6 Tips for Brand Communications on a Budget

We are facing a bleak global economic outlook due to the spread of COVID-19. For many brands, recovery will take time. However, an economic downturn is not a reason to halt all brand communications and public relations activities. There are many things that brands can do to raise their visibility with limited investment and strategic allocation of resources.

We are facing a bleak global economic outlook due to the spread of COVID-19. For many brands, recovery will take time. However, an economic downturn is not a reason to halt all brand communications and public relations activities. There are many things that brands can do to raise their visibility with limited investment and strategic allocation of resources.

Take Advantage of Free Content Platforms

If your business is not able to invest in paid advertising or promotional content, there are great platforms to share thought leadership and increase visibility with current and potential followers. Medium and LinkedIn are sites that provide an opportunity to build reach with your audience, as well as the chance for compelling content to become viral.

Find Passionate Writers Within Your Organization

It can be challenging to lean on your most senior executives to serve as subject matter experts for brand communications when these leaders are focused on keeping the business afloat. However, there are typically many other SMEs that are untapped who can be a valuable asset when you’re developing content. Ideally, these folks are looking for professional development and advancement opportunities, and you can increase their visibility in the organization and industry. In all pockets of the companies I’ve worked for, I’ve found former journalists and passionate writers. To identify these individuals, consider an internal poll or leverage LinkedIn and Twitter to see which employees are actively blogging or sharing insightful articles.

Use Social Media to Find and Engage Reporters

There are many PR tools available today that help you identify reporters, contact them, and track stories and coverage. However, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, Twitter is a great free resource. Reporters are very active, and many include their contact information, or you can reach them via direct message. Through reporters’ social media accounts, you can easily see what they cover as well as what interests them on a personal level to help build your relationship with them.

Lean on Corporate Partners, Clients, and Industry Organizations

Your business partners are likely facing similar circumstances and are trying to do more with less. Consider collaborating with like-minded clients, industry organizations, and vendors on communications and PR activities. Together you can make your resources go farther and tap into each other’s reach.

Look for Hungry Consultants

PR agencies carry a hefty price tag and may not be right for your needs or your budget. A consultant can be a cost-effective alternative and a way to get traction quickly. Agree upon goals, the scope of work, and metrics for success to make sure your investment aligns with your strategy.

Revisit Past Successes

Look back on your past brand communications and PR successes. Often there’s an opportunity to update and refresh successful content and PR strategies, especially thought leadership, research, and pitch angles.

Brand communications and PR belong in the marketing mix during economic ups and downs. There are plenty of ways to build and protect your reputation without a hefty investment.

 

10 PR Don’ts That Will Tarnish Brand Reputations With the Media

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior.

If you follow reporters on Twitter, inevitably you will encounter a frustrated post condemning the behavior of a PR pro or company. Experienced brand communicators should have enough understanding of journalism that they wouldn’t intentionally exhibit this behavior. However, lapses in judgment may be the result of colleagues or leaders disregarding the advice of the PR expert.

Here are 10 “don’ts” that will alienate reporters and put a company’s reputation at risk.

No. 1: Asking to See a Reporter’s Article Before It Publishes

If you’re lucky, a friendly reporter may let you review your quote. But if you’re interested in seeing a full article before it publishes, then your best bet is writing a contributed piece.

No. 2: Pitching a Story, Getting Interest, and Then Telling the Reporter That Your Spokesperson Is Unavailable

Make sure your spokesperson, or spokespeople, will be available to speak to reporters before you begin to pitch the story. If your subject matter expert is traveling, on vacation, or unreachable, make sure you have a backup plan or delay your outreach until the SME is available.

No. 3: Providing Misinformation

A spokesperson may not have every answer and that’s okay. In pre-interview preparation, instruct your spokesperson on how to handle a situation where they are unsure of a response. A spokesperson should ask if they can check on the answer and follow up with the reporter. They should never guess or provide incorrect information.

No. 4: Requesting a Correction on Something That’s Not Incorrect

A correction should only be requested if the information in an article is wrong. Asking for changes to anything else is an insult to the journalist. If the article is not what you wanted it to say, use this experience to inform your future PR efforts and strategy. Sometimes you just need to accept the outcome and move on.

No. 5: Asking Why You Weren’t in an Article About Your Industry or One That Featured a Competitor

You’re not going to be in every article and, of course, it’s frustrating and disappointing to be overlooked. However, instead of lobbing complaints at a reporter, use this experience as an opportunity to develop an education strategy so you’re top of mind the next time they write on the topic.

