Sometimes, a PR misfire is so obvious that, in hindsight, you wonder why no one put up the ir hand and said, “Yes, but what if…”
The truth is, in many cases, someone does ask that question. They might be ignored, outvoted or, frankly speaking, do a poor job of communicating their objection. Whatever the reason, their foresight is not part of the planning phase of a PR program, and the entire process suffers because of it.
One interesting example of how the absence of foresight can doom even a clever PR plan, is the infamous Snapple “giant popsicle.” The plan was simple: Drive a massive popsicle through the streets of New York at the height of summer, then stand it straight up in the middle of Union Square. If they pulled it off, not only would Snapple generate an incredible spectacle, but their world-record feat would be lauded in headlines all over the world. So… a lot on the line, and a pretty interesting swing for the fences.
Even if you don’t know the story, you probably know what happened next. If you said: “The popsicle melted,” you won’t need your other two guesses.
After mixing and forming what was, by all accounts, a “massive” kiwi-strawberry popsicle — massive in both size and weight — was delivered in an ice truck from New Jersey. In Manhattan, a crane hefted the monolithic summer treat into place, where it almost immediately succumbed to a typical NYC summer day. Curious onlookers leapt out of the way as the pinkish ooze threatened to submerge their Jimmy Choos.
Like a scene from the Ghostbusters sequel, the pink slime leaked down East 17th Street. First responders were called to close off the streets, lest any unwary drivers or cyclists slip in the slime. Then someone asked if the popsicle was hollow in the middle. The fundamental question being: Will it break and fall on someone?
In answer to this question, the people at the lever decided to keep the popsicle at about a 25-degree angle, no higher, until it could be hauled away.
So, what’s the lesson here? While the idea was interesting and sure to garner attention if they had pulled it off, Snapple’s planning team missed a few details that could have turned a missed opportunity into the photo of the summer. Everyone knew the popsicle would eventually melt, but those tasked with figuring out how long that would take did not foresee the “immediate” nature of the meltdown.
In the end, Snapple could have generated the PR coup of the summer. While the brand did make the news, they also made a huge mess.