Creating Compelling Narratives
So you know who you are and what you what your brand means, how do you create compelling sort of examples or instances or incidents that prove that message again? So the examples I'm going to talk about our controversial people, probably I'm sure some of them will be of that will be objectionable, but that's the point, because that's, the brand that this person is going for, um, so okay, so this is for a client of mine that I did this because it was february twenty twelve I had eso tucker max was one of my clients, he writes these books it's a genre called flat tire, long story short, his books are stories about drinking and hooking up, so he appeals to what he likes to call due to don't spell dude, right for, uh, people who don't normally people who haven't read a book since high school, and so for him he likes to he knows what appeals to them, and often what appeals to them is the things that everyone else is saying that's so offensive don't don't read that. Um, so for this book, wha...
t we did was he has a joke in the book where he says he says that he's paid for so many abortions that they should name a planned parenthood clinic after him um and so being who I am, I suggested that he actually said if that's true, then you should get a planned parenthood clinic named after you and I was saying this is a joke on dh he was like, well, I'm really going to do it because that's who he is, he does the things that you're not allowed to dio and it turned out he was trying he he had to make a large charitable donation that you're anyway and so we went for it and it ended up way pursued it in texas where he lived, I ended up writing about this for forbes, which we she talked about earlier, which anyone could do the story did one hundred fifty thousand pages um, you got all this coverage um and I'll explain sort of what it means um, but so the start more or less what reached twelve? The accounts it that tweeted it had more than twelve million followers more than two hundred media mentions including the huffington post for jezebel, salon, atlantic gothamist, newsweek daily beast and farc fifty thousand facebook likes three thousand stumble votes was voted on non impressions that voted on reddit twenty, five hundred times ten thousand comments across all the sites more than three million page views and the total cost of this was actually less than zero dollars because forbes, which is a blogging network that pays its users pays its writers by the patriots paid me to write about it which was quite nice on dso I'm trying to do here how we got so so basically the situation wass he has this he has this uh he has his joke and we decide okay, we're going to make this a reality and we're going to time this with the launch of the book so that the summer before the book comes out he pursues the the donation he asked how much it costs they say it's going to be two hundred fifty thousand the the price rate the price for a named clinic is between two hundred fifty thousand and five hundred five hundred thousand dollars believe it or not, you can afford this way express interest in this we explain who is they're interested we get he's actually in the car arriving to meet with the c e o to give we has the check in the car and they decided at the last minute to they call him this paper around we don't want to do this anymore go away police never contact us again even though they kind of knew what we were doing they knew what we were doing, why he was doing it, we explained he was trying to sort of turn his image around a little bit that he had this unique tax situation oh, I forgot there. So so we make the announcement? Um sorry way make the attempted donation. It doesn't work. Uh, we sit on this for several months sort of not knowing what to do about it. Um, and then we decide, okay? They're not gonna come to their senses. Let's announce how what happened? And so we announce what happened? We obviously look, this is how I headlined the piece. Um, you know, why wouldn't planned parenthood take five hundred thousand dollars? So what I'm doing is obviously not saying I exaggerated it, but I picked the largest number. I opposed it an opposition to something. And then I posted our blogger that would allow me to tell the story the way that I wanted to tell the story. So now I've started small or I've done something interesting. I've started small, and I'm not afraid to be controversial with what I'm doing. I post it, of course it starts getting picked up all these other sites. What what we did was we publish the story, and then the night before I I sent it to I knew I was going to post on force, but I sent it to a handful of other blog's who I knew would, uh, who I knew would try to find some way to like prisons I think it's it's it's kind of clear cut think about him however you want here's someone willing to write a five hundred thousand dollars check to put the statement I think you take the money I think if if I'm playing parenthood I take the money I find some way to maybe not put his name on it but work something out whatever so they decide not to do it so it's somewhat embarrassing but or it's some it's somewhat of a mistake on their point but when I when I pitched it to reporters what I wanted them to do was to go okay they've come out clearly on this side of the issue how can we get planned parenthood's take so it's it's a discussion so the night before I posted it I let them I let everyone in this sort of blog's space that I wanted to break the story I let them know to give them time to go to planned parenthood and so they went to planned parenthood and got a somewhat antagonistic quote from them so now it's it's an us versus them situation which set up this massive conversation about you know, are they right to reject him? Is this some bizarre campaign? What is he doing and the reason it got all these all these media outlets is they're pinned back and forth with each other talking about this conversation that I've kicked off um and that's why I posed