No. 6: Sharing Embargoed Information Before Agreeing With a Reporter That the Information Is Embargoed

This is not how embargoes work. You should reach out to the reporter, tease the announcement and ask explicitly if they would like the exclusive and/or embargoed announcement. If the reporter says “yes,” then you agree on the restrictions, such as the timeframe and exclusivity.

No. 7: Being Disrespectful

Treat reporters with respect and act professionally. You are a reflection of your company. Be on time. Appearances matter. Profanities are unacceptable.

No. 8: Following Up Too Many Times or Too Frequently

I find that one follow-up email or phone call is appropriate. As a best practice, give reporters at least 48 hours to respond, unless the news is time-sensitive. Reporters receive hundreds of emails per day and they can’t possibly respond to everyone. If you don’t hear back, they are likely too busy or uninterested. Move on, seek out other outlets, or look for a more compelling angle.

No. 9: Bribing a Reporter or Other Illegal Behavior

It’s shameful to offer money or other payment for a reporter to write about your company. Reporters will accept an invitation for a meal or coffee. But if you’re looking to pay for coverage, opt for an advertorial or sponsored article, instead.

No. 10: Confusing PR With Marketing

The reporter’s job is not to give you free advertising or marketing. They are reporting the news. A completely self-serving pitch is unlikely to generate interest. If you want to advertise your business, paid opportunities are more suitable.

Do Better

Public relations is all about relationships. Reporters have a job to do and so do PR pros. Let’s strive to make interactions mutually beneficial in 2020 and use social media to commend one another.

All’s Fair in Love, War, and Business — Addressing a Competitor’s Bold Moves

It’s no coincidence that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced that his platform would ban political ads less than an hour before Facebook’s much-anticipated Q3 earnings call. It wasn’t the first time that a competitor made a business decision that forced a company to either follow suit or defend its position.

It’s no coincidence that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced that his platform would ban political ads less than an hour before Facebook’s much-anticipated third-quarter earnings call. While this is a business decision, and Dorsey will forgo revenue as a result, his move had a broad-reaching marketing impact; especially given the timing.

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t typically do well in the hot seat; however, he stood behind his policy, saying, “I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians and the news.”

I can only speculate, but it’s likely that Zuckerberg, his legal, marketing, PR, and investor relations teams held an eleventh-hour strategy session to prep and align on Facebook’s response ahead of the earnings call, and for the coming days.

Companies on the Defensive

It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that a competitor made a business decision that forced a company to either follow suit or defend its alternate position.

In early October, Charles Schwab made a surprising announcement that it would eliminate commission fees on online stock, ETF, and options trades. Hours later, TD Ameritrade announced it would also reduce fees to zero. E-Trade did the same the following day.

All is fair in love, war, and business. When a competitor makes a bold move, business leaders must make tough decisions that have major ramifications — financial, moral, ethical, and otherwise. In order to address the competition’s news, a strategic marketing response is required.

Marketing and Communications Readiness to Counter the Competition

Whether or not your company plans to follow a competitor’s lead or chart your own path, marketing and communications readiness will ensure you communicate effectively with customers, prospects, and the general public surrounding the matter.

Close Alignment With Leadership

A response to the competition’s news is more successful if marketing has a seat at the table with leaders as they make any related decision. The marketing team can be a sounding board on the reputational impact of the business decision and can help with the planning and strategy for the response to ensure the company’s position relative to the competition is clear.

Real-Time, Multichannel Response

Following Charles Schwab’s announcement, the companies who reduced their fees in step with Schwab needed to move quickly to retain their customers and ride the news wave. Again, alignment with leaders is crucial, because marketing teams can only move quickly with marketing efforts if they have access to stakeholders and decision-makers.

Digital channels allow for the quickest turnaround for marketing efforts and a variety of levers must be pulled simultaneously to have the greatest impact. This requires a collaborative approach across marketing, sales, client relationship management, and other teams.

Strong PR Foundation

Well ahead of these circumstances, it is important to have a solid PR foundation, including approved subject matter experts who have been vetted, prepped, and coached.

Additionally, PR teams should be continuously building media relationships before there’s even news to share. Then, when it is time to participate in a relevant dialogue, the reporter knows your company and will be more likely return calls or emails.

Reclaim the Competitive Advantage

There’s no way to anticipate every move your competitor will make. However, if you’re strategic and prepared, you can use your competitor’s news to your marketing advantage.

