Desperado – PR stunts that FAIL

8 10 2011

OK, so I am a great fan of collecting “what doesn’t work” in PR and marketing.

Often these stunts – providing they didn’t happen to you – have a bizarre “what on earth were they thinking” feel about them. While I accept that hindsight is 20:20, none-the-less, some of them you have to think “surely they could see this was a bad idea”.

Perhaps they are driven by desperation for some bigger, better, more bizarre, headline-grabbing stunt. Perhaps the client was pressuring them for something clever and witty. Perhaps it was group think, where a group of likeminded people reinforce each other’s opinions without examining any other opinon (see: confirmation bias). Or perhaps a session at the pub was involved.

However this next one fell so flat that it barely made a ripple.

For those of you who aren’t in Australia or have been lucky enough to avoid this knowledge, Kyle Sandilands is a would-be radio shock jock. He was a judge on a few tv reality “talent” shows (Big Brother, Australia’s Got Talent, X-Factor, Australian Idol) where he was the judge you loved to hate.

Until it all came crashing down when he was disgraced in an incident on radio where he and his on-air partner Jackie O, strapped an underage girl to a lie-detector machine and asked her about her sex-life. The obviously distressed girl, when pressured, revealed that she had been raped when she was 12 years old. Kyle’s response was “Right…is that the only experience you’ve had?”, thereby equating violent rape of a child with sexual experience. They did then end the “interview” and offer the daughter and the mother (who apparently knew previously that the daughter had been raped but had brought her in for this interrogation on live radio) counselling.

Clearly this whole incident was wrong on so many levels. From memory, Kyle was suspended from his radio show and sacked from the television show.

Then there was the time he said that loved Australian comedian Magda Szubanski should go to a concentration camp if she wanted to lose weight. Magda’s father had been a Polish resistance fighter in WWII. Magda herself said she didn’t care what he said about her but was offended for people who had experienced concentration camps.

So clearly we are not talking about someone with good judgement about how far to go in saying things to get attention.

So now he is back on the radio, but without quite the high profile he had before.

So the latest stunt (which I did not hear live – this is not a radio show I listen to) was this:

In the midst of their show, Kyle and Jackie O played a song then had a conversation as if they were unaware the microphones were still on.

The conversation related to a woman having come forward alleging she had had a love-child to Kyle. Not really attention grabbing at the best of times since children out-of-wedlock has not been scandalous for several decades. And Kyle is divorced so there is no wife to be horrified by this event. The audio is available here if you would like to hear it yourself.

A couple of news media picked up the story but it was hardly cause celebre scandale (anyone who would like to correct my French, please feel free).

So the next day dawns and Kyle and Jackie O announce that it was a prank designed to distract the news media.

Since I did not hear about it until someone else blogged about it, I can only say “pathetic”. A fairly tasteless attempt to seek attention that fell flat and ultimately will have had the effect of undermining their credibility both as sources of information (even about their own lives, in case anyone is interested) and in exposing their desperation to seek attention and raise their ratings which are in decline (quelle surprise!).

So after the fake prank was revealed (Twitter had already smelled a rat almost immediately), Kyle released the following statement:

“I’m not interested in pranks. I don’t like them… I thought I don’t want to prank anyone other than other media organisations.”

Sounds a little like sour grapes. If you don’t like pranks, don’t do them because you aren’t any good at them.

And depressingly, I have given him way too much airspace here.

If you liked this you might also like When PR gets it wrong.

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