What do a gnome, an anniversary and Twitter all have in common? At SKM Group, it all made perfect sense as the agency set out to raise interest and awareness about its 25th anniversary celebration and donation of $50,000 to cancer-related causes throughout the country.
An integral part of this effort was the wrap-up and publicity surrounding it. Knowing that a 40-person company was making such a significant donation was certainly noteworthy, but the newsworthiness of it was a bit more elusive. The media do not appreciate self-promotional events, and the old “grip and grin” check presentation is overdone and boring. SKM knew it had to incorporate something interesting and visual (a “hook”) to catch the media’s attention; otherwise, there would be no coverage.
After a few brainstorming sessions, the team developed a strategic public relations plan that utilized social media and Skomer to garner curiosity and excitement, with the culmination being a news conference to announce the donation. Using a garden gnome as a company spokesperson may seem unconventional, but Skomer represents everything about SKM and its 25th anniversary donation: innovation and creativity, going the extra mile, and work and play peacefully coexisting. It was the perfect fit.
About a week before the press conference/announcement, Skomer’s friends visited the local media stations and publications in a playful spin on traditional media drops. Armed with cryptic messages like “There’s no place like gnome” or “Have you heard the gnews?” and the @gnomefindsahome, the gnomes almost immediately began appearing on news stations’ Twitter feeds. Without any kind of solicitation or knowledge of what the campaign entailed, they were pictured in newsrooms, with reporters, outside for the weather, etc.
A. Gnome, the owner of @gnomefindsahome, began a slow but steady courtship with the media, following prominent local athletic, scientific, political and cultural entities in order to give him legitimacy, interacting with reporters and assignment editors, and posting his musings and activities in his new hometown. A. Gnome was careful not to appear too promotional or overstep his bounds so he didn’t turn off the media, who can sniff a solicitation from a mile away. Happily, A. Gnome’s efforts paid off: by the time SKM distributed the media alert explaining what exactly Gnome Finds a Home is all about, interest was sufficiently spiked and outlets were downright smitten with the little guy.
With all the positive feedback, SKM felt good about its chances of outlets coming to cover A. Gnome finally finding his home in the garden of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge—and SKM’s announcement about its $50,000 donation to that organization. Gnome-related Tweets on radio and television feeds as well as a mention in a Buffalo News column all preceded the event, and two television stations came to cover it. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown even came to welcome his city’s newest resident. The story was featured on the stations’ 5:00, 6:00 and early morning newscasts, ran on a TV station’s online community billboard, and Business First of Buffalo and the local community weekly ran stories about the donation as well.
All in all SKM was elated with the interest and coverage surrounding its donation announcement. While “stunt” public relations may not work in all cases, Gnome Finds a Home proved to have the perfect combination of a memorable spokesperson, legitimate announcement and social media savvy.