Why a Brand Not Responding Is Sometimes the Best Response

I recently engaged in a thoughtful Twitter debate (no, this is not an oxymoron) with industry peers over my belief that non-response can be a valuable PR and reputation management strategy. Silence may not be well-received by everyone; especially reporters, who expect that PR representatives will be responsive and helpful.

I’ve written about the importance of transparency — by brands, when it comes to owning up to their mistakes; and by companies, as they consider privacy and security. And I do believe that transparency, openness, and honesty are the best policies, most of the time. But there’s still a place for what I call “strategic silence.”

I recently engaged in a thoughtful Twitter debate (no, this is not an oxymoron) with industry peers over my belief that non-response can be a valuable PR and reputation management strategy. Silence may not be well-received by everyone; especially reporters, who expect that PR representatives will be responsive and helpful. However, a public relations response requires weighing the needs of your business, leaders, clients, and other stakeholders.

Choosing not to respond comes with the understanding that you are leaving the media to interpret and speculate. You also run the risk of damaging your relationship with a reporter and publication.

Somewhere between non-response and response lies “no comment.” Formally telling a reporter that you can’t comment acknowledges the inquiry, but also protects your interests. There are instances, which I will highlight shortly, when saying “no comment” is better than not providing a comment.

Still, there are circumstances where not responding is the best response.

Times to Be Tight-Lipped

Legal & Regulatory

Legal matters are an obvious example of situations where the needs of the business outweigh media relations goals. When I led communications at a company that was impacted by a data breach, we could not speak on the record to anyone about the incident and investigation, beyond a very brief public statement. I received hundreds of calls — some from reporters I had deep relationships with for years. The value of these relationships didn’t trump the legal and regulatory risks of commenting.

Sheer Volume

Even if I were able to comment on the breach, I simply wouldn’t have been able to respond to the sheer volume of inquiries I received, including some from publications I had never heard of. When a company draws the attention of hundreds of reporters in a short timeframe, PR teams must prioritize publications. Unfortunately, many reporters end up with the silent treatment.

Transactions

Publicly traded companies, subject to Reg FD, face legal ramifications if they prematurely disclose material information. So they must operate in an environment of extreme caution when it comes to public relations activity. Furthermore, for public as well as privately-held companies, transactions such as mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures cannot be discussed until the appropriate time. Speaking to reporters, on or off the record, when a company is facing a deal is risky, not to mention potentially illegal.

Personnel Matters

Leadership departures and reorganizations, especially at large companies, draw rumors and speculation, which can lead to media attention. Speaking to the media about executive exits sets a dangerous precedent. When leaders are leaving on good terms, you may think it’s beneficial to discuss the circumstances. However, when you’re faced with a #MeToo scandal, you will not want to have set a precedent of discussing departures. To protect corporate reputation, I’ve always advised my clients and executives to maintain a standard policy of not commenting on personnel matters, beyond simply confirming a departure.

Final Thoughts

Be comfortable with your response strategy and your limitations. You can be committed to transparency and have clearly defined exceptions. Make sure leaders are on board with your strategy of silence.

Build out a publication and/or reporter prioritization that clearly outlines your most important media relationships. If your top priorities would benefit from a brief explanation as to why you’re unable to discuss a matter or would appreciate a more formal “no comment” response, try to engage with them accordingly.

Lastly, assess over time if your response, or lack of response, strategy is working or not. See what other companies, especially ones that you respect and aspire to be like, are doing when they’re facing challenging circumstances.

You can’t unsay something, but you can decide to share more in the future.

Indecent Exposure: A Brand Nightmare of Reputation Proportions

Into every marketer’s life, a brand nightmare must come. It starts with an old tale about a PR executive explaining to a client that the client has to make some more public and press appearances to get more exposure. “If I had any more exposure,” says the frustrated client, “I’d be arrested for indecency.”

Into every marketer’s life, a brand nightmare must come. It starts with an old tale about a PR executive explaining to a client that the client has to make some more public and press appearances to get more exposure. “If I had any more exposure,” says the frustrated client, “I’d be arrested for indecency.”

“Indecency” is about the mildest thing you can say about the events of the past few weeks, as the media has overflowed with stories about the brutal murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Turkey. Reports are that a hit squad of Saudis apparently flew in on private jets for their grisly purpose and then rapidly out again, perhaps with Khashoggi’s dismembered body in their hand luggage. For Saudi Arabia, a nation expensively trying to change its worldwide repressive image, and for the agencies serving it, it is a public relations nightmare. Crisis communications can hardly encounter a deeper brand reputation challenge.

