As PR professionals we’ve all been there—a client or colleague enthusiastically asks, “Can you get us on ‘Ellen’?” or, “How can we make this go viral?”
Though we’d rather explain that the company makes construction equipment lug nuts and that getting on that show doesn’t even hit the target audience, for some reason we always reply, “We’ll definitely work on that!” It’s another classic PR or social media shake-my-head moment.
[FREE GUIDE: 3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep]
With the assistance of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), I wanted to document some of the craziest, most absurd requests or assignments PR and social media professionals have received.
Here are some of the more interesting responses from our colleagues:
1. “My kid does karate—get us a reality show.”
“A client in the healthcare industry said to me, ‘My kid does karate, my wife does arts and crafts, and I am a doctor. I don’t understand why you can’t get us a reality show.’ There was almost nothing I could do to keep a straight face.”—Emily Taffel, owner, Mugsy PR
2. “Get us on Oprah—even though her show ended over two years ago.”
“In mid-June, I was asked if I can get a product on the cover of the July issue of Vogue. It is a small, organic face scrub that is not yet approved for sale in the United States and whose website is a disaster. He said he would settle for SkyMall, as long as it was printed before his vacation which was the following week. This same client also wanted to be on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ by the end of the summer…not realizing ‘Oprah’ went off the air over two years ago.”—Amanda Grosgebauer, principal, Spot Strategies
3. “No New York Times waste container feature? You’re fired!”
“A client who sold industrial waste bins insisted I get him in The New York Times. And not as an expert in green technology, waste disposal law, or any other subject on which he might have a long shot at snaring a quote, but an article devoted exclusively to his plastic waste containers. I laughed. Then was fired. Which is OK because the story helped me land and educate new clients about reasonable and ridiculous expectations.”—Katherine Kotaw, CEO, Kotaw Content Marketing
4. “Please have Matt Lauer read this exact script.”
“A prospective client contacted me about getting her boss on the ‘Today’ show to talk about an upcoming auction of rare coins. In her initial email, she sent a near-complete script for the interview segment, including specific questions she wanted Matt Lauer to ask.”—Donn Pearlman, president, Donn Pearlman & Associates
5. “Man the phones! The press release is about to hit!”
“I co-own and operate a press release distribution site and had a client who was soon announcing the launch of his new website. He asked we keep him posted on when the press release would be published so that he could ‘man the phones.’ Man the phones! I had to break the news to him that the act of submitting a press release would probably not make him a star. It’s about the substance of the message and not the application of delivering a message that makes waves.”—Christine O’Kelly, co-founder, Online PR Media
6. “Forbes? Thanks, but no thanks.”
“A former client in the food industry received a feature profile in Forbes (online) and was interviewed by the reporter via phone. It’s important to share I landed this within 30 days of the client contract beginning. When presented with the placement, the client was ecstatic and shared the piece with the brand’s energetic online followers via Facebook and Twitter. At our next meeting, the client said to me (I’m paraphrasing), ‘Being inside the magazine was good, but what about the cover? Why aren’t I on the damn cover of Forbes?’ Needless to say, the room went quiet.” —John Forberger, communications group account manager, Oxford Communication
7. “Get Queen Noor and NASA on the phone.”
“I once had a nonprofit client ask me to get him a call with Queen Noor because ‘she and I are similar.’ You know, because it’s just so easy to get King Abdullah on the phone. The client also wanted me to convince NASA to help him build a time machine to travel back in time and also produce his music career about rockets and flying into space.”—Sasha Muradali, director of consumer media and technology, #OpenCommunications
8. “If Salvador Dali wants an anteater, make it happen.”
“Salvador Dali once insisted that he appear on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ with an anteater. It was no easy task getting an anteater from the Bronx Zoo. There was more paperwork than contracting an A-list celebrity. The segment was a sensation, though, and he got to promote his new art series, Memories of Surrealism.”—Diane Terman, president, Diane Terman Public Relations (hat tip Karen Brooks)
9. “Can you help my tortoise get famous?”
“One of my client contacts sends me a note about his pet tortoise named Rambo. Apparently he ties bandanas around Rambo, straps a knife to his back and takes him for walks on the beach in L.A. People who meet Rambo always want to stay connected with him, so he wondered if I could make a website and social media for the tortoise. I reluctantly agreed.
“After creating rambothetortoise.com, a Twitter and Facebook account, someone spotted Rambo on the beach, posted a picture to Reddit and it ended up on the front page. The problem was the post was about a ‘mystery tortoise.’ No one knew his name or connected him to his online accounts. So I made a BuzzFeed post about Rambo, which also ended up on the front page. Now he was officially famous. Around this time, Facebook offered us a coupon for $50 worth of advertising. The ads were extremely successful—the most popular Facebook ad I’ve ever seen, actually. We took it as a sign: the world is hungry for Rambo. We’re now planning a charity event around him.”—Jason Simms, owner, Simms PR
Although I’m sure many folks can relate to some of the stories, I’d love to hear your craziest requests from clients or executives at your company. Please feel free to share in the comments section.
Ryan Greives is a senior public relations specialist at global e-commerce provider cleverbridge. He is also the author of PR Spin, a technology PR industry focused blog. A version of this article also appears on the Business2Community blog.