PR Stunts: the Ultimate Guide to Publicity Stunts

Brands and companies often overlook and do not appreciate PR stunts, yet their impact can be game-changing within the company and its entire industry. The leading cause of the undervaluation of PR stunts derives from the fact that companies frequently cannot answer the simple question, "What is a PR stunt?". This article's objective is to bring clarity to the topic and expose what is hidden behind a publicity stunt.

published: April 5, 2023
updated: April 15, 2024

What is a PR stunt? Definition

A publicity stunt, also known as a PR stunt, is an organized event that is usually designed by public relations experts or marketers to garner media attention and public attention for a company or celebrity.

Whether professionally organized or set up by amateurs, publicity stunts are designed to garner attention and can be quite surprising or even outrageous. An attention-grabbing campaign often precedes an important launch or kickoff.

Public relations stunts can take many forms and do not necessarily follow traditional marketing campaigns. It is designed to be unusual and eye-catching, with the primary goal of raising awareness for the business or individual. A PR stunt's success is determined by how well it generates positive press, social media traffic, and public opinion. Due to their global reach and viral potential, the best PR stunts frequently target the internet and social media platforms.

PR stunt Definition

What are the benefits of publicity stunts?

The euphoria and noise surrounding a publicity stunt may blur the actual message if it is not planned and executed properly, but PR stunts can benefit brands and companies. Companies often dismiss publicity stunts as not worth the risk, but this article aims to explain why they deserve recognition and attention.


Increased brand awareness

Stunts can greatly boost brand awareness and bring the company's name to the forefront on many levels. In addition, a few minutes of fame can lead to long-lasting brand recognition.


Generate media coverage

Besides gaining public recognition, publicity stunts attract the attention of external media sources. Public relations is about getting media coverage, and most companies understand how difficult it can be to reach media outlets successfully. An effective PR stunt can solve this problem and bring media outlets directly to the company.

Learn more about how to get media coverage

Reaches a wider audience than traditional advertising

It is common for most marketing and PR efforts in the early stages of a company to be directed toward one specific target group. Target customers are typically defined by the nature of a company's services or products. PR stunts, however, enable companies to outreach beyond this target and gain the attention of audiences who otherwise would not pay attention to them.


Opportunities for brand partnership and collaboration

Publicity stunts attract the attention of potential clients and the media and open doors for future partnerships and collaborations. As a result of the high level of competition, the visibility of each company is diminished by the number of businesses offering the same services or products. PR stunts, however, are used to highlight the company's key characteristics and secure the company's unique position.

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What are the risks of a publicity stunt?

It's important to assess the pros and cons before jumping in all guns blazing. You should start by identifying all possible risks, including negative reactions, and whether you can withstand them and how to prepare for them.

Negative public reactions are always a risk since you can’t appeal to every audience. It's impossible to know how audiences will react to your PR stunt, and gauging public sentiment is always a tricky business. One simple rule could be using common sense in your creative endeavors, but this doesn't always pan out.

It may be that audiences and the media misinterpret your stunt. This could mean the stunt has less impact or undesirable consequences, such as your brand being the object of the joke. At best, this may mean you need to take the time and effort to explain the stunt's intention—thus lessening its impact, failing to meet the objective of the stunt, and possibly causing damage to reputation if you mistimed it.

Enlisting a PR agency to help plan and organize the stunt is advisable, as PR specialists often bring a wealth of experience from previously executed stunts, both successful and not.

They can offer valuable media perspectives, objectively assess the purpose of your stunt, and predict public reactions. Additionally, they'll ensure the stunt aligns with your broader brand values and tone of voice, maintaining consistency across your communications.

The key elements of a successful public relations stunt

Even though the character of the PR stunt varies, successful publicity stunts share the same key elements.

Engagement – successful PR stunts encourage participation and wake the public's interest to an extent where the audience is tempted to discuss and, in some way, engage with the event.

Creativity – exceptional results require exceptional ideas and concepts. A publicity stunt's objective is to navigate the company toward new horizons, which is only possible through creative ideas that disrupt the already established template of the company.

Timeless – rather than focusing on five minutes of fame, successful public relations stunts aim to represent a company in an unforgettable manner. These stunts result in long-term success and recognition.

Relevance – it is crucial to consider external factors and events when planning a PR stunt. For a publicity stunt to be effective, it should be relevant to the public and executed, taking into account the most recent social, economic, and global trends.

How to create a PR stunt? Step by step

For the PR stunt to be successful, several steps must be taken, and each has great significance for its outcome.

