Download Some Free Publicity 100 Years Later

Last week I spoke on the topic “Media Relations in a Virtual World” at a national conference for the American Bar Association. I had fun learning what bar associations do to promote their organizations. Although at some point, I made a joke about the news value of a Texas judge shooting a lawyer in court and it got a big laugh. Not sure what I tapped into.

Most of the audience came to hear about the tricks of using Twitter or other online communications tools. Yet, in the session before me the focus was on message development that gets to the minds and hearts of those you want to communicate with. And it reminded me of a story I read a few weeks back in the New York Times (a publication that might not be around for another anniversary, at least as a print publication).

The story’s headline was “From a Vault in Paris, Sounds of Opera 1907.” Here’s an excerpt from the story:
PARIS — On Dec. 24, 1907, a group of bewhiskered men gathered in the bowels of the Paris Opera to begin a project that by definition they could never see to fruition. First, 24 carefully wrapped wax records were placed inside two lead and iron containers. These were then sealed and locked in a small storage room with instructions that they should remain undisturbed for 100 years.

The man behind this musical time capsule was Alfred Clark, a New Yorker who headed the London-based Gramophone Company and had provided the records. And in truth, once the ceremony was over, he had achieved his primary objective of drawing attention to his company and to the new flat-disc records it was promoting to compete with the better-known cylinders.

“I know of no other case where a commercial firm has obtained so much free publicity as we have,” he wrote to a colleague two days later.

Considering how much publicity Clarke generated on-line more than 100 years later is proof that “sticky” ideas can work no matter the time or technology.

What gives me a laugh is that the dead publicist is still getting attention for his company with thousands of stories on-line about his stunt. Amazing. These days publicists have the tools and techniques to spread a message. Yet, only a few ideas become blog or YouTube runaway wonders. And the ones that do breakthrough, are all about CONTENT.

What Clarke knew was that the right content at the right time got attention. And that will always be true whether you Twitter or Twirl.

So when I think about all those people who work at bar associations across the county looking for their on-line fix, I think about how the opera recordings are still getting attention and downloads three generations after the publicity event.