearing nothing but a plastic sheet with our radio call letters on it, I sat in the back with their three young children. It bewildered me that people with kids would give a naked guy a ride, but what really confused me was how little attention the whole ordeal received. I don’t know how many more empty stunts I’d commit, but at least I’d finally learn the first rule of “Making Marketing Ploys and Media Events Work”.

Rule 1: Make it matter. There’s got to be a reason for people to care.

My streaking through the Land of Enchantment is actually a very good metaphor for all poorly conceived cries for attention: instead of the emperor being in the nude, it was the marketer who had no clothes.

While this was not good news for anyone driving on Highway 64 some fifteen years ago, it is very good news for you. Because when you give people a reason to care, you’re creating a win/win/win situation that benefits your company, the customer and the community. Actually, there’s even one more “win” that we can add: when media of all stripes (Talk radio to Twitter, Facebook to Five o’ Clock news) find something compelling that benefits their followers, friends, listeners and viewers, then you’re likely to get some quality attention.

With this newly gained knowledge, one of the next stunts we did was have my morning show partner live in a cardboard box until we’d gathered enough food to reach the local food bank’s goal. People cared. TV stations and newspapers clamored for the image of a man in a box and the line of people donating the food to help him get out. Now, you might say we had an advantage, as we had an entire radio station on our side. But now everyone has their own broadcasting tools at their fingertips. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and an image-hungry media horde would like to know what you’re doing and how they too can help.

With this first rule of thumb for getting quality media attention in a world of desperate stunts, stay tuned for more ways you can garner quality coverage, as well as ways has made valuable media connections. Have you ever attempted a shameless stunt (like hitchhiking nude) for publicity, only to fail miserably? Have you attempted something like this and succeeded? Let us know in the comments below!