Explosive PR

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Secrets of Outrageous PR-Stunts from Russia with Love for Positive News

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This looks interesting and energetic.

Douglas Rushkoff, “Media Virus”

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#PR #spindoctors #communications_directors #PRaides #propagandists #MalcolmTucker #TheThickof It #IntheLoop #Kasper #Borgen #TobyZiegler #TheWestWing #Scandal #crisis_management #Olivia_Pope #AbsolutePower #public_relations #propaganda #Alternative_facts #Big_lie #Doublespeak #Euphemistic #misspeaking #Euromyth #Fake_news #Half_truth #Ideological_framing #Internet_manipulation #Media_manipulation #Post_truth #Propaganda #Scientific_fabrication #Yellow_journalism #manipulation #Misinformation #disinformation #business #entrepreneurship #balls #cool #news_tornado #Wag_the_Dog

#atomic_news #buzz #pr_stunt #Stampede_PR #media_virus #PR_hook



This book could be written by my Russian friends (including Kremlin-based spin doctors), PR people from IT companies and start-ups. Occasionally, I see messages in my Facebook feed: “I could tell you so many things, but I’ll never do it, not even in memoirs.”

I’d be delighted to read such stories with you and with law enforcement officers, but my friends would never write a book like that and certainly not because of their respect for the law. In fact, there is no PR and lobbying regulation in Russia. This is just the PR ethic: if the client says “no” you should please him/her, no matter what.

I take high risks publishing this book, telling how things are done, and how explosive PR campaigns are concocted.

Want to know why it is risky to publish or even to read this book?

To begin with, I did not ask the permission of all my clients about whether I could publish their cases. I feel the moral right to do this without their permission. For instance, the budgets of some PR campaigns were so low (based on mutual agreement) it did not seem possible to do them only for the sake of money or pleasure (which is equally important). But if I enjoy the process of telling about this experience and thereby attract more clients to well-paid projects, it can be justified. First, I wanted to use the phrase “serious projects,” but then it dawned on me that my projects are more like laughing gas, so “well-paid” sounds better.

Regarding one project, the client said to me, “Please do not expose this was a PR stunt.” I ignored this request. Well, frankly, there’s nothing special to scheme against anybody. I’ll never write about really dangerous PR cases since my self-preservation instinct is sharp.

Secondly, a common opinion is that it’s difficult to repeat something known to all. Many entrepreneurs and business consultants used to tell me: “Why expose these tricks? How are you going to make a nickel? You unveil loaded dice.” My rebuttal comes down to my two convictions: let competition and the level of PR campaigns rise as a result of strenuous effort and PR people overreaching themselves. I earned my first degree in journalism, and this explains a lot. You cannot hide an owl in a sack — this is what people normally say about the likes of me.

In the final analysis, the outcome is similar to that of John Godfrey, a friend of Ian Fleming (author of James Bond novels). In prewar years, he published The Trout Memo, where he described 51 ways to mislead the enemy, and then brilliantly backed Ewen Montegu.

That story is described in Operation Mincemeat. They did in real life what was described in the memo, despite it being thoroughly studied by enemies. Nevertheless, they succeeded.

Rear Admiral John Godfrey

The operation’s result: a passport for the man who never lived

Or take the US government which started more than one war after the release of Wag the Dog in 1997, which was the screening of Larry Beinhart’s American Hero (1993).

Not all wars were launched to smother up a sex scandal, but some provocations definitely took place.

For instance, it’s not clear if there was a real chemical attack in Syria before Trump smashed the Syrian forces with tomahawks. Maybe that attack was provoked or staged or could be seen only in a video and photos. I am not 100% sure, but smoke screens are always used to trigger a war machine.

This book is about business, not war.

Let me share several cases with you. If you are interested to know how we reached these results, continue reading this book.

