Watch and Listen

Banged up and broadcast out: Alcatraz Hotel opens in London

Date: 20 March 2012 16:11

Any columnist will tell you that it is their God-given (or editor-sanctioned) right to promote, when the mood suits them, their own tawdry wares via whatever media organ has given them a mouthpiece.

From books to film and TV appearances, your average columnist will shill their work until their blue in the face. So looking back on (thus far, who knows, this could be the last), three months-worth of PR Antics, I have so far resisted the urge to mention even in passing a personal piece of work.

This week, I thought that I would test that (just this once, you understand).

For the launch of UKTV’s Alactraz – the new J.J. Abrams series that debuted on Watch last week (and continues Tuesdays at 9.00 pm) – the slightly epic idea of launching “Hotel Alcatraz” was cooked up to promote the show.  With rooms available to the general public via for a week following the grand opening.

The hotel, complete with four rooms and a cinema, guards and authentication from a genuine former-Alcatraz watchman, was launched to global media interest. As is always the way (and much to my relief given that there is an edict to include a video in every post), the opening hit broadcast in a big way …


Why’s it work?

For a start, the set is almost perfect. Which is a cracking start for the whole idea.

The guards look and sound like the real thing.

It’s clearly a PR stunt – but sails just close enough to plausibility to create media interest in-spite of that.

The media themselves seem to have genuinely enjoyed their stays – with Daily Mirror, VICE and Reuters journos all “spending the night in Alcatraz”.

But the heart of this idea is the insight that – much like the “stay in Delboy Trotter’s flat” or’s Sand Hotel – the punter has to be able to experience the stunt.

Too many ideas create “exclusive” activities for journalists to take part in that the consumer can’t – regardless of the cost – experience for themselves.

While it meant many more hoops to jump through for the team (and take my word for it), a hotel that you, the consumer can actually stay in was always going to get better coverage than one that was reserved purely for media before it vanished in a PR Puff of smoke.

Everyday’s a school day in PR. Here’s another little lesson along the way!

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR and from time-to-time pens Spinning Around, a blog that he describes as “thinking out loud”

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