Free Publicity & Great Dinner Parties

Easy Free Publicity & Great Dinner Parties

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

There is a story in every brand. In every product. Granted, not every story is immediately remarkable. As I discussed in ‘Is there Buzz in Boring’, this can be remedied. But even if your story is interesting enough, how do you get it out ? How do you turn a story into a conversation among your target audience and the media to pick up on it ? In short, how do you create free publicity and buzz around it ? One thing is certain: If you publish something yourself, it will be ignored as a commercial message. An experience I had in revitalizing an annual dinner party helped me discover a great mechanism.


Would you like your partner to have cosmetic surgery ? I hold a dinner party each year for a group of long time friends and partners. After 20 years, It can be quite a challenge to give an interesting speech. I don’t want to drag old cows out of the ditch (famous Dutch expression) and I haven’t heard enough about their lives over the past year to concoct an interesting mosaic of what’s up with them. But I know there is lots of interesting stuff going on. There is a great story. So this is what I did. First I thought about what the (sub) stories could be:

  • The dreams that people have (isn’t it time to start doing something !)
  • The relationship with their kids (what do you hate about having them ?)
  • The state of people’s sex lives (does it still exist ?)
  • The importance of material vs. immaterial (still trying to outshine the neighbours ?)
  • Happiness with your physical apparance (how honest are you to eachother ?)

In short, everything about life. Next, I backward engineered questions for the group. So that the answers would generate a story around these topics:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how well are you versed in the Kamasutra ?
  • With which man could your wife have a date, Justin Bieber or Silvio Berlusconi ?
  • Do you have a dream you are not actively pursuing ?
  • Would you like your partner to have something improved physically ?


questionnair2013Over drinks, my wife and I interrogated our guests. To our surprise, all were open and actually (mostly) enjoying it. In between courses I punched the results into Excel and created an overview on my iPad. I did not have time to review so I hoped there was going to be some fireworks. I was not diasppointed. Some results (Life’s Scorecard) got people thinking, widely varying perceptions (between partners) about copulatory frequencies triggered endless, incredibly funny comments and aspired surgical improvements led people to speculate on the chosen bodily areas, followed by unasked for advice on ‘design aspects’ (size, shape etc.). There was a mix of ‘get you thinking’ and ‘get you laughing’ stuff. Which could turn from one into the other.

The most important result ? The rest of the dinner party people were talking about these topics, sharing personal stories, deepening their friendships. Which – if this would have mattered to us – would have given the outside world a great and inspiring story of our ‘brand’ of friendship.

This can work for your brand as well. I am sure you are now thinking about your next dinner party. And whether this could work with your friends (yes it will). I am hoping that someone will help me turn it into an app but before that happens I am happy to provide more detail about the questions. But hold on. You can actually use the same mechanism to spread your brand’s story and create awesome free publicity. Guaranteed.

wom publicity 2Warning: online recommendations losing credibility… At Buzzer, we wanted people to know how much we cared for and knew about word of mouth. So I thought of ways to get that story out into important marketing publications. I followed the same pattern: first I came up with a story that would be buzzable and reflect our authority. A headline. In this case it was: “Online recommendations suffering from inflation”. I was pretty sure that any research would corroborate this.

Next, I designed a few questions around it and organized a group of consumers to answer them. In the meantime, I contacted a few marketing bloggers and asked whether they were interested in research into the lagging credibility of online reviews (yes !) and offered them a chance to include specific questions. Next, we turned the poll’s results into a story and shared it with the bloggers. Publications in various countries followed, as you can see here and here.

Help my baby shrinks ! Pampers also had a story. Very flexible diapers prevent the ‘shit hitting the fan’ when your baby’s tummy shrinks in the hours after feeding. But how to get it out ?

N.B.: when we saw Pampers’ commercial we pointed out that it basically tells parents that their baby is like a balloon. However true this might be, we thought this story would not catch on.

babyshrinkingThe story first: ‘Help my baby is shrinking’. We then supplied trial packs of the diaper with funky measuring tapes to parents and asked them to measure their baby’s tummies before and after feeding. On the Help my baby shrinks’ website parents uploabded their babies’ shrinkage as acompared to thousands of other babies. A story easily picked up by the media. And shared by parents with their friends.

And so on. As you can see, the trick is quite simple:

  1. Think up a buzzable headline that connects with your brand’s domain
  2. Create questions that will generate anwers that create the story
  3. Get the results from your research and synthesize into a story
  4. Share the story and your brand will benefit in the limelight

babyshrinking chart

The creativity challenge lies in choosing a buzzable headline and designing the right questions to make sure the answers could deliver the story. In my experience disruptive headlines always work: something that’s counter intuitive or going against popular belief. Read Steve Knox’ article about the power of disruption here. Timing is usually critical here (before you know it popular blief has changed). Part of the success of the approach can b that the people that supplied the answers are now part of the story and will help to spread it. One key success factor: do NOT talk about your brand or product. Let it be in the background.

Although it is not in any way a new technique I am still surprised that not more people use it to get their story out. Against the background of an ever more impoverished media landscape, you’ll never have to buy mediaspace again.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone


1 Comment Added

Join Discusion
  1. George Schröder May 7, 2014 | Reply
    Beste Willem, Goed te lezen dat jullie nog samenzijn en dat jij je met je bedrijf zo ontwikkeld hebt. Ik heb genoten van je diner story en zou het leuk vinden om, na zo een lange tijd, je professioneel weer eens te spreken. Ben nu een paar dagen in het buitenland, maar volgende week maak ik graag een afspraak met je. Groet, George Schröder

Leave a reply

Reset all fields