Public Relations

Publicity Temperature: How hot is your campaign?

written by Todd Brabender


When it comes to your business or product, the amount of heat you apply to your publicity campaign can be the difference between success and failure. Too much publicity heat and you’ll get burned; not enough publicity heat and your campaign won’t be “well done” (I know, enough of the heat references already.). Believe it or not, parallels drawn between publicity and heat/fire can help you determine the right temperature for your PR campaign.

I like to think of publicity campaigns in three publicity degree categories:

  1. Flash Fire Publicity
  2. Controlled-Burn Publicity
  3. Firefighting Publicity

Each has its proper time and place – and can be used accordingly to benefit your business.

This type of publicity ignites a quick and sometimes short-lived media-interest blast for a venture. It is most often used for pitches that may have a relatively short shelf life. You’ve heard of the phrase “15 minutes of fame” – in keeping with the theme of this article we’ll call it the “15 minutes of FLAME.” This type of publicity campaign generates almost immediate media placements and can burn itself out after just a few weeks. But, given the right tending, it can also be the precursor to a more extensive, lengthy campaign – that, of course, all depends on your publicity goals and your PR staff’s ability to reach those goals. Flash fire publicity is many times tied to a particular date, time period or current event.

For example, remember the recent stories about the increased number of injuries resulting from scooter accidents? A client of mine was in the final stages of developing a scooter safety product when the report came out. We quickly tied up our loose ends and launched our campaign right after the Consumer Product Safety Commission released their report to the media. Our pitch proved to be a great media interest vehicle and generated a number of immediate stories in newspapers and TV news affiliates in the U.S. & Canada. (this campaign has now progressed to the “controlled-burn publicity” phase described below). Perhaps it could be likened to cooking. Flash fire publicity can be seen as the quick, high-heat searing that is done to prepare the food for further cooking — that of course can be followed by differing temperatures to get the food/job “well done.”

More directed, even-tempered publicity heat is applied in the “controlled-burn” campaign. The controlled-burn is more methodical and lends itself well to product/website launches designed to generate a continual flow of sales or traffic over a long period of time. It’s much like the common practice of burning prairies and pastureland done by conservation or wildlife workers. The fires are started deliberately, meticulously, and burn slowly over a long time span. These controlled fires cover a large area of land and by the time they are complete, the field is more manageable, fertile, and ultimately more prosperous.

The same principle holds true in a publicity campaign. Creating controlled media exposure and placements (newspaper/magazine stories; broadcast stories/interviews) over a long period of time helps strengthen a business/product’s roots in the marketplace. The controlled, long-term exposure leads to increased brand recognition, consumer awareness and acceptance – all without placing a single ad. Spreading the media placements out over a number of months helps prevent against the flash of multiple, simultaneous media stories and the subsequent “wall of fire” consumer response that may inundate your sales fulfillment capabilities for a short time. By being in control of your publicity temperature, you can effectively stoke the fire OR contain the flames to create as much publicity as your business can accommodate at any given time.

Some publicity campaigns are a series of flash fire pitches, while others incorporate a combination of flash fire and controlled-burn tactics. The key is to create that initial spark of interest for the media, and keep the embers glowing over the next several months/years by fanning the fire with periodic newsworthy media releases and pitches.

Hopefully your PR specialist will never have to use this element of publicity for your venture or business. Firefighting PR is a reactive publicity campaign that is implemented when something bad has happened or is about to happen in your business – product recall, employee layoffs, earnings shortfall, etc. It is very difficult to give general advice on this type of publicity because each situation must be handled very carefully, taking present AND future implications into consideration. Regardless of the situation one thing is certain – truthful, forthright media relations are best to douse the flames. One thing that hurt a tire company recently is that they spent the first few weeks of a PR crisis pointing fingers at others before finally taking at least partial responsibility. The quicker the problem is recognized, acknowledged and resolved, the quicker you can begin applying the previously mentioned publicity practices to generate more positive publicity for the next several months.

The success of your venture’s publicity campaign depends on your PR department/specialist’s “fire watch” expertise — knowing when/how to ignite the fire, fan the flames, or extinguish the blaze. Here’s hoping the perfect “publicity heat” leads to some “cold cash” for your business.

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Todd Brabender

about the author

Todd Brabender

Todd Brabender is the President of Spread the News Public Relations, Inc. His business specializes in generating media exposure and publicity for innovative products & services. Follow on Google+


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a marketing plan?

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Heidi Richards Mooney April 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Todd, Thanks for sharing the 3 hot types of Media Publicity Campaigns. It is important to fall into one of the first two for sure. The third would not be good, even though they say any publicity is good publicity, I tend to agree that Firefighter publicity can ultimately do more harm than good. I also think you could start out with a luke-warm campaign that with the right tweeks, media placement and virility could actually become a Wildfire and spread far and wide. Have a great day... and then some, Heidi Richards Mooney, Author Quirky Marketing Calendar

Luta Kyaruzi May 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

I am at the begining of making a product promotion. I find the second option of controlled fire to be the best approach as it is also possible to spread the budget

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