Good news! The publicity stunt is alive and well.

Breakdown recovery firm Britannia Rescue secured national exposure in the mainstream newspapers and online on February 2.

They achieved this through a textbook approach to this art form:

1.  Associating a dull but worthy subject – breakdown recovery – with a fun topic – the breakdown of an unromantic first date
2.  A survey (the media love a good survey) that gently leads back to automotive breakdowns and recovery
3.  A glamorous celebrity – Denise Van Outen
4.  A happy ending. A hotline that helps you find an excuse to get out of that car crash of a first date

So, let’s look at these stages in a bit more detail. The first element is to gently coax your client and explain that, while breakdown recovery is super-important, there is no way that the national media will take an interest in this subject.

I have massive respect for the PR guy who had the job of telling the client that he wants to link this gritty subject with dating, via a celebrity and a hotline. That was an awesome sell.

Next up, find a database of people using dating sites who are prepared to complete your survey. Journalists will usually want to see at least 1,000 participants in a survey. This one comprised 2,000 adults, so that’s another box ticked.



The key to a good survey is asking the right questions to gain fun answers that journalists will enjoy. Britannia’s survey looked at dating disasters and explored how long the average person spent in their company before exiting. And in case you’re interested, the answer is 51 minutes.

The next few questions looked at exit strategies from a failing first date. Answers included getting friends to phone with a fake emergency, throwing a sickie, or receiving a call to say that your beloved pet had been rushed to the vet.

Next, the survey questions asked what the key ingredients of a bad date were. The most common answer was rudeness, followed closely by a lack of eye contact caused by excessive texting and an addiction to their phone messages.

Some hardy souls did stay to the bitter end with their date, often in the hope that things could only get better.

Celebrity Denise Van Outen (ask your parents) had some wise words for the survey. “Over the years I’ve certainly been on my fair share of bad dates.”



And finally, the call to arms was inspiring. The breakdown company has set up the Dateside Rescue Hotline to generate excuses to help people escape from that bad date.

This perfectly-rounded PR stunt gives the client national exposure through a fun subject and an amenable, glamourous celebrity.


Cobb PR has had its fair share of success with publicity stunts. My top three are:

Third place – turning a low-key event into a global media feast by having the first inclusive dog show featuring a class for dogs with a disability.

Second place – an April Fool story that featured an American tycoon buying and exporting Eastbourne Pier.

First place – launching a seaside town’s crucial summer season to national acclaim by staging a blind date for a love-sick penguin, whose long-term partner had waddled out on him during the mating season.

It seems that blind dates do not go out of fashion.


If you’d like to explore the concept of a PR stunt to promote an event or service, we’d love to hear from you.