Brilliant Marketing: Taking Current events and Making it your Story

The most common obstacle to generating consistent publicity for your brand is the often aggressive attack of current events which takes over just about every segment and opportunity.  In an otherwise routine news cycle, where random car accidents, harsh weather or middle American community meeting-gone wrong makes the headlines, news organizations look for “bigger” news to drive headlines, viewers and readers.  When war in Israel breaks out or a massacre at a shopping mall or school occurs, news channels develop heartfelt collages choreographed to a stirring musical theme to begin and end each commercial break and that item consumes everything from its impact on business news to general consumer awareness segments.

Generating publicity for a client’s product or position when it has little to do with the matter-du-jour is challenging, but not impossible.  There are always vertical trades and industry specific magazines and publications, both in print and online, that do not yield to topics that do not concern them.  Then there is also the strategy of making your client relevant to the topic the media wants to hear about and wants to be seen offering a unique angle on.

Since everyone is now concerned about falling off the daunting fiscal cliff, every anchor, segment, article and expert is trying to either explain what this cliff looks like, why we’re going to fall off of it, or what the impact will be if we do.  Pitching stories on new iPhone apps, experts on law or medicine, or even food products that are really not new, becomes tricky and only the most creative and well connected PR professionals can break through the wall of monotony shielded by perfunctorily guided programming staffs desperately trying not be the ones who miss the “news” boat; not reporting the so-called news can be the death knell for a news organization, so they all just report the same news.

This all makes what Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did this week so brilliant.  He took coffee, a basic common drink that everyone knows, but no one really considers news, and he made it part of the political discussion.  By having his servers in Starbuck’s Washington D.C. locations write, “Come Together” on all of the coffee cups, Starbucks is not only joining the fiscal cliff debate, but it is appealing to its consumers to get involved too.  It is making its everyday beverage a new and hot topic of conversation.

That is public relations genius.