Crazy News. Made in Russia

What are other ways to describe our news? Crazy PR? Shock PR? Spin Doctoring? Grass Roots Lobbying? Close indeed, and yet they do not hit the mark. On one occasion, my PR specialization was translated as “stampede”. Yet I’d prefer the phrase “explosive PR”. Hopefully, I’ve invented something new. This is what creative director of the Leo Burnett advertising agency, Jay Conrad Levinson, once did with the phrase “Guerrilla marketing”.

Now, let’s move to cases. All of them are planned by my explosive PR-campaigns.

Raccoons Ransack an IT shop

We trained raccoons and used an alleged candid camera to film them moving our client’s boxes over the office with Internet boosters. We placed our client’s logo in the frame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnuE9IhQYjk

After that, we sent an animal tamer to the shop while broadcasting the news that raccoons had ransacked the shop, spoiled the products, and it was a real nightmare. The animal tamer learned about our interpretation of events from the news and seemed to be a bit concerned, but that’s about all.

Meanwhile, the news went viral, first on national and then on foreign networks:





It was particularly exciting to read about the “damage” done by our animal companions, estimated in GBP.

As performers of that promo action, we were content with sparking a public outcry in Moscow, but we sent shock waves over the world. The client thought this effort was insufficient, however, and we had to stage one more promo event to fully satisfy him, which brought me to an even more exciting experience I’ll soon tell you about.

Incidentally, our team was inspired to create the viral video in a fish shop of Vladivostok airport, where a cat ate delicatessen worth 60,000 rubles (about $2,000 in those days): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqdvk-x2HZg

You may think we mistreated the raccoons by demonizing them. I agree, but for the sake of justice, I must add we also decriminalized them in media. In another promo action two years later, a raccoon from the same company became the animal that saved a clothing boutique from plunder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XszPhXTFO0

And then we allowed raccoons from another company to admire a woman’s tits, but that is a different story.

Trial Over the “Russian Google”

I personally dislike the news in Russia, with all those car accidents, murders, crashes, and man-caused disasters hitting the headlines. Who needs this depressing stuff? Even Professor Preobrazhensky from The Heart of a Dog after the eponymous novel of Mikhail Bulgakov made a point about the pernicious impact of Soviet newspapers upon digestion. “And God keep you from reading Soviet newspapers before lunch!”

Someone told me it’s a bit different in the US where you hear more positive news.

So, my attorney and I thought of something: the main culprit is the Yandex search engine, most popular in Russia, where the main page always shows the top five news by default. I expressed my discontent in the lawsuit where I claimed I was “growing bald because of bad news,” having attached to it the opinion of a trichologist where he confirmed that stress indeed causes hair loss. It was up to the press to fill in the blanks and connect the dots.

As a result, we had the following publications:




and a lot more.

The guys from Yandex must have found the phrase “Russia’s Google’ as their description particularly hilarious.

Eventually, I got an amazing spin in the international arena and respective new clients to boot.

The PR-secret of Cat Woman and Professional Bed Warmer-girl

My friend told me an anecdote about the Russian poet Sergey Yesenin who ordered the maid’s services with his colleague Marienhof in soggy St. Petersburg. Her main service was warming the beds for poets and then leaving.

Four days later, she quit the job because she was flabbergasted that she was never harassed and she hoped this would be the case.

This was a cute anecdote, and I decided to repeat it in modern-day Russia with my client — the landing web page LPgenerator.ru. We came up with the she-is-generator.ru site, found a “heroine” who would be a “cat woman” (or “bed warmer”), and launched this hoax in media: https://life.ru/964200

How many leads (potential queries) do you think she received on the first day? (the right answer: more than 200).

How many clients actually used her services? (the right answer: more than 0).

How much money do you think Viktoria Ivachyova made out of that hoax? (the right answer: more than 100,000 rubles or about $2,000).

These were fees paid to the young entrepreneur by media, foreign outlets prevailing (Chinese and German TV channels).

The result was over 50 publications, of which 15% were foreign press releases:














And others which you may google using the “Viktoria Ivachyova bed warmer” query.

It remains a mystery why the client was not happy with that effort.

The same can’t be said about Viktoria!

Contact Zoo Versus Video Studio. How Raccoon Helped Small Business Became World-famous?