If the business of public relations is to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public on whom their success or failure depends, the good news for the Saudis was that the exposure they were gaining pre-Khashoggi appeared to be effectively promoting positive change in the perception of the kingdom.

The bad news is that classic PR problem: If the client demonstrates he is not what he has been expensively pictured to be, the backlash can destroy all of the previous goodwill, and then some. The image management crusade becomes a shambles.

When the young Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman emerged as the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia in 2017 and announced his mission to modernize the country and make it an important part of the international community, no longer only recognized for its petroleum output, not surprisingly, voracious, business-hungry PR firms grabbed the next flight to the kingdom to share in what was certain to be a bonanza of fees.

The Financial Times reported in September that the kingdom’s information ministry was seeking “to promote the changing face of KSA to the rest of the world and to improve international perception of the kingdom.”

Although the world’s largest PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, already had a big contract with the Saudis, according to Media Group RT, other companies including The Harbour Group, Hill & Knowlton, King & Spalding, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and Hogan & Hartson, all managed to get a piece of what was a lot of action. Some have already ended the relationship.

The resulting effort was a generally successful zillion-dollar “charm” campaign earlier this year. The brand reputation effort’s star attraction, Prince Mohammed, visited the U.K. and then extensively toured the U.S., meeting with President Donald Trump,  government and business leaders, dot.com and showbiz celebrities, and pitched the benefits of investment in his new liberalizing country. There were some anti-Saudi demonstrations. But generally, the reception was surprisingly good.

In addition to promising giant business contracts, the prince handed out invitations to the Oct. 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, nicknamed “Davos in the Desert” and intended to be, as Khashoggi’s Washington Post commented; “a magnet for financiers, corporate titans, technology executives, government leaders and media bigwigs. It once boasted a list of attendees that resembled the crowd that converges each year at the Alpine playground for the global elite.” The PR companies must have been jubilant at the success of their efforts and all the positive media coverage.

Until the Khashoggi disaster, that was.

Suddenly, Prince Salman and his cronies have become toxic. With the tsunami of withdrawals by speakers and participants from the Future Investment Initiative, it looked to be a very lonely conference, anything but a Davos look-alike.

How now for the PR firms (if they are still willing to serve the Saudis) to unscramble these eggs? How are they to manage the reputation of the Saudi brand and of themselves? The PR textbook teaches us that crisis management is built on taking quick, honest, transparent and direct action. Admittedly, this is an exceptional circumstance. But by all accounts, the Saudis have been anything but quick, honest, transparent or direct. Feeling the blowback, they will now have to keep their heads down, find a believable narrative of accountability and take appropriate action.

At this point in time, the PR agencies, which generated lots of exposure for the kingdom and no doubt formerly wished for a long and profitable relationship with the country, are now having to deal with indecency and some at least are having second thoughts.

Capital Communicator reports that as a result of the Khashoggi incident, “The Harbour Group has ended its $80K per month contract with Saudi Arabia” and “WPP’s Glover Park Group and BGR Government Affairs have also severed ties with Saudi Arabia.” All who so recently had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads should be reminded of the wise adage: Be careful what you wish for.

How Traditional PR Can Boost Your SEO

It’s easy to overlook traditional public relations when considering how to improve your website’s search engine rankings. But in cracking down on superficial search signals, Google elevated the importance of earning inbound links from trustworthy movers and shakers, and that’s where PR can be invaluable.

Dust off those people skills: Good PR can give you a huge advantage for improving your website’s SEO.

It’s easy to overlook traditional public relations when considering how to improve your website’s search engine rankings. For years, marketers could use low-brow tactics such as link spamming and keyword stuffing for easy (and sizeable) bumps. Recently, though, Google refined its algorithm to reward websites that offer intuitive and valuable user experiences. It’s impossible to game the system like 10 years ago.

But in cracking down on superficial signals, Google elevated the importance of earning inbound links from trustworthy movers and shakers.

Inbound links from authoritative, credible, high-volume websites can take your SEO to new heights. These links bring attention to amazing content and attract shoppers to online store fronts. Google considers these high-quality links as endorsements of your website’s content and credibility. And there’s no better way to win these links than with old-fashioned public relation skills. Read on to learn how your PR strategy can improve your website’s SEO.

