Stunts: ‘PR Bounty’ Media Placement Contest

We’d never heard of the Pine Brothers “softish” throat lozenge company before today, but they definitely have some…unconventional promo ideas.

Companies usually contact PR firms before designing a strategy, but Pine Brothers’ CEO Victoria Knight-McDowell (best known for creating the popular Airborne “immune support supplements”) decided to completely skip the usual way of doing things… by turning the whole deal into a contest.

The “PR Bounty” stunt works like this: any individual (professional or otherwise) who manages to place a feature story on Pine Brothers in one of its CEO’s preferred publications will get paid—after the story runs. It’s not just print media, either: anyone savvy enough to score a full segment on Anderson, Dr. Phil or The View or other talk shows will earn a cool $25,000!

This isn’t the first unusual stunt from Pine Brothers, by the way: they recently offered free lozenges to professional opera singers. We were curious to learn more about their latest plan, so we communicated via email with Rider McDowell,  company chairman and husband of Victoria.

Keep reading–it’s worth it:

How did this project come about?

The idea for our “PR Bounty” program arose organically, out of a sense of frustration from dealing with traditional publicity channels. I acknowledge that there are some great publicists out there…Unfortunately, I haven’t met any of them. I’ve hired four different public relations persons over the past fifteen years, and their efforts didn’t garner a single story in the media. As a consequence I’ve conceived of and generated every single media story we’ve ever received, from the Mickey Rooney Superbowl ad and Academy Award stunt for Airborne to the Opera Singer give-away…With Pine Brothers, I wanted to take a fresh tack that would free up my schedule. It occurred to me that the way to do this, would be to incentivize the entire industry on our behalf.

How does the pay model work?

Our fees are quite generous…Also, the bounty process precludes the possibility of paying for services that don’t deliver the goods. We only pay after the piece is published or aired.

Is the contest open to all interested parties? 

If you think you could generate a positive media story on our behalf, you can, and be rewarded generously for it. Think of it as Darwin meets Bernays, while eating Pine Brothers.

What sort of response have you received so far?

We have had numerous responses (over 25) from public relations people (both firms and individuals), to former journalists with contacts, to the wife of a segment producer at a top morning show. Most people with whom we’ve spoken, are delighted by the concept.

What’s your background in the industry?

I’m a former novelist and screenwriter and toiled for one year as a publicist in NYC in 1985, just long enough to understand the business. Probably the most fun about starting and owning consumer products companies, is using creative marketing to grow them…I felt I could make the process easier, which is why I created the PR Bounty.

OK, what do we think? Are we also “delighted by the concept”? Is this idea ridiculous…or ridiculously GREAT?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.