How to create $3 million — and counting — out of thin air

December 3, 2013

Something about it just didn’t ring true. Charlie Rose’s hyperbolic promos for “60 Minutes” during CBS’ NFL game. Jeff Bezos’ boyish grin as he seemingly entices Charlie to peer into the future. Amazon’s hastily staged, so-called R&D room, and a clumsily produced animated video that failed to convince.

But in the end, this week’s “60 Minutes” unveil of Amazon’s proposed new drone home delivery service resulted in one of the biggest PR coups of the early holiday shopping season. No doubt, CBS was on the prowl for a shopping story, and Bezos obliged, even though it now appears more fantasy than flight, pardon the pun.

After airing, a number of media points were quick to note that FAA rules won’t allow commercial use of drones for years into the future due to safety concerns. But still, Amazon played the perfect card to win $3 million worth of prime time play, a number made much greater thanks to successive media retelling the story.

It’s not only good for the holiday selling season, it’s also good for Amazon’s investor relations story. Criticism continues to build about Amazon’s willingness to sacrifice short-term returns in order to habitually invest and build out its infrastructure. Charlie Rose conveniently allowed Bezos to address the issue in ways that paint him to be a champion of the world, rather than a greedy short-termer.

So are the drones real? Are they fake? Does it really matter? Timeliness is the ultimate elixir of any public relations campaign. And the ability to synchronize news with the cycles of the economy, breaking issues, and trending ideas is the additive that can transform a cornball idea into national buzz. Make no mistake about it, flying five-pound packages to your doorstep by way of drones is cornball. Bezos called it green and efficient. I call it simply great public relations, putting the P.T. in the Barnum.

Now only if I can wait until 2020 to have that new remote air delivered to my doorstep!

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