PR Tactic: The Physical Object that Grabs Attention


What is it?

This may seem like an esoteric tactic, but I will explain.


It is when you create a small physical object that helps you create your story and that grabs the media’s attention. For example PR guru Peter Shankman  created a small knitting kit for a knitting shop in a town one hour outside New York called Flying Fingers.  They gave it out in the traffic jams around Madison Square Gardens at the Democratic National Convention. They got coverage from the journalists covering the convention and orders from the public who received the kit while stuck in traffic. One woman ordered over 200 kits for her daughter’s wedding.


Why should you use it?

The only reason to use it is to grab attention. A small physical object that conveys a message at the heart of your campaign is very powerful. In the digital world we live in a curious physical object has a massive advantage. When everything is intangible, you will win when you create a nice tangible object. Let me give you another example. When I created the storytelling agency All Good Tales , I passionately wanted to connect people with the power of storytelling. I wanted to drive innovation in communication through storytelling. On a weekend away, I visited, now sadly departed, Brighton Books. In a cabinet I discovered a 70-year old pamphlet called “Customs of the Army.” It was from the UK’s military academy at Sandhurst.


I immediately fell in love with it and got an idea. How could I create something like it that would connect people with the power of storytelling and could pop out of a drawer in 2090. Inspired by this – I created the ‘Storytellers Manifesto’. To date it has been requested by over 4,000 people from all over the world.


How should you use it?

With precision. Small physical items have to pack a punch. To stand out, they have to impress. You don’t have to spend a lot of money but you have to get it right. Details are important. Every detail in the Storytellers Manifesto was considered. We chose a particular font, a special type of paper and card for the cover. For example we chose the card on the cover because it scuffs nicely. It’s a small but very important detail.


Air Iceland Connect is a small regional airline based in Reykjavik. They wanted to connect those flying with them to an in-flight story experience, but there was one problem. They had no money. There was no chance there would be a video, and none of their planes had in-built screens in the seats. What could they do? They produced “Shared Stories – onboard travel journal,” a printed hardback notebook where travellers can share their experiences.

It’s a beautiful stitch bound notebook with an amazing cover design, and an arresting inside design. It was a massive success. Travellers were compelled to share their experiences and it got international media headlines.


When should you use it?

When you are trying to make a lasting brand impact. I think it should be something simple that can last a while – it should be a brand piece that makes a statement and lasts. Here are the rules for using a physical object that grabs attention:


  1. What is its purpose? You should be able to state this in one sentence.
  2. Will it grab attention? If you got it would you love to pass it on to someone else?
  3. What makes it unique? You should give me some details about it that make it stand out.
  4. How will people use it?
  5. What will it cost? Remember it’s a small physical item – it shouldn’t be expensive.


Here is how the Flying Fingers Knitting Kit stands up:

  1. What is its purpose? To share the joy of knitting with everyone who gets it.
  2. Will it grab attention? Yes – a knitting kit given to me in traffic in Manhattan will be remembered.
  3. What makes it unique? It’s a small knitting kit to knit a scarf, with a funny poem. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
  4. How will people use it? The will knot with it.
  5. What will it cost? We have the wool and the needles. We have some small printing and packing costs.


Here is how the Air Iceland Connect Journal stands up:

  1. What is its purpose? To enable the passengers to share their wonderful holiday experiences.
  2. Will it grab attention? Yes – an airline has never asked me to do this before.
  3. What makes it unique? It’s a beautiful journal and it’s asking me to be creative. That’s a standout idea. I’m at the point where I want to give advice on where to go.
  4. How will people use it? To write recommendations, to recount great experiences. To doodle and to draw.
  5. What will it cost? Single thousands. The design job is a fixed cost and then printing costs. It would be a great idea to sell journals at the end of each flight and give the money to charity – another win.