Not Being Spammy Isn’t Good Enough

In the Wild West era of SEO, marketers used all kinds of dirty tricks to gain inbound links. They’d buy links from high-traffic websites, spam forums and blogs with automated comments, and create fake online profiles. They’d also turn to link farms — companies that build scores of thin, low-quality websites for the sole purpose of linking to other sites.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. Try any of those tactics, and Google’s advanced algorithm will blow your website’s SERP rankings to smithereens.

That said, building links that don’t cause alarm bells at Google isn’t enough to boost your website’s SEO. Google’s algorithm is tuned to reward inbound links from trustworthy, authoritative websites. These links must also be from websites that are relevant to your industry, and those websites must have credible, relevant link networks of their own.

Your SEO won’t get much help — if any at all — from inbound links posted to your friends’ personal blogs and websites. Even an inbound link from someone who blogs about your industry probably won’t move the needle. It’s not enough for inbound links to be compliant. They must also be impressive! Think about websites that people look to for information. We’re talking regional and national newspapers, popular consumer websites and highly reputable trade magazines. Earn inbound links from those sources, and Google’s algorithm will notice.

Of course, the next logical question is “how do I get inbound links from such high-profile sources?” How can you get one of your better remodeling projects featured in Better Homes & Gardens, or how can you entice the New York Times to feature your restaurant in its Food section?

It Starts with Great Content

Having great people skills ultimately doesn’t matter if your website isn’t worth talking about. And whether your website is deserving of attention depends entirely on the quality of your content.

By now, you might be sick of hearing the old SEO adage that “content is king.” It’s true, though. Investing in unique, remarkable content is more important now than ever. Over the years, Google used artificial intelligence to analyze countless digital signals generated by how people react to certain types of content. Thanks to this effort, Google’s algorithm is incredibly proficient at determining whether content is valuable and engaging. In today’s SEO landscape, none of your SEO efforts will gain traction if your content can’t grab attention.

High-quality content is also part of your sales pitch when asking for inbound links from your industry’s movers and shakers. They should see your amazing content and want to link back to your site! Your outreach won’t be taken seriously if your content is dull, useless or irrelevant.

Next, Make a List

Before reaching out to anyone, make a list of all the websites, blogs, newspapers, magazines and other editorial sources where you’d like to earn inbound links.

Note to Airlines: Don’t Follow the Cable Companies’ Lead

There’s no disputing that 2017 has gotten off to a tough start for the airlines. Consumers were already frustrated with seats that seemed inspired by medieval torture devices, proliferating fees, and yield management algorithms that manage to pack the planes to the gills, forcing tense games of seat-rest elbow chicken. Oh, yes, and there was that thing about dragging a doctor off a flight, bloody and unconscious.

Peter Horst is chair of the Fusion Financial Services event later this year. Click here for more details. The event is free to qualified attendees (including travel and lodging) but seats are limited, so apply today!

There’s no disputing that 2017 has gotten off to a tough start for the airlines. Consumers were already frustrated with seats that seemed inspired by medieval torture devices, proliferating fees, and yield management algorithms that manage to pack the planes to the gills, forcing tense games of seat-rest elbow chicken. Oh, yes, and there was that thing about dragging a doctor off a flight, bloody and unconscious.

If people are comparing your airline to he people on "The Walking Dead," a TV show about a zombie apocalypse where the people are even worse than the zombies, you've made some mistakes.
One example of the reaction United received on social media after the incident.

Helping keep temperatures at a boil, social media made it so seamlessly easy to publicize every instance of crabby crew behavior, ticketing injustice, and righteous passenger indignation. Little wonder that an actual riot broke out in the Spirit Air terminal at Ft. Lauderdale’s airport after pilots expressed their displeasure with management by not showing up for work.

A Tone-Deaf Airline Industry Response

In a recent article, I argued that the soul of a brand is really the best prevention against ending up in such a tough spot — building an explicit promise and strong cultural commitment to a set of customer values. But in response to this gloomy atmosphere in their industry, Airlines for America appears to be taking a different tack.

The trade association seems to have brought back a TV ad campaign from last year. It’s an upbeat, peppy piece that stars one of those iconic, yellow-vested guys with the red flashlights and the emphatic directional gestures. With magical red flares in hand, he guides a surprised office-worker from her drab, gray cubicle to a tropical paradise, complete with the requisite flower girl, mai tai boy, and galloping horse on a beach.

The tagline is, “We connect the world”, and it emphasizes all the flights to all the destinations that airlines provide in order to help people get where they want to be.

