Something Unexpected – In Public Relations

Surprises can be good. Check that  – happy surprises can be good. There is an article by Scott Redick in the Harvard Business Review detailing surprise as a powerful marketing tool. I must add that even though this article is more geared towards marketing and advertising, public relations can use the same take-aways. Ultimately the relationship between marketing, advertising and public relations, in my opinion, is getting closer, and the more we can all work together, the greater reach our messages will have.

Back to the original message: Happy surprises can be good. For the context of this entry, surprise and unexpected are being used interchangeably.  Redick brings up five points about surprise. Surprise is addictive, changes behavior, cheap, turbo-charges emotions,  and fuels passionate relationships. All of these characteristics are exactly what public relations, marketing, and advertising is going for.

Here is an example of a happy surprise:

The addictive nature of surprise is an obvious plus – providing a happy surprise for customers, a business will find that these customers my return to the source of the surprise looking for more little gems. Personally for me this is like finding an easter egg in a video game or television show. And what business doesn’t want people coming back?

Changing behavior is often a primary goal in public relations. Companies facing a crisis situation often need to change the image or opinion of them. Giving out happy surprises will soften the blow of an unfortunate incident, and maybe even garner some support.

Cheap, or as we like to say in advertising, inexpensive, is a very attractive feature in happy surprises. If the cost a little gift or note of recognition versus the cost of a long drawn out highly produced advertising campaign produces similar results, the consideration then would be to put more resources to coming up with those happy little unexpected moments in everyday life. Not to mention save tons in production costs.

Often times it has been cited, though I don’t have the evidence handy, that people make purchases based on emotions. If our unexpected moment turbo-charges those emotions, then there is a good chance there will be immediate reaction, hopefully in the positive way, to the source of that unexpected thing.

What company in their right mind would not want to fuel a passionate relationship with their customer? With that kind of relationship in place you’ll find that those passionate customers will be sharing your message, and doing so very happily. And that is the happiest surprise for any business.



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