50 Years After Wilt, PR Creativity Still Matters

Fifty years ago this weekend, PR creativity etched an image into history when nothing else could. In this business, in many ways, we have come full circle.

This Wall Street Journal story tells of March 2, 1962 when a single basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, scored 100 points in a single game. No player in pro basketball has come close, before or since. But there’s no video of the game – it was not televised. There were no major news outlets covering the game. The photographer assigned to cover it left after the 4th quarter.

A fan at the game, who happened to be a photographer for the Associated Press, grabbed his camera from his car and went to the locker room. There, he was met by the Philadelphia Warriors’ “publicity man” who wrote the number “100” on a blank sheet of paper, asked Chamberlain to hold it up for the camera and created the enduring image of the record feat.

This is akin to situations we have more frequently encountered in recent years. There simply isn’t enough traditional media to cover all the news in person. So, we have to get creative. We can take video for the client and put it on YouTube or the client’s website. We can take photos and put them on Facebook and the client’s website. We can put the client on the phone from the place news is happening for radio interviews or podcasts. Those are just a few examples. We often have to think outside of the traditional “media event” to generate coverage.

Just like the PR guy who thought on his feet in that locker room, we, as an industry, have to more often think about how to create memorable moments to tell stories when the traditional media can’t or won’t cover news. We can look to that night 50 years ago for some creative inspiration.