Proof PR Really Can Turn S**T into Gold
October 15, 2014
This past weekend as I passed under the famous glittering arches into Austin City Limits Music Festival, I could hardly wait to cross epic performances from Pearl Jam, Eminem, and Sam Smith off my bucket list. I was also on a mission to discover hidden artist treasures at ACL, which I uncovered in the soulful voice of James Bay and the John Cash like twang of Parker Millsap. Before I could hit the stages though, I was compelled to check out the crowning glory of ACL that festival planners had been teasing me with for weeks—The Golden Porta-Potty. I’d already seen pictures of the great wonder; even still I had to get up and personal with this pimped out powder room in real life.
Let’s just say my experience was VIP all the way. First, I arrived to a red carpet where a concierge with a sweet southern accent greeted me. Second, while I was expecting a normal sized facility, this thing was closer to what you’d call a doublewide in Texas. Finally, have you ever been in a Porta-a-John that smelled good—I can now say I have. Now you’re asking, what the heck does all this potty talk have to do with PR? The answer is everything.
Before I even realized it, the PR geniuses of ACL had managed to trick me into thinking a portable bathroom is cool. That got me thinking that in the world of PR, we sometimes need to spray some gold on Porta-Potty products. But don’t get all pissy on me yet, let me offer you the following proof points as to what certain products and Porta-Potties have in common:
- They offer a timely solution to a problem
- There’s a high customer demand
- In either case, people may have the impression based on their previous experiences that they’re all basically the same thing or worse yet, prepared for them to be crappy until proven otherwise.
There you have it. What can be said of Sani-Cans when you squeeze 80,000 people into a park in 93 degree weather for three days can also be said of most products.
I’ve quickly come to the realization that those who are truly stellar in the PR industry can break out a paintbrush and give these average Porta-Potty products the royal gold treatment with just a stroke. They can go beyond praising any product’s practical use, and up the cool factor to start distinguishing them and the company with a coat of creativity and maybe even a touch of mystery. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Ben Horowitz summarized his similar take on the relationship between s**t and PR in his book The Hard Thing, About Hard Things:
“Anybody can get reporters to write nice things about a sweet, cuddly baby of a company. Only world-class PR people can deal with gangly, pimple-ridden, teenage companies. World-class PR people can turn around negative stories. World-class PR people can turn chicken shit into chicken salad. Turning chicken shit into chicken salad requires long-term, trusted relationships, deep know-how, and the confidence to make use of both appropriately.”
Thanks Austin! I promise to remember to always keep it weird and to bring my mud boots next time.