1. Define the objective

PR stunts should be designed with a clear objective before any decision or action is taken.

In most cases, a publicity stunt is planned because the company needs to accomplish progress in a particular aspect. There can be issues pertaining to financial stability, publicity and recognition demands, or brand representation crises.

Publicity stunts vary in character depending on their objectives, so it is important to consider their goals before planning an event. The majority of company issues are interconnected. However, a PR stunt without a clear direction could have unintended consequences.

2. Dive into in-depth research

Having outlined the PR stunt's objective, the first step is to plan it.

Researching both the benefits and risks of a particular event is crucial for the company to determine how it can contribute to the brand's growth.

It depends on many factors, including the publicity stunt's character, the location, and the number of people targeted.

Additionally, the stunt's budget should be determined so that unexpected financial factors are considered when considering these aspects. Budgets should include alternative scenarios since the public's reaction cannot be entirely predicted.

3. Develop a timeline

The nature of the event determines the suitable amount of time required for the stunt. It is possible that extending the timeslot too far could result in a decline in the public interest. Therefore, a clearly outlined timetable is required to reach the desired outcomes and provoke the audience's thirst for more.

When considering the stunt's timeslot, it should be taken into consideration the event's resources, size, and location.

All three factors provide direction as well as borderlines indicating when and how the stunt should be executed.

4. Capture media attention and monitor

Social media platforms are paramount when planning a PR stunt in our highly digitalized era. Social media outlets can significantly boost visibility and contribute to the rapid spread of the word about the company's PR stunt.

Therefore, companies should pay close attention to the social media adaptability of their publicity stunts when planning them.

Creating hashtags and platform event pages is an example of efficient social media approaches to PR stunts.

Additionally, social media platforms enable the company to monitor the progress and visibility of the event.

Learn more about media monitoring

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Examples of PR stunts

There are numerous examples of successful and unsuccessful publicity stunts throughout PR history. Here are a few of them that we will discuss in the article. However, if your curiosity exceeds the number of examples in this article, please read our article covering PR stunt examples.


Red color attracts

In 2016, a white Range Rover was seen on the roads of London, vandalized with red spray-painted words such as 'cheater' and 'hope she was worth it.' Many media outlets reported the incident, covering the intriguing event and speculating about the identity of the successful businessman whom his partner had exposed.

The incident was later revealed as part of a publicity stunt to promote the new Revere Range Rover Vogue Knightsbridge Edition. The new Range Rover model gained visibility and recognition even before its release.


LEGO foundation

As part of its donation program, the LEGO Foundation donated 600 magnetic resonance imaging scanners to hospitals across the world in 2022. It began as an idea for a passion project but was piloted with new training materials for hospital staff. Through the use of LEGO MRI scanners, this donation aims to make the experience of MRI scans less stressful for children.

By incorporating play into the hospital environment, Lego helped children better understand the process by encouraging role-playing and discussion. As reported by hospitals, these MRI models have reduced children's anxiety about MRIs. LEGO Foundation initiative helped the brand gain visibility and present itself in a positive light.


To break the PR stunt records

By partnering with Guinness World Records, Jaguar, a luxury car manufacturer, left a significant media trace when it launched its first midsize SUV. Jaguar devised a plan to break a world record by performing a barrel roll in its SUV to get widespread attention and show off its prowess.

As a result of this impressive and risky stunt, a more rugged and sporty image of the brand was created among consumers and captured the media's attention. Before officially launching its new model, the car brand effortlessly attracted media attention and recognition.


Mcdonald’s right place, right time

In 2019, McDonald's flipped its iconic logo upside-down to show its support for women on International Women's Day. Globally, consumers were surprised by this unexpected move, questioning whether it was a prank. A significant amount of media attention resulted from this PR stunt.

Publicity stunts like this are examples of well-planned initiatives that are executed at just the right time. Further, it is not uncommon for PR stunts to require little or no budget.


Well-planned publicity stunts are extremely impactful, media-friendly, and highly effective. Many companies are asking, "What is a PR stunt?" An accurate and precise answer is that it can boost visibility, financial matters, and brand recognition.

PR stunts should be planned and executed simply if the company hopes to achieve positive business outcomes.

In order to execute a publicity stunt successfully, a number of factors must be considered, including the objective, budget, location, timeframe, and social media focus.

Following the simple steps diligently will ensure the company's long-term recognition, high engagement rates, and financial stability in the long run. The first signs of success are never far when the PR stunt is well-planned and executed.

April 5, 2023
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