The longer you spend working in PR, the more you become able to spot the PR workings behind a lot of news stories.

The PR stunt is an artform in itself – when they’re done well, they deliver brilliantly for the client, the journalists and the agency behind them.

Personally, I’ve tended to avoid the PR stunt approach through my career, instead leaning towards news-led B2B campaigns, based on thought leadership and expert commentary.

But I can still appreciate a cunning stunt as much as the next man.

Today’s news alone has delivered two perfect case study examples: one of an opportunistic PR ‘stunt’ that has worked magnificently for the person behind it. The second is, on the surface, a prime example of how not to do PR, including some Day One lessons that appear to have been gleefully ignored – or have they…?

The first story came courtesy of a homelessness outreach worker who ‘rescued’ Chancellor George Osborne’s cat Freya (above left). Not missing a beat, the woman used the opportunity to deliver some key messages about the plight of homeless people. Like it or not, there is still some strong PR going on behind the quotes she gives. Totally opportunistic, but excellently done.

(Freya, by the way, is an excellent name for a cat as it leads me to imagine she wanders around number 11 Downing Street picking at the seams of curtains, sofas, trousers… no wonder Osborne always looks so dishevelled.)

The second example looks like it’s a stunt gone wrong. The PR firm behind a new computer game, Watch Dogs, delivered a copy of the game to a publication, encased in a safe into which they needed to break into, in order to review the software. It’s a game that heavily features computer hacking: you can see what they’ve done there.

Sadly, after the bemused journos failed to hack the safe, it started to beep loudly. Like a bomb might. Long story short, the stunt caused a security scare and the offices ended up being evacuated, with the bomb squad called to dispose of the suspicious package.

At first glance, this seems like the PR people have bodged it. The news outlet in question doesn’t even review computer games, so really ought not to have been on the distribution list in the first place. Amateurish mistake, you might think.

But look closer. The link above is to the ‘neutral’ BBC news website. It features the name of the game in the headline alongside a huge screenshot of the game in action. Would the BBC have run this as a main news section story had the stunt not gone ‘wrong’? Highly doubtful. It is my humble, professional opinion that the whole thing was staged.

The bomb squad went home, the publisher muttered a few apologies, and the PR company sat back and soaked up the glory of what is, by any measure, an amazing piece of coverage. I doff my cap.