To Get Folks Talking, Strike an Emotional Chord

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3 Qualities of Successful Publicity

I’m constantly entertained by the creativity businesses display as they seek publicity to keep their name in front of audiences and build their brand.

While some efforts are more successful than others, invariably the best ones remind us that we need to think beyond the obvious. To get people talking about you or your business, you also need to touch them emotionally, whether it’s by surprising them, making them laugh or shed a tear, or inspiring them. And that requires the willingness to go out on a limb.

JCPenney did just that during the Super Bowl earlier this month, when it posted garbled tweets on Twitter during the big game. The tweets got a lot of people talking, including the social media teams for a couple other big brands. Here’s an example:

JCPenney tweeted: “Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???”

To which Kia Motors responded: “Hey @jcpenney need a designated driver?”

That particular JCPenney tweet was shared more than 23,000 times and “favorited” more than 10,500 times. A lot of exposure!

Of course, it wasn’t all good. As Kia suggested, some people thought the person behind Penney’s tweets was drunk. Others wondered if the department store’s Twitter account had been hacked. Soon, however, @jcpenney explained:

“Oops…Sorry for the typos. We were #TweetingWithMittens. Wasn’t it supposed to be colder? Enjoy the game! #GoTeamUSA”

Turns out, the tweets were an attempt to shine some light on Penney’s mitten inventory. Did it work?

CBS’ Money Watch put this headline on its story: “JCPenney’s Super Bowl tweets backfire.”

While the first line of AdWeek’s story read: “Nicely played, JCPenney.”

Both publications, however, agreed – the brand got noticed!

Another recent example of effective attention-getting was CVS Caremark Corp.’s announcement that, as of Oct. 1, it will no longer sell cigarettes at its 7,600 pharmacies. It’s the first national pharmacy chain to give up smokes and the billions of dollars they bring in.

“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs,” wrote corporate executive Helena B. Foulkes in a press release. “Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”

No doubt, it’s also an important step in positioning CVS to become a bigger player in the quickly evolving health-care landscape. But, nonetheless, the chain’s announcement strikes an emotional chord.

“CVS Caremark has shown that it champions the health of all people and all communities,” wrote Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Noted ex-smoker President Barak Obama: “CVS Caremark sets a powerful example.”

Recently, a client of ours had the opportunity to do something different, and it paid off tremendously for him.

The client is a physician who’s promoting his book about achieving well-being by seeking balance in life. On the surface, that wouldn’t seem to have anything to do with whether or not one should shower every day. But when a reporter for a large online news site contacted us looking for an expert source for just such a lighthearted story, we offered up the physician.

He might have balked and said, “This isn’t worth my time” or “How is this going to promote my book?” He didn’t. Instead, he stepped up to bat and gave the reporter a great interview. She quoted him extensively and the article posted with a photo of the cover of the doctor’s book and a link to it on Amazon.

At last check, the story had more than 100,000 likes on Facebook and more than 1,000 comments on the website, and readers were clicking through to Amazon to buy the doctor’s book.

In all of these anecdotes, great publicity came from:

  • Thinking creatively about how to reach an audience
  • Engaging people by appealing to their emotions
  • Being willing and ready to do something different

If you want people to talk about you, give them something to talk about!

Always a sucker for a surprise,

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