Monday, 7 January 2008

The Biggest. The Smallest. The World First. Records can garner 20 minutes of fame ... for a little while



PR tactic – Juicing the Guinness Book of World’s Record for fame, profit and clippings

How to generate press for a non-event? Set a world’s record. Build the world’s first or the world’s biggest. You can even make the world’s smelliest (i.e. new stinky cheese) and attract cameras.

No matter how obscure your record is, announcing it generates publicity in print, on the airwaves and on the web. World records outdraw important medical announcements, scholarly reports, art gallery openings and just about anything else that really matters … but isn’t news. Never mind that that publicity is fleeting, when a PR firm is trying to generate clippings for a client, it is all about the here and now.

The Guinness Book of World’s Record is the Bible of firsts and records. The privately owned publisher put out its first volume in 1955 and the annually updated book is now available in over 100 countries, with over 3 million copies sold each year.

Although it seems as though the Guinness Book publishes every record set in the world (from Boo Boo, a 4 inch high Chihuahua -- the world's smallest dog, to the new Tallest Living Human Being; Leonid Stadnyk, a certified veterinarian from Podoliansky, Ukraine, -- 8ft 5.5 inches tall) there is in fact a weeding out of record entries that are either not properly substantiated or are just too arcane/obscure/distasteful for the reading public.

A few years ago, while assisting Crane Communications in the promotion of the Toronto International Boat Show, I was tasked with establishing a Guinness Record for the Boat Show’s indoor lake. Lake Wow, as it was first called, is a 4 foot deep lake that fills the rink surface of the Ricoh Coliseum (on the grounds of Toronto’s CNE) for ten days each January. The lake is used to create a feeling of summer at the cottage. Power boats, sailboats and even water toys float in the near freezing waters (pumped in from Lake Ontario) of Lake Wow. The client said that the temporary lake was the largest indoor water body in the world.

I contacted Guinness in the UK a month before the show and found out that it can take up to six months for the publishers to respond to a request to verify a record. Guinness will fast track an application … at a cost. After spending $600 of the client’s money I found out that there is actually another large temporary indoor lake out there. The London Boat Show fills a bigger/deeper space each year than the Toronto Boat Show – so no record announcement about Lake Wow. Guinness did suggest that there might be other categories that would earn Lake Wow world’s title … at a cost of another $600 dollars. By the time I received this email the Boat Show press kits were already printed and the $600 idea was not spoken of again.

A few years later, after Crane Communications gave up the PR contract, the show was billing the lake as the World’s Largest Indoor Marina. I don’t know if that was an official Guinness record, but, who really cares. There isn’t a Guinness World Record police force that travels the globe shutting down corporate braggers who don’t really have the biggest, the largest, the smallest or the loudest of anything.

Late last summer I was approached by a small PR firm north of Toronto who were, on behalf of a stone quarrying company, looking for a publicist. The task? Get publicity for what they believed was the world’s biggest inukshuk.

The inukshuk is an Inuit concept. Part art, part land marker and part a Canadian pop cultural icon, the inukshuk is a pile of rocks stacked to look like a person from a distance. In the barren arctic, the Inuit use the inukshuk as a marker or guidepost. It is a beacon of peace and friendship. For a quarry in Shomberg, Ontario, there was hope that their towering Inukshuk would become a beacon of commerce.

I didn’t get the contract. The client was not only looking for press, but, also for fund raising – they needed money to pay for the public launch of their very tall stone inukshuk.

The statue was built and the press did come out to see the giant rock pile in early September 2007. But, like so many other world’s record, the brief wave of publicity has been followed by a long sea of indifference. The fact that I can’t remember the name of the quarry indicates how fleeting the power of Guiness publicity really is!

A note about the picture … I am fascinated by how North Americans have embraced the cult of Guinness. For the past two years I have been writing stories for Diver Magazine and www.divermag.com about world underwater records.

There are a group of deep water divers who have been setting records for the bizarre sport of ironing clothing underwater (yes the shirts are drip dry). These people compete to see who can go the deepest and iron the longest. This picture is a copyright free wallpaper image that appears on their website: www.extremeironing.com.

Other underwater records I have written about? What follows is the latest posting by me on Divermag.com.

* Apparently the world depth record for ironing under water has been reclaimed by Louise Trewavas, who has a nickname of Dive Girl. Earlier this year she dove with her iron and ironing board to a depth of 137m (452 feet) and worked on her laundry. She broke a record set by a competitor who had bested an earlier mark she had set. According to a Dive Girl press release, Ms. Trewayas "took an ironing board and iron to 137m in the Blue Hole, at the Red Sea resort of Dahab, to reclaim her extreme ironing world record. The event took place on 17 August and was captured on underwater video by dive buddy Steve Brown. Dive computers carried by both divers recorded the depth of the dive, and the divers had to spend over three hours in the water carrying out decompression stops in order to avoid the bends." There is a website dedicated to the sport of extreme ironing which includes photographs of divers ironing underwater. The site is www.extremeironing.com.

* Despite Ms. Trewaya's heroics, this month the top underwater record setter might just be a really expensive watch. Luxury watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre has come up with, what it describes as the most "technologically advanced diving watches so far - the Master Compressor Diving series". There are five watches in the series, the Pro Geographic, GMT, Chronograph, Ladies GMT and Ladies Chronograph. To prove their worth, in October the watchmaker took a Master Compressor Diving GMT and placed it onto an ROV off the coast of Hawaii. A camera was also on board to record the epic journey down to 1,080m (or 3,300 feet), a world record for a wristwatch of this size. In November GMT was once again placed on a ROV, this time off the coast of Manado, Indonesia. The watch survived a trip to a depth of 1,088m, ( the pressure was estimated at 1,600PSI). This depth broke the world record it had set in Hawaii by eight metres.

* Diving leads to crime - at least for a British bloke who holds the record as that country "most traveled diver". According to English press reports, Ivan Stanic, a project supervisor with the national rail company, has been charged with taking kickbacks from builders in return for work contracts. The Independent Commission Against Corruption claims that Mr. Stanic used the money to feed his obsession for scuba diving. In recent years he has booked so many trips with a scuba travel agency that he has been awarded the title "Most-traveled diver" for four consecutive years.

* A Kent, England scuba club set the indoor record for the longest Bond Dive. In November the club staged a 24-hour charity scuba dive inside Pinewood Studio's underwater film tank. The huge underwater stage has been used for many movies including a number of James Bond thrillers. The club raised money for a local children’s charity.

* A diving barber has set a new world record for cutting hair underwater. David Rae, was able to cut the hair of 33 people in one hour, breaking the old Guinness Book of World Records mark of 11 haircuts in 60 minutes. It was all done in at the bottom of a London, England, pool earlier this Fall as part of a charity fundraising event.

Editor’s note – did we miss a glug glug, underwater world’s record? If so, let us know. Drop a note to divermag.com’s Stephen Weir at stephen@stephenweir.com

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