Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The First Rule Of Publicity Stunts 

The first rule of publicity stunts is to make sure you can do the stunt. Mozilla apparently forgot that rule yesterday when it tried for a record number of downloads for its upgraded Firefox browser. Instead, its servers froze under a flood of requests for the new program. It seems clear what happened. Technicians at Mozilla calculated the number of servers they needed for the number of requests per hour that they thought they would get and had those ready to go. They miscalculated and didn't have enough power in reserve. So, Mozilla ends up with egg on its face.

This reminds me of a story told to me long ago by one of the old hands in PR. He said it happened to him. He was doing a press event introducing a new dog food. After an initial presentation about the food and how much dogs like it, he was to put some in a bowl before the media and a waiting dog would run over to eat it. He did just that but the dog wandered over, sniffed the food and ambled away. Someone had fed the dog before the press conference.

Publicity stunts can go awry easily enough. It has happened to me when the weather suddenly turned, for example, and the event fell apart. Never try one without plenty of backup and lots of rehearsal. Even then, keep your fingers crossed.


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