And the latest episode: I helped my colleagues seed a story about a contact zoo being at law with a video studio. The point is that in the process of filming a video ad, another raccoon allegedly stripped a bra off the starlet and fell into a shock, refusing food and further engagement. This exasperated the zoo manager who decided to sue the studio.

After I sent a press release, I first had a call from Russia 1 TV channel, the Call Center program, which was later rewarded for “finding” a cool storyline. This call was followed by two others. A day later, we had an international fallout:


“Russian zoo sues advertising firm for ‘traumatizing’ rented raccoon in erotic photo shoot.”


“This Raccoon Is Extremely Uncomfortable with Being Featured in A Naked Video Ad”


“Traumatized Russian Raccoon in Erotic Video Scandal”!


“Russian zoo sues ad agency for using raccoon in ‘erotic’ shoot.”



My friends from the art-msk.ru video studio visited by 100 users a day, on average, recorded a sharp surge: they had 1,000 visits first, then 6,000, then 15,000, and then their meters stopped counting, baffled by mounting figures.

This was not the end of the story, though. The video studio filed a counter lawsuit against the zoo because their “profligate” raccoon mangled the actress’ lingerie. That news was not such an astounding success, even though it featured in about 10 national periodicals.

It did not even occur to the readership of BuzzFeed this was just a PR stunt:

Google using the “raccoon art-msk.ru” request

How did my friends from the video studio and their friends from the contact zoo benefit from that action, besides promoting their web sites and global publicity? Plenty of fun and, hopefully, new clients, though this was not their top priority, I believe. All for the sake of the case and victory! I like the happy eyes of clients who look as if they just experienced an orgasm, while these were “just” publications.

Who’s So Cocky There?

Let’s meet each other!

Philosopher-Sociologist-Journalist-PR man

My name is Roman Maslennikov, I am director of the PR agency Prostor PR & Consulting2. I have degrees in sociology and philosophy, but my primary vocation is journalism — I made some income as a journalist while at school when I wrote an article about the night spots in my home city, Tver. The editorial office long refused to accept the article, claiming it was advertising. I told them: “If this were advertising, I’d praise all the bars, clubs, and restaurants or bash them, showing their pros and cons.” I essentially promoted the night lifestyle without being aware of it. They paid me 50 rubles ($5 in 1998) for the article.

I’m a Boredom Fighter. Are You?

I’ve been engaged in PR since 2002 (organization of parties in night clubs and DJ booking). Since 2004, I’ve promoted one small translation agency in Moscow. We are still collaborating, and now this company is among the top-5 leaders of its industry. Since 2006, I’ve been running my own PR agency. For six years, I was doing what I call “classic PR”, organizing press conferences, press tours, and getting limelight for my clients in leading business periodicals like Forbes, Dengi, Vedomosti and others. One day, I realized I was bored and thought of leaving PR for good. But then a client came my way, who wanted something special, something off the charts, some non-trivial PR campaign.

I did not know what I was being drawn into, but I agreed to give it a try.

Normally, my clients are startups in different fields of business. The first client of this sort was a representative office of the investment firm Botanoo in Russia. They traded in carbon credits. I still don’t fully understand what carbon credits are, but we attracted a long line of people to their doors in central Moscow.

Then I was ordered a sensational opening by Moscow’s most expensive bath house in Moscow, Tazik Club. We came up with a crash of five limos, with their logo painted on all of the sideboards.

Despite a major holiday, plane crash, and saturated political agenda, our news ranked sixth in the top-10 daily news, according to the YandexNews search engine.

Then we “kidnapped” a model who wanted to win renown.

Three days later she was a recognizable personality.

When our fourth resounding promo event was a success, I realized I had groped for an efficient technology.

We did an excellent job promoting a new coupon site for two days, selling indulgences at a discount. The stunt lasted until doomsday by the Maya calendar.

Their web site traffic rose from 1,000 to 10,000 visits and remained at that level for a week.

