How does one cupcake reach 37 million people?

You give it away for FREE!

At least that’s in the public relations playbook as it relates to Gigi’s Cupcakes, one of the country’s largest cupcake chains. We’re not saying that 100 cupcake locations across the U.S. baked and frosted 37 million cupcakes and gave them away one day. But we did succeed in a giveaway message that reached an audience of more than 37 million (possible cupcake-loving) people for all the right reasons.

The hook? A good cause.

On Veterans Day, Gigi’s Cupcakes is one of many national food and restaurant chains that shows its patriotic side by giving away something for free to our nation’s deserving military veterans.

And that’s the stuff of PR gold (or chocolate with frosting, if you prefer), when food writers, bloggers and media outlets across the country do their stories on freebies and discounts to our honorable military veterans en masse.

Brand building at its tastiest.publicity value Gigi's Cupcakes Veteran's Day

No, it doesn’t cost outlandish advertising revenue to pull this off. Instead, it underscores the more palpable effect of a strong public relations campaign, which at opportune times includes goodwill and binds a brand in an important way with its immediate community.

And the results speak for themselves: USA Today, Detroit Free Press, KHOU-TV, Pensacola News Journal, Tennessean, Des Moines Register, AZCentral.com, KTVB, 13NewsNow.com, ABC10.com, 13WMAZ, Indianapolis Star, WFAA.com, WKYC News, KAGS TV, KVUE News Online, KENS5.com, KTVB.com, KUSA-TV, WUSA 9, Greenville News, Poughkeepsie Journal, Shreveport Times, Green Pay Press-Gazette, Statesman Journal, Las Cruces Sun-News, Asheville Citizen-Times, Jackson Sun, The Military Wallet….and more. In fact, it might take an Army to list all the Veterans Day publicity.

Delicious value for the price.

publicity value Gigi's Cupcakes Veteran's Day

The publicity value of one cupcake on one day was almost half a million dollars. Granted, some free cupcakes might have been given away in the process. But the gesture lasts forever. And it’s the kind of gesture that earns repeat business from a paying customer the next time around. That’s a beautiful thing when it’s only a glimpse (one day, in fact) of a larger, longer and lasting PR effort over a significant amount of time.

However, PR agencies don’t get paid by the value of the publicity or the reach of a huge audience of readers, viewers and listeners who see a brand in a positive light. Instead, good PR agencies build a brand for a fraction of the cost to make a monumental impression beyond any kind of paid message. They succeed in getting an organization to be part of the conversation, if not the dominant topic of the day. They have media outlets talk about you, rather than an advertisement where you are confined to talking about yourself. And it’s the most delicious reward for a brand to make that kind of investment …unless you choose to be absent from the discussion.

One cupcake is baking up a different approach!