my headline as a question because it's not I don't want one story written about it I want two hundred stories written about it um okay, so here's the stuff so we go through it obviously some other news events have happened in the meantime. So between the time we tried to make the donation and then the time of the book's release the susan g komen foundation had announced they were pulling funds from planned parenthood which made and obviously that was very embarrassing for them was a big deal and also in texas, rick perry, the governor decided that he wasn't going to accept federal funding for planned parenthood, which is equally messed up and so planned parenthood was closing planned parenthood clinics in texas due to lack of funds in addition to turning down this money so basically that sets you up that sets up a media narrative of they'd rather close a clinic and put his name on it. So it's this clear line in the sand controversial stands and that's why this ended up getting all this publicity now then this is another layer of this which is what happens when you do newsworthy things that generates attention, it gets pages is other people want to get in on it and it becomes more than just about you so pita who's probably one of the best examples of a nonprofit who's really good at getting media attention and sort of, uh, decided they were going to news jack, I used that word earlier, but they decided they were going to insert themselves in this discussion unsolicited. So they put out a press release and emailed all the blog's who's written about the original story. This is the same week that it broke that that they were that if planned parenthood wouldn't take the money, peter would, and they made this, they added fuel to the fire by making this additional image, which I think is hilarious on dh then, uh, so we'll go, we'll do another study after this, but so so now we get a whole nother level of press that we didn't anticipate that we didn't expect. And tucker tucker issued a response to peter saying that he wouldn't give the money to peter because he rejected what they stood for, but he decided to donate the money instead to a no kill animal shelter in austin, and the result is now I'm trying to remember the name I believe there is at at a place called austin pets alive. There is the tucker max school for naughty dogs, which teaches which rehabilitates unadoptable dogs and teaches them like sort of behavior and training so they could be placed into homes where otherwise they would have been put to sleep and so what I like about this study is obviously I see why this is not gonna work for ninety nine percent of all brands and companies and that's not really the point, but the point is his fans loved it people who hated him loved it because it was an opportunity to talk about how much they hated him and the the person who the person who messed it up who who I feel like I dropped the ball here was planned parenthood because I think their response was we but to me what this illustrates is what can happen when you identify what your fans are interested in, you take a controversial response and you can use the internet to dr immense amounts of buzz and attention and uh, you can you can sort of whip this whole thing into a friends and that works for just about anything in any space just your specific situation is going to be different what you're doing, who you're donating money to, why you're doing it that's all gonna change, but the logistics of it are going to be a little bit different can you just talk a little bit more about how like, how many hours you put into set this up and like maur step by step? Of course, of course, so yeah, and we'll show this with the other one to that that's a great question, so um well what do you mean so you mean like how how we leaked it how we did all that kind of stuff yeah so just you know what he needed to donate this money just for example what happened what would have happened if they didn't they didn't reject it like did you rejected that originally we hoped they would accept the money that was the idea right? The idea was we were going to give this so let me back up ah book is coming out of a book coming out how do you know the fact here? The author and you're on your third book that's not that's not an event unless you're unless you're j k rowling no one is that you're not it's not newsworthy because you've done it two times already right? So how do you make your thing news where you have to do something? So we decided let's time something with the book that's that's connected to the book in some way so when they're talking about that thing the book is mentioned and it's it's it's a way of talk it's a way of injecting your thing into the news right? So we decided this is months before we're what things are we going to do? I'm reading the book I'm thinking I'm reading his book and looking for opportunities and this sprung I see there's a joke and I say why not let's try it right and then what we did was we way had a on employee of his went out and actually research this found out what was possible on dh we pursue this seriously like the idea was that he would actually do this and then, um they said no and we thought, okay, they said no, what do we do now? Because in a way them saying no is just a cz good as them saying yes and that's what I like about when you're doing sort of stunts is like because you're never going to control it, you don't know what the reaction is going to be so you want to be in a position where you can do this or you can do that depending on what happens so you they rejected it and then you wrote up why yeah, so they so they rejected it and uh then we sat on it because we thought this process would take many months right to get the clinic up and named and all these things, but I didn't happen so that it was okay. So, you know, in january we said we sit down and go like, so this thing happened who do we want to go to with this story? How what's, the best way to tell it and one of my worries wass if we