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Banksy Schools Tech PR on Buzz Building

Banksy Schools Tech PR on Buzz Building

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge


In New York, it was hard to escape the Banksy onslaught  last month. The enigmatic artist seemed to be everywhere and nowhere; omnipresent because the media covered him non-stop; yet tantalizingly out of sight, leaving a trail of pop-up art in his path.

As the NY Times reported: It began on Oct. 1, when Banksy’s website announced a monthlong “artist’s residency”… each day, Banksy would unveil a work somewhere in the five boroughs and announce its location online. Banksy madness ensued, on the street and even more in the media, as if October were somehow a slow news month [of course, it wasn’t]

Banksy seemed to conduct a kind of social experiment, using the city as a rat maze into which he dropped different kinds of bait to see how New Yorkers would react… His anonymity, his anti-establishment views, his terse quotations all contribute to the Banksy mystique and brand.

As a PR person (one who lives here in NY, and specializes in the technology sector), I wondered about the lessons the episode can offer tech marketers. After all, most brands would love a month of sustained buzz.

True, gorpy tech is not the same as art. And Banksy is already pretty well known, and has an aura of coolness about him. Yet, upon looking closer, one can see that he leveraged some basic rules of buzz building – tactics that just about anyone can apply.

Set the stage; tell them something big is coming

Banksy created dramatic tension by announcing his plans up front; and delivered, in installments, gradually relieving the tension while giving people a reason to follow and buzz about the campaign as it unfolded. The approach has much in common with what the high tech industry calls a Rolling Thunder launch.

Create a sense of scarcity and timeliness

He whetted appetites and created scarcity, like the classic “now, for a limited time only” offer, by setting a timeframe of one month.

Fly under the radar

Banksy leveraged stealth techniques: he created a sense of mystery and drama keeping mum about where the next installation would be. Stealth campaigns have been a staple in the tech world; some say they are bogus; I disagree.

Be fun and interesting

Banksy clearly had fun with this, and the sense of fun and excitement was contagious. It was interesting, and gave people a break from more serious and depressing news. His campaign was true to his subversive and provocative persona; while these specific elements might not reflect your brand, Banksy does not have a lock on “interesting”.

Use the Web and media to engage fans

Banksy announced his plans on the Web; and media coverage continued to drive interest in the campaign throughout. He gave his fans a way to follow along and participate, through a guessing game about the location of the next installation. By choosing to make public spaces his canvas, people in the area could visit and enjoy the art.

These tactics can be used alone; or string them together, like Banksy did, to build buzz for your next high tech PR campaign.

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