The PR success of my clients convinced me to give up on “classic PR campaigns” in favor of “explosive PR”. I had an amazing revelation: — you didn’t only spend money on PR (advertising or marketing) but also earned it via PR.

“We Do Not Lie: We Are Daydreaming”

Our sizzle reel was uploaded on YouTube, which was freely made by a TV channel. The reel is an exposure of our promo event in a fur shop. We deliberately arranged a striptease of a hapless salesgirl who allegedly misunderstood the terms of the promo event and stripped naked to the waist for the customer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ1ybIkPQrs

I played the role of that customer. In those days, I could be in the public eye without arousing suspicions. Now I am not involved in promo events unless I promote myself, because now people may say we know this is a PR man, so something must be wrong here.

The story ended with a showy phrase: “Our fantasy becomes your reality.”

True: we do not lie, we are daydreaming.

How A News Hook Became a New Business and Caused a Stir in Moscow

And here’s how our newsworthy information not only become real news but also launched new lines of business.

From our perspective, everything began with the successful promo event “Raccoons Ransack an Internet Booster Shop” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV5JjzyvROE

There were plenty of releases on Ren-TV, Russia Today, Podmoskovye 360, and even in The Independent. Here is the reference: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/watch-three-badly-behaved-raccoons-ransack-an-office-in-russia-10218013.html

As per the contract terms, however, the client expected three TV releases while there was only one. Because of that, I nearly split with my business partner who was adamant that the action had been completed. But a bargain is a bargain, so I decided to press it home.

The client continually turned down our cool moves. Just follow the link to gage some of them: https://goo.gl/LWz9WS

For instance: “Launching a rumor that an Internet booster manufacturer has won a grant from PornHub to develop the Internet in the Moscow region for greater exposure of local residents to porn. This was on the premise that XXX-sites have a large audience only in the inner city, whereas in the suburbs people do not visit such sites because of the slow Internet. Or “Russian porn celeb Elena Berkova will star in a commercial of the Internet booster manufacturer.”

Here is the plot: “Taking too long to download? Getting nervous and breaking your computer? Hook up and don’t fret.” Or “A nude man is running across the Red Square and trying to climb the Mausoleum to set up a booster. The whack is taken to a loony bin, and the client says, “We bear no relation to this incident: it’s the scheming of our rivals.” Or “An Internet rickshaw: a man with an aerial wire is pursuing a businessman over the Moscow region so as not to lose location.”

Occasionally, it came to funny PR inventions infringing upon the TV broadcasting act. We cut in a TV spot already on the air, but the client got the hang, and we saw a new generation fake was invented — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvkpCTCd2-E

That’s Why Explosive PR Is More Than Just Traditional Public Relations

Eventually, we groped for the right trick and came up with a press release identifying some places in the Moscow Region that needed fast Internet more than others: clinics, daycares, playgrounds, boarding schools, bathrooms, and cemeteries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck12M1O63NA

Now about the Internet at the cemetery. That hook blew the minds of journalists. Everyone wanted to shoot that process in the midst of graves and crosses.

Yet the state enterprise Ritual was hard on us, demanding a multitude of accreditation documents, testing, etc.

That idea did not pay off. We made an arrangement to shoot a video at the animal cemetery in Khimki, but the TV channels did not care. The cemetery Internet had some coverage in newspapers; the company even had calls from real funeral brokers who wanted to hook up, with four annual subscriptions signed. They just did not want any publicity.

This story had a sequel. Ritual announced a tender for the Internet installation at three Moscow cemeteries. When the news hit the Yandex top, questions hailed down on Yota System, and I was personally thanked by journalists for “pushing through a useful initiative.” I replied that “I was simply doing my work” and was not privy to the comments, although actually, I was, as you can see.

Now about the Internet in bathrooms; this was another cranky idea! While looking for a shooting site, I called several Moscow companies to know all ends and outs of this market and made an arrangement with a Moscow toilet chain. When shootings were over — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th_oE3FWBiU — directors were already negotiating the SIM card delivery. Again, a lucrative business arose from a newsbreak.

