Our PR brainstorms always have eight attendees – the seven members of our team and the list of qualities that make a story newsworthy. Without considering these news values, our otherwise creative ideas will only be interesting to us, but not to the media and public we’re trying to reach.
A misperception of creating newsworthy content is that every idea must be 100 percent original. In reality, the media responds positively to ideas that are a new take on something familiar to them.
At this time every year, creating a corn maze in the likeness of a celebrity continues to earn media coverage for the farms that produce them, the celebrities they showcase and the charities/causes aligned with the celebrities. In short, corn mazes earn coverage.
Just last year, we were involved in creating a maze in the likeness of NASCAR driver Joey Logano (on behalf of our client Common Ground Alliance). These efforts led to national media coverage of Joey’s maze and another accompanying maze that featured our client’s 811 (call before you dig phone number) logo that Joey promotes on his car a few times a year.
Just last week, a maze depicting retiring Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz earned extensive media coverage and prompted the idea for this blog entry.
So what is it about corn mazes that explains why television, online and print media can’t get enough of them?
1. The celebrities themselves (and access to them) are too hard to resist. Celebrity has always been an important news value, because media consumers like to follow news about the public figures they find interesting. And with the explosion in entertainment news/blogs and sports outlets, it’s that much more important. Part of the formula for a successful celebrity corn maze is surprising the celebrity to see it for the first time, which makes for an excellent media opportunity.
2. They are larger than life and still considered out of the ordinary. A quick online search for celebrity corn mazes will quickly yield results about tributes to celebrities as varied as musicians Kid Rock and Taylor Swift, “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and actors Robert Pattison and Taylor Lautner.
And they don’t necessarily have to depict people. Earlier this summer, a maze was built in honor of the entire city of Cleveland, using the city’s “Believeland” nickname for the maze’s design. Others have been produced to promote brand logos or messages.
Despite the prevalence of corn mazes, media still views them as out of the ordinary because they are so visually striking. It’s a similar approach to lighting public buildings a particular color to raise awareness about a disease, or to celebrate a local champion sports team. It’s been done many times, but it remains visually striking and “larger than life,” which means continued media coverage.
3. They fit the season. If you watch local TV news, you’ve probably seen your share of live reports from a major highway or airport on the day before a big travel holiday. We all know that traffic is more challenging on holiday weekends, but news crews continue to cover it (and earn high ratings) for news that we could all predict at the beginning of the year.
The reason? It fits the season. People expect it, so they watch it. Corn mazes are effective media relations stunts for the same reason – they signify the fall. Most corn mazes are open to the public, so media outlets are eager to inform them that they can essentially “walk through” a celebrity they admire.
4. They allow media to become part of the story. Especially in television, reporters are open to becoming part of the feature stories they cover, which is a good fit for corn mazes. Corn mazes offer excellent opportunities for TV packages that include an interview with the celebrity, followed by a tour through the maze led by the reporter, who is allowing viewers to experience it vicariously. Stories like this produce great opportunities for specific messages about the brands that helped make the maze possible.
It may seem like celebrity corn mazes are exclusively for big budget brands, but that’s not necessarily the case. The hard costs for a farm to create a maze can range from $15,000-$30,000, depending on size, but that is the only major cost. The exposure earned is well worth the expense to create a larger-than-life visual.
Most importantly, if you’re a nonprofit organization looking for a way to partner with a celebrity who has been unattainable in the past, proposing a corn maze tribute may lead to a returned phone call from a celebrity’s agent or publicist.
Corn mazes aren’t for everyone, due to the budget and/or partnership logistics involved. But the reasons why corn mazes continue to earn coverage is a lesson fit for everyone.
No matter which way you go on creating a celebrity corn maze, best of luck. And don’t get lost.