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"How Any Business Can Profit From The Worst Publicity Stunt of All Time!"

By Nick Nichols
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004

Learn how even bad PR can generate lots of exposure and how to use PR properly to increase revenues.
"Hunting for Scambi"

Unless you've been living in a cave you've probably heard about the Las Vegas promoter who offered "Hunting for Bambi" safaris where male "hunters" could track down naked young women and subdue them with paintball guns.

After garnering an avalanche of free local, national and international publicity, the promoter, Michael Burdick, admitted the whole scheme was a hoax and now faces misdemeanor charges, according to this story. What's interesting about this saga is that although Burdick made some major blunders in his quest for media coverage, he also did a few things right.

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Things the "Hunting for Bambi" Promoter Did Right

A highly-effective premise for generating publicity is to be controversial. Burdick accomplished this by picking a subject that involves one of the three main areas of human interest: sex. (The other two are money and health.) Then he positioned his story so it would be irresistible to the news media. And everyone from Bill O'Reilly to Katie Couric gobbled it up.

Another thing Burdick did was to start locally and expand nationally with his strategy. First, he established his media credibility with a local Las Vegas television station by enticing them to do a two-part feature news story about his venture. Then, he parlayed that exposure to create curiosity and interest from national and international television news organizations. Once his publicity juggernaut took off, everyone from talk radio personalities to newspaper columnists to Internet pundits jumped on his Bambi bandwagon.

Burdick was also prepared and ready for the onslaught of attention he got in terms of achieving his ultimate goal: to sell videos and related products. Before he launched his stunt he had a well-designed Web site that was set up to tell his story and take orders.

Things the "Hunting for Bambi" Promoter Did WRONG

First, apparently he faked the reality of the story by hiring actors to play the parts of the hunters and hunted. Getting publicity on false pretenses ALWAYS backfires and is the kiss of death for getting future coverage from the mainstream media. Don't do it.

Second, he got over zealous and took the apparent hoax too far. Once you gain national attention in a highly controversial way reporters will come out of the woodwork and dig into your story to look for holes. The more you hype your story, the more trouble you'll create for yourself if any inconsistencies or misleading statements are uncovered.

Third, he didn't have an exit strategy. Burdick must have known that he'd be exposed sooner or later. In fact, on the initial local television broadcast, he seemed to taunt potential detractors by saying he hoped he would be sued by, for example, Disney, for using the word "Bambi" in the name of his venture.

Instead of being arrogant and cocky about his situation, Burdick should have preempted the wrath of the City of Las Vegas and others by openly admitting the error of his ways. He should have put out a statement to the effect that anyone who bought his products and felt they didn't get their money's worth could return the items for a refund plus, say, ten percent of the purchase price for their trouble. This might have diffused the situation enough for him to have avoided being charged with a crime.

Finally, it's possible to be TOO controversial, especially if your plan involves what could be construed as exploitation and depreciation of other human beings.

Bottom Line: Being controversial can generate tons of free publicity IF the controversy doesn't go too far off the deep end and is handled honestly and ethically. The trick is to plan and manage a publicity campaign that involves controversy in a way that accomplishes your promotional objectives without embarrassing the media, or alienating potential buyers of your product or supporters of your cause.

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About the Author
Nick Nichols helps consultants, coaches and freelancers get more long-term, high-paying clients in less time, with less effort and frustration than ever before. Click here: to learn how to do this.


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