Amazon Drones – PR Case Study

MaciasPR December 17, 2013 6,672
Amazon Drones – PR Case Study

By Mark Macias

Don’t believe the hype. Amazon is not going to start delivering products using drones as early as 2015, even if established news organizations are reporting on it. It’s all part of a flawless PR plan and the media bought right into it.

A few months ago, I wrote an article on why every person and business needs a gimmick. (Read article here) The Amazon drone story wasn’t about operations or reinventing the delivery system. It was about creating a strong, intriguing narrative then backing it up with substance. There is a lot any business or person can learn from Amazon’s perfect execution of this media strategy.

First off, Jeff Bezos gets the media. I learned that back in 1999 when I was with NBC in Miami and pitched a profile story on this relatively unknown entrepreneur from Miami Palmetto High School. He understood back then how to define the narrative and shake up Wall Street with strong predictions. That hype worked and the stock skyrocketed. It’s no different with PR. The strong statement usually gets covered but it first needs to have credibility.

Lesson One: Establish Credibility

Every media campaign needs a credible narrative because without credibility, the media won’t cover your story. If you’re a portfolio manager for a hedge fund and you want to get on CNBC, you better have an established record. Likewise, if you’re running for City Council, you need a plan that is believable and possible or the local reporters won’t write about you. Amazon has proven itself over the years so credibility has already been established. Did you know earlier this summer, Dominoes Pizza unveiled the same “drone delivery” platform? But guess what – you probably didn’t hear about it because Dominoes Pizza doesn’t have the credible track record of Amazon. If you’re going to make a bold claim, make sure you have the operations or history to back it up.

Lesson Two: Build Suspense

60 Minutes rarely buys into hype. They don’t need to create hype because it is an established program with the best journalists. But in the case with Amazon, if you watch the segment (click here to watch video) you will see how Amazon was able to build suspense for the drone unveiling and 60 Minutes walked right into it – complete with a close-up shot of the correspondant’s reaction to the new drones. 60 Minutes opened their show with that reaction to bring the viewers in – proof that suspense works.

When you’re thinking of a publicity gimmick for your business, try to build suspense. My company, MaciasPR, ran a media campaign for a roofing company that was donating emergency roofing repairs to families in need. It’s not easy getting the media to cover a story on a roofing company, so we built suspense by putting the owner of the company on a bicycle and telling him to ride 500 miles -4- 500 Roofs. Would he make it? Would he give up? How would he feel on mile 125? Would you want to listen to a live radio interview with him while he is bicycling across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut? That is suspense my friend.

Lesson Three: Identify a Gimmick that Reinforces Your Services

The drone delivery unveiling was a brilliant strategic media move for Amazon because it reinforces its delivery service. But this isn’t about drones and Amazon changing the way books and clothes are delivered to our homes. This isn’t about customer service or delivery becoming more efficient. This was about an idea that every consumer wants to believe. It’s a page from the Jetsons.

There are several reasons why it won’t happen in 2015 like several prominent news organizations incorrectly reported. Federal regulation, liability concerns, unions, logistics: they will all prevent the federal government from approving any controversial drone legislation within the next 10 years. If Congress can’t agree on a budget or our federal debt limit, do you really think it will agree on a bill that will allow Amazon drones to fly around neighborhoods with the risk of cutting off fingers or crashing into homes? This doesn’t mean you should create a gimmick that is not true. At its root, I’m sure Amazon and Jeff Bezos believe drones do have an opportunity to change the way products are delivered. Your gimmick should inspire but have a root of reality.

But that doesn’t matter. Amazon’s stock has taken a drone lift since the story ran and by 2035 or 2050 when drones become more of a reality, no one will remember that 60-Minutes drone gimmick. By then, Bezos will have moved onto a new gimmick. I’m betting he will start talking about trips to Mars soon.

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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.