let someone else tell it, they you didn't want you don't want one definitive account of the story you'd rather have this I'd rather have this discussion so I decided you know what? I'm gonna write about it and I'm gonna I'm gonna present it as a question I'm gonna kick the discussion instead of breaking the news somewhere I'm gonna kick the discussion off and you could you could do that anywhere could have done it on my personal blawg I could have done it for a different publication I decided I would write it and I I analyzed it from this from the perspective of what would I have done if I was in planned parenthood shoes? How could they have handled this differently? Um and and then I did uh I didn't just post this story and hope that people found out about it identified people a list I had a reese her to go through and give me a spreadsheet full of, you know, every blogger who's ever written about tucker in a positive or negative way and people who have written about planned parenthood and the susan g komen controversy in a positive or negative way? And then because in this case I'm writing the article I decided it was I could pitch them directly and I sent them all e mails and I said, you know, tomorrow I'm writing this story actually to place I did the huffington post and another outlet, which I'm not sure and I said, look, tomorrow I'm going to be posting this story, I think it's going to be a big deal. I wanted to give you early access to a copy of it and let you know, you know, here's the contact information for planned parenthood. I think this might be something you're interested in. So it was that fast, like posted it, and then the next day you hope that they were going to well, I didn't hope I lined up people to write about it deserving sense. Like what? What could have happened was I just posted this thing does five thousand views and then that's it, right? So you line up people to write about this thing. So you know, that it's, not just one post its three posts that are going to be breaking that day? Um, and then from there, I made sure that tucker has a mailing list. Tucker has a blawg and took our twitter followers. I made sure that he's like so so I write my article, and then we send it to the huffington post and a handful of other outlets for them to write their take. And then I had tucker post a response on his web site to the whole thing so now we have four five voices all weighing in on this discussion essentially inviting everyone else to chime in and say like if you look at these everyone is talking about it in a there were questions right? There's this look look at how many comments the huffington post article did you jump in real quick right asking questions so you know, a lot of people can watch us and see this and say, wow look depressed so they got like, of these huge numbers or they got but to be clear so people know that there was a plan of attack you had step a france that be steps he's not just a list I'ma write something on forbes and see what happens, right? You knew what the steps were following that can talk a little bit about thinking ahead and what the next steps are yeah look, this is a campaign so it's all planned out you know what influencers you're e mailing, you have a script that you're sending them that like they're all getting the same like I'm not individually writing this email to all these bloggers I sort of got a template and I'm saying like, hey, this story's about to break you've written about x y and z I think you're gonna be interested in this here's a link on dh and then here's five other people that have written about it and so that sort of kicks off this whole thing and so the reason I like this study is so high basically what it means is not only that cost zero dollars and the book ended up debut in that I believe number two on the new york times best seller list but it was it was a joke that became a national media story uh someone's had a joke to someone else and someone else said hey let's give it a try and the result is all this um and I think the other will do one more case study real fast um which is similar andi this was for the same book um so what this one? We reached two million people on twitter twenty nine media mentions forbes far crushable did thirteen thousand facebook likes thirteen hundred stumble upon votes more than half a million pages now this stunt when I had the idea to go to what we're talking about I thought this would be the stunned that would get all the attention and the planned parenthood one would be interested in to like some political people or it would who might be kind of a funny local story like I didn't think it would be a spic so you never know you're just you're you're guessing to the best of your ability and then you've got to be prepared to run with the ball as soon as you get it and so same plan of attack with twitter stun I'll show you what it was in a minute same plan of attack equal research same number of employees and interns working on it but it and it did quite well but there's a big difference between twenty nine media mentions and two hundred so for this done basically what happened is I don't know if you've heard about it but there's this service there's actually a set of services, but what they do is they allow you to by ads on people's twitter feeds so like if you're a reality tv star you khun say hey if you want to post a sponsored message from my twitter account, it costs five hundred dollars or if you are I think kim kardashian, for instance, sells tweets for fifteen thousand dollars um and then you've got all these other much lower people who sell for one hundred dollars or two hundred dollars anyone with a lot of twitter followers khun sell them so I read this article about lindsay lohan being when she was having financial troubles um she she tweeted about some like libertarian cause and it got all this media attention because basically this libertarian causes like look, if we pay her to do this, it'll kick off this whole media discussion so for tucker's