Dress-Gate—the Best Accidental PR Campaign

Dress Gate

Last week the internet broke, and surprisingly enough it was for a reason other than an inappropriate magazine spread featuring Kim Kardashian’s derriere. Instead, it was broken by an evening dress. It all began when a Scottish woman unassumingly posted a picture of a dress on Tumblr asking followers to help her decide the dress’ true colors—blue and black or white and gold? Little did the Tumblr user know that her post would go viral causing an international frenzy and debate.

As a public relations professional intrigued by social media’s impact on consumers, I am particularly interested in how “the dress” became such an accidental, yet extraordinary public relations campaign in and of itself. The debate dominated online discussion and started trending worldwide. Speaking about “dress-gate” a week later, I’m still uncertain why some folks see blue and black, white and gold or both. However, I am certain of one thing: dress-gate deserves recognition for the best (accidental) public relations campaign in the past couple of months.

Here are four components of dress-gate that made it so successful, and that public relations professionals only hope happens to their brands and clients.

1. Extensive Media Coverage

Let’s face it, as public relations professionals it is our duty to ensure the brands, campaigns or clients we are supporting receive notable media coverage. We proactively pitch opportunities to various media sectors, including trade, lifestyle, business, and more. We craft story angles that resonate with reporters to score valuable and impactful media coverage. Without any public relations support , dress-gate received extensive media coverage in a variety of mediums ranging from print and online to blogs and social media, even broadcast. These results are astonishing and happened without performing media outreach, issuing a press release or media advisory.

2. Social Engagement

If you focus on the most popular social channels, such as Instagram and Twitter, you will notice thousands of posts were generated about dress-gate with an unintentional call to action—“what color do you see?” Social media engagement spanned so far it hooked in celebrity attention without any endorsements or paid advertisements. How many followers do Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Anna Kendrick and Lady Gaga have in total? Hundreds of millions. Let’s also not forget the dubbed hashtag that was given to the situation. Enough said.

3. Timing

Dress-gate could not have happened at a better time of the year. A majority of the public, especially in the United States, are getting over “award show season,” a time when we are ultimately fascinated by the fashion and gowns worn by all the A-list celebrities at the Grammy’s, Academy Awards, Golden Globes, etc. It is also prime time for Fashion Week, which is currently happening in Paris, France. As public relations professionals we are often tasked with creating buzz around a specific event or campaign through existing news also known as the “timeliness factor.” Appropriate timing is something we must be aware of at all times in order to tie-in clients’ stories to relevant and newsworthy happenings. The dress indeed did this.

4. Relatable to the Public

Everyone was able to relate and engage in the discussion about “the dress.” No matter what age or gender, and you didn’t have to be into fashion to know what was happening with dress-gate. Public relation professionals seek ways to target more audiences so our work isn’t limited. We want to be all inclusive and always provide the best opportunities for our clients to spread their message. As public relation professionals, we try our best to get individuals talking about something that resonates.

With that said, my colleagues and I at Stanton Communications were just as intrigued by the dress as the next person. We took a poll and if you’d like to see which fabric colors came out on top head over to @StantonComm on Twitter. Also, be sure to send us a tweet or comment below with the color pattern you see!

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