Friday, October 1, 2010

PR – Public Relations, Pet Rock, Perceived Reality

Who are you and why are you unique?

Without PR rocks from Mexico would have remained unknown.

Rocks – yes rocks. But, not just any rocks–Pet Rocks. Smooth gray colored stones about the size of an egg. Remember them?

So if you think I have rocks in my head talking about Pet Rocks, in a blog about PR, let’s take a look at how a bunch of smooth gray rocks from Rosarita Beach made advertising executive Gary Dahl a millionaire in 1975.

It’s a simple recipe really. Dahl took one bright idea, married it with clever copy, press releases that alerted the media and a marketing plan that created want in the public that made folks part with $3.95 to buy these non-descript stones in their cute little house-shaped boxes.

You would think getting these unloved and unknown marvels of nature well known, well thought of and the must-have object to those of us wearing mood rings, dancing to the Bee Gees and wondering whose bright idea was it anyway to put the US on the Metric System, had to be a challenge. Not so much, remember Dahl knew the value marketing and PR.

Dahl introduced the Pet Rock at the August gift show in San Francisco and then in New York. Neiman-Marcus ordered five hundred. He sent out homemade news releases of himself accompanied by a picture that showed him surrounded by boxes of his Pet Rocks. Newsweek did a half-page story about the nutty notion, and by the end of October Gary Dahl was shipping ten thousand Pet Rocks every Day. He appeared on "The Tonight Show," twice.

By Christmas when, two and a half tons of rocks had been sold, three-fourths of all the daily newspapers in America had run Pet Rock stories, often including Gary Dahl's tongue-in-cheek revelations about how each rock was individually tested for obedience at Rosarita Beach in Baja, Mexico, before being selected and boxed. A million rocks sold for $3.95 apiece in just a few months, and Gary Dahl - who decided from the beginning to make at least one dollar from every rock - had become an instant millionaire.*

What are the take-aways:

1. Be or have a product or service that is unique or present it in a unique way.

2. Know your customers and take advantage of events that will move you forward.

3. The media, show bookers and producers are looking for stories, so get the word out with releases that provide info in an interesting manner and are not a sales pitch.

4. Be Timely. Reporters are hungry for information that is timely and relevant. What are the current trends in your industry? How does your product/service relate.

So when thinking about PR, remember: It’s not about the rocks, it’s the story on the box.

* Thanks to Encyclopedia of POP Culture, by Jane and Michael Stern. Harper Perennial Press 1992 for the history.
What successful PR capers have landed you in the spotlight?