book we decided we would take a bunch of jokes from his book and offensive things that he is known for saying and we would see what what celebrities we could get to say these things on dh then the idea was they would all do it and it will get a lot of attention people be like what's going on who is this guy with lava? So we put in five hundred dollars in the thing and submitted a bunch of tweets that we we knew would go we knew would be way too offensive to actually go through but we hope like maybe one or two of them we end up getting banned from the service so we only spent two hundred dollars and the result wass uh all this press s so some of these air these air the tweets um I did not write any of these tweets so you can't get mad at me um but uh uh so so we photoshopped what the tweets we submitted would look like this is the this is the uh this year is the interface from the site so we took we took all these screen shots we wrote about them um and then we submitted them I didn't know david at the time I submitted him this article he writes it uh the headline tucker max is rejected twitter campaign and stabbed celebrity endorsement so david in his article is explaining that these didn't run and I don't know if you can see but this blood picked it up the next day with the headline tucker max proves you can pay celebrities to tweet whatever you want so even though the article that kicks this whole thing off uh shows that you're explicitly states that it didn't happen bloggers were in a such a rush to write about this story that they ended up confusing almost happened with did happen and this story was reported as news it gets a ton of media attention tucker post the story about it on his website which ends up doing you know, another five thousand facebook likes it was one of his most read stories of the year that story was the most reds like the this story was the most read story on forbes for the week um he ended up uh you know, people still retweeted basically what we did was we took er again just this little thing that we identified as potentially being interesting we experimented very cheaply we made content around it and then we put we float it out there we've tried to get media attention and then so I thought this would blow up right? I thought it would get a kind of attention immediately and it didn't it didn't pop the same way that I hoped and so what we did was way started sending anonymous complaints teo the two to the service sponsored tweets pretending that we were outraged customers who believed that the tweets had really run and like, how could we like? How could you do this? Like, how could you allow this to happen? We're so offended will never use your service again we're setting these fake complaints and we got sponsored tweets to denounce um announced tucker and say that he would never be allowed on this service again and to ban him and and so what we did was we elicited a response to again generate that kind of discussion. So it's not it's, not again it's it's great! If you do something that's interesting but it's great. If if it's like you hit it out there that they hit it back to that's, the kind of thing that you want and what I like what I like about this story is the idea that a blogger clearly has so little either interest in reading or ability uh or reading comprehension ability that she's she she writes the story she wants to be too rather than a story that's actually true on dh then when it when she finds out that she was wrong, she has to write a second story about this thing and it's good for her and good for me and, uh, it's true of aton of attention to the book and uh it was well, if you buy the class, we give these as case studies, right? So you'll see all the links for these things, but I go through sort of more in more detail who he emailed and how but teo, maybe answer the question that you had earlier about this one it's that it's the same idea who has written about these technology issues who's written about these advertising sources, advertising services who's written about tucker before who's written about about these celebrities before, and then how could we make something that's interesting and then send it to them and pitch it to them? In this case, I didn't have to write the story myself. I didn't feel like that was the best way we gave the exclusive to another reporter, and that exclusive did one hundred thousand pages for them, which is a massive hit. So if you could deliver something like that to a reporter again, you're doing them the favor, not them doing you the favor by writing about you. Um and, uh, yeah, do you want to open it up to questions from online and then the audience? Yeah, definitely. I have a few here, and then you guys think about yours too, but, um, let's, see? Adjust, norris says a more generic question while listening to all of this how many times out of ten do you fail meaning that the campaigns don't work out at times the seems like our at times the seems like luck or is it just persistence and it's a little of both I liked what joey was saying earlier where you fail internally I had a bunch of ideas for different things that just didn't resonate the right way, but when we talked about these two things to our friends and people, we knew they got real excited and we knew we kind of had something. So I just sort of having a valuable network that you can float your ideas too or no other journalists or people who write about who maybe this isn't a fit too, but ask them, you know, is this something that gets you excited? What do you think about this? My failed like very rarely do I do I try a campaign that gets no traction whatsoever and part of that is perceptive is his persistence, but I think a big part of it is having prevented the ideas first. So another question coming in from online from voi no and it says how important is controversy in selling the story it says, like, obviously sex sales but after that what death I mean, are there other opportunities to create controversy that isn't