While it’s a nice enough spot, I think it misses the mark in a few important ways. The first miss is in tone. The cheery focus on the joy of getting away from it all seems a little tin-eared in the context of the meaningful angst surrounding the topic of airline customer experience. If indeed this re-airing of the spot is an attempt to restore some good feeling, the spot risks reinforcing a perception of clueless ignorance of the present feelings of their customers. We’re emotional creatures, and the airlines’ marketing challenge is a deeply emotional one, so hitting the wrong note at this high-pitched moment seems clumsy. Effective empathy requires that marketers show they appreciate their target’s feelings.

A second miss is in the underlying insight. I passionately believe that all great marketing sits on a rigorously true, powerful insight that reveals some aspect of tension within the target’s life. In this respect, I think Airlines for America picked the wrong perch.

I’d bet my house that a core sample of the average air traveler’s brain would not reveal the most relevant insight to be, “Gosh, I just can’t wait for someone to sweep me away from all this!” A less cheerful, but more relevantly true, insight would likely be, “I’ve really come to dread getting on a plane. They just don’t seem to care about me.”

The Wisdom of Fools: ‘Onion’ Co-Founder on How to Succeed By Being Outrageously You

The kinds of things The Onion tended to get attention for were scandals. The brand benefited most from times when governors demanded retractions, or famous folk threatened to sue them out of existence. Those accidents that just came naturally as part of the business of being The Onion did more to promote the brand than anything they did intentionally.

Onion LogoA few weeks ago at MarketingSherpa Summit, I got to hear Scott Dikkers, who co-founded The Onion, speak. In fact, I got to interview him as well — and you should be seeing that video in a few weeks — but he talked about some different things in his keynote that I think every marketer should consider.

Dikkers is a funny guy (who knew?). He built a great, iconic brand that has survived and thrived with the switch to digital.

He also has a strong dislike for “marketing.” In fact, avoiding writing for marketing is a lot of the reason he dove into The Onion.

The Accidental Marketer

Scott Dikkers, Co-Founder, The Onion
Scott Dikkers, Co-Founder, The Onion

It was when The Onion wanted to get a little brand exposure and publicity for itself that Scott really began to see the shortcomings of traditional marketing and PR. Again and again, The Onion tried to promote things they were doing that they thought were special and worthy of attention, only to not get any.

Instead, the kinds of things The Onion tended to get attention for were scandals. The brand benefited most from times when governors demanded retractions, or famous folk threatened to sue them out of existence.

Those accidents that just came naturally as part of the business of being The Onion did more to promote the brand than anything they did intentionally.

They couldn’t catch good publicity, but they couldn’t help stepping in it.

At this point, Dikkers figured out something most PR and marketing folks never do: The press hates writing about press releases, but they love discovering stories.

So, Dikkers said, “We’re going to stop sending out press releases, and we’re going to start doing things that are worthy of press attention.”

But OK, they’re The Onion. They once named Kim Jong-Un the sexiest man alive, and fooled China’s state-run newspaper into running a 55-page photo gallery celebrating it. Ridiculous is their job, and it’s always worthy of press attention. What does that do for you?

After all, your brand (probably) isn’t ridiculous or outrageous, right? This is stuff that happens to other brands.

Not necessarily, according to Dikkers:”What’s your brand? What’s the most outrageous thing you can do that’s within the character of your brand? Play that role to the hilt, and you may never have to do marketing again.”

I love this idea. Every brand has a space where they can go pretty much as outrageously far as they want, because it’s still in-brand. You see brands do it all the time.

So the next time you’re looking to make a splash, take a minute to think about how really far out there can you get, while still staying within the map of your brand? Go do that thing, and it might just be the best marketing you’ll ever do.

Bonus: Building Layers Like The Onion

As a final bonus, Dikkers said three things about team building that I thought were interesting:

  1. “I started by obsessively doing all of this stuff myself, and that created a center of gravity that pulled all these people toward me.”
  2. “We did not search high and low. We just searched low. Drop-outs, shut-ins … These were our A players! This was because they were bitter, they were smart, and they had no prospects in life.”
  3. “Leave people alone and let them do what they are born to do, what they are compelled to do.”

You may not want to limit your hires to just shut-ins, drop-outs and conspiracy theorists, but there’s something to be said for finding people who really seem like they’re meant to do the thing you need done, setting a good example of your own work ethic, and then letting them do what they were made to do.