6 secrets of a successful St. Patrick’s Day stunt

Chicago dyes its river green every year for St. Patrick’s Day. Though it wasn’t devised as a brand stunt, it works beautifully as one.

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The green river wasn’t designed as a PR campaign for Chicago, but the stunt generates a great deal of buzz for the Second City, even attracting tourists who plan trips for the occasion. Its longevity makes it an event PR pros can examine for clues about how to pull off a successful PR stunt (should you be in that camp). Here are six helpful clues.

It’s authentic. In today’s media landscape, where we can’t really tell whether that viral video was “organic” or engineered, it’s getting harder to find authenticity. The Chicago River, the story goes, was originally stained green in the 1960s, when the city was trying to find out who was dumping waste into the river. A special dye was poured into the sewage system, causing the river to change color wherever waste was being dumped. From this rather unappealing practice came the idea to turn the river green for St. Patrick’s Day. The city’s parade organizers ran with the idea, and it’s been a signature feature of Chicago’s annual festivities ever since.

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