maybe as controversial right as planned parenthood well so certainly in controversy is very important humor is obviously a sort the second one isn't sexual at all it's just controversial humor it's sort of like I can't believe he said that that kind of thing I like that reaction but look this works we're talking about compelling narrative this works for his specific brave and type of fans if we did this for someone else, it would have been a total failure or it would have been a real p r disaster he's kind of bullet proof when it comes to pr like he doesn't care what you say about him he just wants you to talk about him that's his brand and you want to you want to find out what? What are the things that you could do that or controversial in your space but maybe not as controversial objectively as these are right? Another question for you they will go back with some more online questions and just so people don't get the wrong idea out there when you're working with with tucker something other clients were authors were doing other things is it clear that you're doing these around campaigns meaning this isn't january through december? This is surrounding a bunch a book launch right service long it's not like every single day you should be reaching out to folks like this it's around something specific or no yeah no no I mean clearly you could just do it whatever but I like toe if you're going to be going out actively in seeking media you should have a reason for doing it you're not just doing this stuff for fun like for instance we there's this service out there I forget what it's called but we just found out about it a couple weeks ago apparently it's his service where you confined like retired professional athletes who are not like down on their luck but like not making millions of dollars a year anymore and you can like just by going out to lunch with them and so we were thinking about could we do a version of the of of the twitter stunt with these people you can get like I forget who put like like legit professional like super bowl winning football players championship nba players for like five hundred dollars you can take him out to lunch so we're thinking what could we could we take them out to the worst lunch ever and film and make it this hilarious thing but he doesn't have any products coming out so we're not just going to do it right now I think in both these events they were timed with the launch of a product and I think that is important what do you selling what do you what are you using this media attention to get and why great so we have a question over here yes so I mean I know in your book obviously with this stunt there's a lot of manipulation that's going on so to your point you guys specifically created some sort of accounts too teo asked the sponsored tweets to stop doing it so how do you how do you tow the fine line and manipulation because so the scenario that went through my head is the what happened a couple years ago with the whole food ceo right where he was he was sort of a post oh yeah lager talking about all these things and that truly backfired it's also think right and that's also illegal so you probably shouldn't do that right teo be manipulating your own stock on financial message boards is very legal that's why it was so controversial right like clearly that's something you want to be aware of um in in this in this situation what I have found this is just my personal experience I'm not telling people to go out and do this specifically what I'm saying is they don't care like they just want interesting stories and they're not like I have examples of this in the book where I sent I leaked some photo to a blogger from like a and email account and the blogger replied back hey you shouldn't use your really email like you might get caught just create a fake one in the future and it's like wait so the blogger doesn't care either like I only use this really email address because I can't I wanted them to know that this was like a legit source so when you exist the media world and I want to I'm showing the dark side of it because it cuts both ways but when you live in a media world where the ceo and founder of one of the biggest blog's says getting it cheap it getting it first is cheap and getting it right is expensive that's why we get it first and not right I'm not you know what I mean like those in glass houses probably shouldn't like they don't they don't care um now you've got a balance that with your tolerance or potentially getting caught or whatever but in this in this situation it didn't matter all right so I think we have time for one more question before we had to break um entire photo has a good question here and I think the meat of it is at the very end so hang in there tire photo says I'm a commercial photographer for fortune five hundred companies shooting annual reports and executive interaction I rarely want controversy associated with my business I get that I can broadcast my work that showcases these companies global pr and investor relation efforts as sort of a partnership but when the dust settles from a project how can I keep momentum well, yeah, look, if you're a yoga studio, you probably shouldn't be doing the stunts that I'm talking about here. Uhm but they're probably things within the industry that might be controversial that you could do or stances that you could take. Like joey is saying that by design of his products a certain way, he's taking a stand, and that stand is inherently controversial. You've also got to think about again, who's, your customers, your customers. If you're taking photos of executives at companies, they're not finding out about you through the media. That's, a referral business and your marketing there, uh, by by word of mouth, by referrals, by just doing a great job, maybe it's your building your name separately by doing another kind of project that's, controversial. They're doing tio sort of brand you and set you apart from the other competition, which I imagine is probably really boring.