Oleg Matveychev makes a point in his Ears that Wag the Ass that advertising only squanders your money while PR can help you earn it. Finally, I had succeeded.

What is Explosive PR?

Explosive PR is not the trivial “blatant PR stunt”, though that is what it is. Explosive PR just sounds better, doesn’t it?

Explosive PR takes place every time 30 to 100 or more free features about your company are released within 1-2-3 days.

I don’t know how it works abroad, but in Russia, business people often wonder how PR can boost their sales. I’ll explain everything statistically, although figures are boring. I tackled explosive PR to avoid extensive explanations and reports. Everything is seen with the naked eye. For instance, our news is in the TOP-10 YandexNews. What other coverage evidence do you need? This is the best KPI to be dreamed of in PR: hitting the TOP-5 news of the main information and news source — the search engine used by more than 70% of Runet users.

Our other news topped the Google: Trends of the Day — “A schoolboy wins a night with a porn star in the CS: GO game”

What other explanations and reports are needed to defend the maxim that PR affects sales, albeit indirectly?

Similar claims are made on explosive PR as well, but how on earth can you measure its impact on sales? I came up with a metaphor. Just imagine coming to a premiere or a Super Bowl game, or the NHL finals, or a popular stage production of a Broadway musical.

You needn’t imagine yourself a businessman because this is what you are, so you watch a game or a stage production, the brilliant play of the actors, and have fun.

Can you see how this might affect your sales? There will be some effect, but you are at a loss for precise estimation. The sure positive effect is feeling fine, experiencing a catharsis, and having deep moral satisfaction.

Now imagine being in the center of that game, the main star who scored a decisive goal or a winning touchdown. What do you feel?

Extreme, a surge of adrenaline, your heart leaping for joy. It’s a rush and a kick for you. In the same token, explosive PR is about the INNER STATE.

Apart from a higher conversion rate, the number of brand queries, coverage, etc., the main benefit of explosive PR is the new inner state.

And this is real buzz or bliss-out worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime.

And like my friend and Nietzsche wannabe Anthony “The Inquisitor” Kirsanov would put it, whatever does not kill us can be tried once again!

Theoretical Framework of Explosive PR

Explosive PR did not originate out of nowhere. However, this is how it is now perceived by my numerous rivals. The number of explosive PR agencies keeps growing. Yet, there are only five real professionals in this trade: Anton Vuima, Oleg Voronin, Maksim Perlin, Misha Chernyshev, and Oleg Matveychev, the guru of all gurus.

Explosive PR has a host of friends: newsjacking, guerilla marketing, viral video, flash mob, pranks, art actionism, cats, sexvertising, experience-marketing, shockvertising, mem-marketing, memjacking, ambush-marketing, hashtag jacking, and marketing shticks.

Works of fiction and cinematography, rather than related areas, that motivated me to tackle explosive PR. Here is the best theoretical framework for those who want to be fearless of explosive PR:

— Wag the Dog movie — a screen adaptation of Larry Beinhart’s American Hero,

— The Black Mirror series,

— The Absolute Power mini-series,

— Christopher Buckley’s Little Green Men,

— Ears That Wag the Ass, a book by Russian authors who are currently employed as Kremlin spin doctors

The authors of the above-listed works present PR as it should be: salient, creative, and stunning, but it is nothing like that. In agencies and corporations, PR comes down to press release mailing, press tours, and conferences. I was bored doing these kinds of things for 10 years, so I decided to return the original sense to PR: foolhardiness, recklessness, and flamboyancy. If these are present, PR is destined to be efficient.

“PR Needs More Balls!”

When I heard Fred Cook’s coined phrase “PR needs more balls’, I knew I wasn’t the only one concerned with PR desalination.

“My outlook on the future of PR is simply that PR needs more balls and I translate balls to mean courage. As PR people, we are known for swimming in our swim lanes and playing nice in the sandbox,” he said. “But this is our opportunity to not play so nice in the sandbox.

We’re looking at whether the term PR is still the right term.


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