Publicity Stunted?

   The media has been all over the boy and the balloon story in the past few days.  You know the one.  A family feared their six-year-old had been swept aloft in a homemade runaway giant balloon. A huge rescue effort ensued, carried live on national television, and the boy was later found hiding on terra firma all along.

Now what started out as a feel-good child in jeopardy turns up safe and sound news story may be something much less heart-warming. 

Every day since the event, there's been a steady drip-drip-drip of new facts, information and speculation, most of it suggesting anything but a feel-good saga.  Was it a publicity stunt?  A hoax?  A bid for a reality TV show?  The story is still unfolding and who knows where it will lead.

As a journalist, I am not a big fan of publicity stunts.  Reporters are in the truth business and while there's no law against lying to them, the story has to pass the smell test.  No, you're not under oath when you talk to them, but journalists usually have a pretty good BS meter.  If the facts don't add up, you risk exposure, embarrassment and in this case, where police and emergency crews got involved, potential trouble with the law.  Now the authorities are asking the questions, not just the media.

Hollywood and the entertainment world has long been famous for staging outrageous publicity stunts and they can be effective when handled well. But you've gotta, gotta, gotta ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?"  Keep in mind the Law of Unintended Consequences and remember Murphy's Law. Don't fall so in love with the idea of all the attention you'll get that you discount or ignore a worst case scenario.  Really think it through.

Remember the bomb scare in Boston a few years ago?  Boxes with blinking lights started appearing on roads and bridges around town.  In this post 9-11 world, the city was in an uproar all day.  It turned out to be a marketing ploy for a TV cartoon show.  Good thing nobody was hurt in the security frenzy.

What was really behind the boy and the balloon ordeal?   All we can do is stay tuned.  

Photo Credit: stock.xchng/Topsoft

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Janet Vasil

On-Camera, Speaker & Media Coach/Trainer at Vasil Media Group | Your Media Moment & Beyond
Communication Coach, Media Trainer & Founder Janet Vasil is a former award-winning, EMMY®-nominated TV Journalist who helps rising and future business leaders communicate with courage and charisma on-camera, and off. Contact at

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