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The PR Side of Guerilla Marketing
It's a not-so uphill battle for small businesses.
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 by Genevieve Coates

Genevieve CoatesGuerilla marketing is one of the most controversial forms of marketing. Let’s be honest – it can make being on the public relations side of that ball pretty difficult.

But the great part about guerilla marketing is that it really shows the personality of a brand. It’s difficult to get a feel for what a company is all about, but with guerilla marketing, you get that personality. This is especially true for small businesses.

It’s also a little more accessible than traditional forms of marketing. Rather than having to watch commercials to get to your favorite TV shows, most forms of guerilla marketing are right in front of you in a non-intrusive way. Consumers get to choose what to do with them.

In this article, we’ll look at a few guerilla techniques and how PR works for these techniques.

And don’t forget – guerilla marketing works when imagination meets creativity without a budget.

1. Buzz Campaign

Buzz campaigns work by sending a message into the public in hopes that it spreads through the community and creates “buzz” for your brand.

This is where PR comes in handy. You get to craft that message, and by making sure the message is “seeded” (the act of putting the message out there yourself, or paying someone else to do it for you) several times (not just once… you don’t want a game of Telephone), you ensure that the message is favorable and will create sales opportunities.

By getting your small business’ message into the local community, you create a bond – albeit a bond they don’t yet know about – between you and the potential customers out there. They are receiving information, and they get to choose what to do with that information. But, again, this information is not forced on them, if done correctly.

A good example of this type of marketing is Spotify, the free(ish) music player. They included only select people for their private beta program. Those people then had invites they could send to their friends. The word spread about this new music player, and now it is one of the world’s most popular music players. They had the product – all the PR people needed to do was make sure the correct message was spread.

2. Combination (Wild Posting/Presence)

This one is a marketing campaign that utilizes two different forms of guerilla marketing.

We’ve all seen the flurry of posters or stickers on that one corner. This is called Wild Posting. Most of these posters direct consumers to a particular place. But, with the combination of wild posting and presence marketing, you can direct consumers to a place that you’ve set up a booth or some type of mobile selling point.

The presence marketing part of this campaign is that you have set up somewhere that is visible, where people are going to see your product. Let’s say you own a hat store. You could set up a booth at the entrance to a busy park and have a human statue wear one of the hats. Your booth will be close by, and people will see the booth and the hat.

On the PR side of this, if you can bring the customers to something they’ll enjoy and also bring them a product they’ll want, you’ve successfully brought good PR to your company. Interaction with the public will almost always be favorable.

Here’s a little sales lesson, though. To successfully sell the hats, you need a mobile payment system. With a program like Intuit’s mobile payments (GoPayment) you can accept credit and debit cards, rather than having to turn away customers that don’t have cash. This is the key to running a successful combo marketing effort.

The shelf life for something like this isn’t long, mostly because the novelty of a human statue or anything you are trying to get the consumers to see will eventually wear off.

Crash and Burn

With guerilla marketing tactics, there can be a definite downside. If you’re not controlling the message, things can get out of hand quickly.

Dr. Pepper

Dr. Pepper launched a treasure hunt for gold coins that had been spread across the United States. The problem with treasure hunts, though, is where you bury the treasure.

One of the gold coins had been buried in a 347-year-old cemetery where a few of the Founding Fathers were buried. People were outraged. The company was forced to end the campaign. I’m sure the PR department had fun with that one. 

Genevieve Coates is a freelance technology writer and graduate marketing student at University of Florida. She lives with her husband in Gainesville, where she loves to tend to her massive “app garden."

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