When President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for Tuesday’s summit in Singapore, the event drew a massive cadre of international journalists.
And where reporters gather in mass, publicity seekers inevitably find ways to take advantage of the event.
As the summit played out, politicians touted their messages while the Singapore branches of companies as diverse as IKEA and Coca-Cola newsjacked the event—the soda bottler with a video. Travel organizations promoted the Southeast Asian island nation. KFC even invited the two plus-sized leaders to share a four-pack of fried chicken.
“Let me know if you’re keen so I can reserve a table and jazz it up,” KFC posted on Facebook. “Bigly.”
Lest we forget, the United States’ most unlikely statesman, former NBA star Dennis Rodman, brought a cryptocurrency a flood of attention for the price of a plane ticket and a hotel room.
For many, the need for summit-related messaging was obvious. Liberty in North Korea, a human rights group that helps North Korean refugees in China escape to South Korea, tweeted that the summit should focus on opening up the world’s most closed nation:
We believe the summit can and should be good for the North Korean people.
In fact, to make long term, fundamental progress with NK, we have to ensure our strategy includes 25 million North Koreans, not just KJU, and accelerates opening in the most closed country on the planet. pic.twitter.com/FfKa1Pj3VB
— Liberty in North Korea (@LibertyinNK) June 12, 2018
Veterans of Foreign Wars called attention to the thousands of troops missing in action in the north since the Korean War. Many families were thrilled to learn that the agreement included a provision to return the remains of fallen Americans to the United States. (My uncle, Carter Skare, was a B-17 navigator who was shot down over the North, and my father is a combat veteran of the war.)
The group tweeted, “The VFW is pleased to see the commitment to recovering POW/MIA remains as one of the four points listed in the agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. An estimated 5,300 missing American service members are in North Korea and potentially recoverable.”
NBA great touts pot-related cryptocurrency
No discussion of summit-related PR can be complete without a nod to Rodman. He may be the world’s only individual who can claim a friendship with both Trump and Kim after several visits to the Hermit Kingdom. Rodman’s trip was sponsored by PotCoin, a cryptocurrency for legal marijuana. News outlets as diverse as The New York Times and Time mentioned PotCoin.
The web publication Inside Bitcoins enthused, “In a curious first win for cryptocurrency as a direct consequence of the summit, PotCoin became its unofficial sponsor after retired U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman arrived to ‘give support’ to the two leaders.”
PotCoin’s Twitter account busily promoted its champ for the Nobel Prize, and it retweeted a WikiLeaks poll asking whether Rodman was the leading American diplomat. He won 75 percent of the vote, beating out Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice.
Perhaps photoshopping from a haze of reefer smoke, PotCoin put Rodman at the center of the entire history-making summit in its image. Weirdly enough, the organization might just be correct about his role, even if he never did appear with the two leaders.
— PotCoin (@PotCoin) June 10, 2018
Clad in one of Trump’s trademark “Make America Great Again” hats, Rodman gave an emotional interview with CNN, saying he had received death threats after one of his visits to Pyongyang. The interview also went viral, drawing additional attention to his sponsor.
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) June 12, 2018
Rodman also gave a shoutout to his team at Prince Marketing, which represents athletes and celebrities worldwide. As of Tuesday morning, however, the agency had yet to push Rodman’s visit on its own Twitter feed.
Hotels join the push
Singapore hotels such as Sentosa, Shangri-La Hotel, Capella Singapore and St. Regis reaped a bonanza of attention. The publication Marketing Interactive reported:
“Data from Digimind revealed that discussions pertaining specifically to these hotels made up 11% of summit related discussions from 10 May to 11 June 2018.
“On an international front, Capella Singapore earned the international spotlight as the chosen location for the summit, followed by Shangri-La (40%) as President Trump’s chosen residence for the duration of his stay in Singapore.”
Singapore travel got a major boost from all the attention, as many reporters were agog over the futuristic look of the city.
Singapore Nights 🇸🇬 pic.twitter.com/ftSnuGSgvf
— Travel Vibes (@travelldiarie) June 12, 2018
Singapore’s ultramodern Changi Airport used its Twitter feed to promote a game and warn of summit-related road closures. The airport also has a lively brand journalism site, but it avoided hyping the summit, instead offering travel-related articles. For those sick of tacos and KFC, one piece suggested Asian delicacies such as tuna eyeballs, pig’s brain soup, live octopus tentacles and, er, cod sperm sac (from Japan).
“Deep fried tarantulas are a local delicacy in Cambodia, and is often paired as a snack with cold beer,” Changi chirped. “It can be pretty expensive for the locals, so people only eat them on special occasions, such as birthdays.”
The airport won multiple thumbs-ups, with travelers touting the indoor rainforest:
— Adam Danyal (@adamdanyal) June 9, 2018
Various Republicans and Democrats sought to drive the narrative in their direction on Twitter. The Republican National Committee compared the summit to Ronald Reagan’s famous Berlin speech urging Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
The Democratic Party’s primary Twitter account stayed clear of the topic, but there was plenty of skepticism from Democratic leaders. Senator Chuck Schumer pushed back in a tweet that sent people to his Facebook account:
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 12, 2018
Trump’s social media director celebrated the summit as a success, offering a series of tweets with video footage:
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) June 12, 2018
And just in case Rodman wasn’t entertainment enough, an Australian Kim impersonator harvested PR gold when he was temporarily detained in the Singapore airport on his way into town. Howard X, who declined to give his real name, told Reuters he was questioned after he landed.
“(They) asked me what my political views were and if I have been involved with protests in other countries,” he told Reuters, adding that he was told to stay away from Sentosa Island and the Shangri-La, two areas associated with the summit.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 8, 2018