is "Guerrilla P.R." Anyway?
Michael Levine, From Guerrilla P.R. Wired
If you're going to apply the principles of Guerrilla
P.R. to the age of the Internet, you have to know
something about Guerrilla P.R. itself. In case you have
not worn out a copy of Guerrilla P.R. or
have forgotten some of the finer points since that book
was published in 1993, let's take a fresh look at the concept.
After all, the world has changed.
Public relations is the art, as one of my colleagues put
it, of "offering people reasons to persuade themselves." In other words, we are not Madison Avenue; we don't tell
people what we want them to think. Rather, we give them
evidence, facts, and opinions that help them reach a conclusion.
If we're good at what we do, they will reach the conclusion
we've been hired to promote.
The differences between traditional public relations
and Guerrilla P.R. are relatively simple.
of all, public relations firms like mine are available to
people with a lot of money, because we charge what we consider
to be reasonable fees, which are out of reach of many small
or one-person businesses. So entrepreneurs and small business
owners need to learn and apply the same skills I use every
day in service of their larger, more well-heeled rivals.
But these skills can't be used the same way, since they
require more money than most small businesses can afford.
Not everyone can buy a minute of time on network TV to get
the message across.
That's where Guerrilla P.R. comes in. This down-and-dirty
offspring of the traditional method is based on an idea
I developed called the Tiffany Theory. The
Tiffany Theory is an idea that sounds simple but, like most
such theories, is so basic it contains numerous truths.
My Tiffany Theory states that a
gift delivered in a box from Tiffany's will have a higher
perceived value than one in no box or a plain box.
not because the recipient is a fool; it's because in our
society, we gift-wrap everything: our politicians, our corporate
heads, our movie and TV stars, and even our toilet paper.
Tiffany paper places a higher perceived value on things.
In effect, what I do
each day is gift-wrapping.
take a message and wrap it in the finest paper from Tiffany's.
No matter what the message may be, I try to make it sound
more appealing, more interesting, and more useful. If I
do my job correctly, the consumer (who gets the message
through television, newspapers, radio, or the Internet)
will get the message. But first, that message has to go
through editors, producers, reporters, and website managers.
The Tiffany paper adds perceived value and cachet.
Notice, now, I said, perceived value. In public relations
and publicity, perception is truth. It
isn't what happened that counts, it's what people think
happened. This is the absolute day-to-day currency of politics,
entertainment, and most other industries. In our case, we're
looking at how the public—that is, the segment of
the public you believe is your customer base—perceives
your company. Not what your company actually might be.
Does that mean you should lie? Never. Lying,
besides being morally wrong, is quite literally indefensible.
That means, at some point, you're going to be found out.
And even if you weren't, you would have to start living
the lie-remembering what you told the people interested
in your business, and hearing people call you what you said
you are. It's too hard, and it's not worth it. Besides,
it's plain bad business.
When I say that the perception of the truth-rather than
the truth itself-is the stuff of great publicity campaigns,
I mean that the truth will take care of itself.
But you have to make sure that the image you project, the
perception you offer to potential customers, is what you
want it to be.
For example, a man named Dave Schwartz decided he'd start
a car rental company that would lower rates to the consumer
by featuring cars that weren't 100 percent new off the showroom
floor. He had a choice to make in terms of the perception
of his new company, and he chose to beat critics to the
punch with a strong sense of humor and a catchy company
Now, Dave didn't lie (his cars weren't wrecks, they drove
just fine, so maybe he exaggerated a little), and he didn't
fall into the trap of emphasizing price. After all, his
competitors already had names like Thrifty
He hit you in the funny-bone, made his impression of a fun
car rental company-with the implied promise that the cars
would cost less because they weren't brand new-and launched
a very successful business.
It's all in the perception.
But is this a contradiction of the Tiffany
Theory? Did Dave actually wrap his cars in Kmart paper to
make his point?
Not really. Dave still wrapped his message in Tiffany paper.
He made sure local news outlets, publications, and media
companies knew about his company, and he emphasized exactly
how reliable and economical the rental cars at Rent-A-Wreck
downplaying the appearance of the cars-calling them "wrecks"
he allowed the media to expect dented, scratched, beat-up
cars. When they toured his facility and saw cars that were
only slightly used, Dave didn't have to say a word. The
message got out that the "wrecks" in question were very
reliable, attractive cars that would be available for a
lower rental rate because they were used. A brilliant, subtle
piece of Tiffany wrapping.
Levine's Lessons for
Guerrillas. The Tiffany Theory applies to
the Internet in ways it never could with traditional media.
Keep in mind that more information is available on the World
Wide Web than you can possibly track, let alone control.
So it's always important to keep your information true.
But unlike information in newspapers or magazines, the data
you provide on a website is yours, and you provide the Tiffany
paper. Use photographs, charts, quizzes, and prizes, if
you can, to keep surfers' interest alive on your site. And
remember to wrap every fact in a nice neat piece of Tiffany
"How You Can Wage An Effective Publicity Campaign...
Without Going Broke"
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