Dan Eldridge reviewed the new book “Can We Do That?” and provides this excerpt about Richard Branson.
His trademark is outlandish publicity stunts. He will do almost anything to promote the Virgin brand: driving a tank down Fifth Avenue in New York to introduce Virgin Cola to the United States, risking his life in high-profile hot-air balloon adventures or portraying a drowning victim on television Baywatch.
Indeed, so crucial is the continued high profile of Virgin that Mr. Branson says his highest paid and most important employee is Will Whitehorn, his public relations and communications director. I suspect in most companies, the public relations person is down at No. 20 in the pecking order,Mr. Branson says. But, here, he is fighting incredibly important battles. If a negative story starts running away with itself in the press and is not dealt with fast, it can badly damage the brand. And so we put enormous weight on our public relations people.
Mr. Branson reportedly sets aside at least 25 percent of his time for public relations activities, and Mr. Whitehorn has a staff member whose sole responsibility is devising the headline-catching publicity stunts for which Mr. Branson has become known. If your staff works enormously hard to create something they are proud of, it’s foolish if you don’t let the world know about it, Mr. Branson states. Using yourself to get out and talk about it is a lot cheaper and more effective than a lot of advertising. In fact, if you do it correctly, it can beat advertising hands down and save tens of millions of dollars.