Guerilla PR and marketing tactics

If your small business sells to the public, or even a defined segment of Consumers, consider adding guerilla tactics to your communications mix. Guerilla marketing and public relations (PR) tactics are a great way to get your business noticed using non-standard techniques.

The name derives from a type of warfare in which insurgents break established norms to confound and outsmart an enemy. Think General Washington vs. the British redcoats. The critical difference: As a marketer, you’re not looking to defeat anyone; you’re looking to create attention in a positive and unexpected way.

Guerilla marketing eschews traditional paid advertising (like print, broadcast, outdoor, even traditional internet) and PR methods. Instead, it leverages a combination of cleverness and surprise to create buzz and raise awareness. It speaks directly to the public, without an intermediary. It’s more concerned with reaching large numbers of people than making repetitive impressions targeted to a defined audience.

Consider these examples just to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Viral marketing: Using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to create a marketing or awareness message built around an element people like to share. When the message gets acknowledged or shared by “influencers,” (people with lots of followers), the message reaches an exponentially wider audience. On a slow news day, local broadcast media might even give a viral message some free publicity. As an example, stories about people camping out overnight in front of a store to purchase a coveted item.
  • Street marketing: Messaging that leverages outdoor spaces like trash cans, bus shelters, parks, concert venues and even paved streets to convey a message. It includes sign-twirlers, flash mobs and people passing out handbills at heavy-traffic locations. Even putting a sign on your vehicle can be considered a form of street marketing. This tactic lends itself to brand awareness as well as event promotion.
  • Projection marketing: Projecting one or a series of images at night on an unlit surface that doesn’t ordinarily contain a message. This tactic is often used for brand or event awareness but can be risky: you may need permission before projecting onto a building. Also, be careful about projecting images where they might distract drivers.

Guerilla marketing tactics aren’t for every business, and they come with benefits as well as caveats.


Reasons to consider adding guerilla marketing to your mix include:

  • Cost: It’s usually less expensive than traditional paid advertising.
  • Reach: In some applications, like viral, guerilla marketing increases the number of eyeballs exposed to your message. In others, it lets you drill down to a concentrated geographic area.
  • Brand support: Because they’re inherently unorthodox, guerilla tactics can often support a matching brand position.
  • Nimble: Many guerilla tactics require less lead time than paid advertising. So you can create, disseminate and adjust your message faster.


Well-intentioned guerilla marketing can also have unintended consequences. Before deploying any guerilla tactics, account for these possibilities:

  • Measurement: Unlike traditional media, guerilla tactics are nearly impossible to quantify.
  • Uncontrollable variables: Your success may depend on factors you can’t control—like weather, crowd attendance and last-minute logistical changes.
  • Liability: Using guerilla tactics irresponsibly (defacing property, for example) can expose you to legal issues and bad publicity.
  • Clarity: If you’re trying to arouse curiosity, be sure your message is clear. Otherwise, it’ll arouse confusion.