Dustin Siggins & Robert KuykendallDustin Siggins and Robert Kuykendall co-authored this article.

When you buy a car, you probably think of the make—Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagon, etc. The leaders of these worldwide companies—Akio Toyoda, Mary Barra and Oliver Blume, respectively—may not even cross your mind.

But when you think of Tesla, only one name comes to mind: Elon Musk. His company isn’t in the top 15 by sales, but he’s transformed how hundreds of millions of people think about what’s otherwise a ubiquitous, everyday, mundane product. His Tweets, speeches, statements and opinions shape news cycles, move the stock market and even change the course of war.

None of this is by accident. Musk spent years communicating his vision, success and progress in the press. He’s a legend because he put better, more creative content in front of the right target audiences the right way.

Elon Musk, not cars, is the kind of client most PR practitioners envision when they get into the industry. But without cars, Musk is just a rich has-been who left PayPal years ago. For Musk, cars are the launching pad for space, social change and even changing the course of a war.

For the most boring of clients or accounts, the solution to making them exciting is simple: create messaging and content that stands out and put them in the media homes that capture target markets’ attention over and over again.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '22 Technology PR Magazine
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Why does your company exist?

“We know we’re not the most exciting company,” Parabilis VP of Operations Ryan Huss once said. He wasn’t complaining; he was just thinking about how the public perceives money and finance. The stodgy loan officer in the movies is “boring” and, in the worst case, the “bad guy.”

Parabilis provides loans to small business government contractors who need money fast, but don’t qualify for a bank loan. It’s not exactly the sexy business model most PR practitioners envision when considering their career, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Parabilis’ small business financing expertise was exactly what the press was looking for. And we helped them deliver, putting two op-eds out in less than a week urging Congress to protect contractors.

What hooked the editors and soon put Parabilis on a top industry podcast wasn’t finance or loans. It was their real mission: helping small business contractors. They’ve run with that mission, hosting a growing podcast and even moderating a panel hosted by the U.S. Treasury Department as they’ve grown their team, partners and client base.

Lines of credit aren’t exciting for everyone. But Parabilis has made this “boring” topic very exciting for its very specific audiences.

Provide unique solutions

At the end of the day, nothing is boring. Content can be mundane; stories can be ordinary. But with the right solution and the right promotion strategy, you can be the coolest kid in the sandbox.

That’s what Money.com does with its list of best colleges and universities. Millions of Americans gripe about the cost of college. But what Money provides is a well-researched solution: analyzing the quality of America’s top institutions based in part on the price of attendance and post-graduation job placements. And their decision to release the list in May—when students and parents begin college tours—helped put their list go viral in the press, on social media and on colleges’ websites.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels has likewise received tremendous media coverage for his disciplined and visionary leadership. Daniels has frozen tuition for 11 years, doubled donor revenue, increased the size of the student body and partnered with international firms. His leadership is his unique offering, and Purdue students and the surrounding communities are the beneficiaries.

Do something totally off the wall

“Like watching paint dry” isn’t a compliment in American culture, but paint mixer Tony Piloseno saw something different. While the entire paint world was watching paint dry, Tony was mixing it on camera, creating a new story in one of the world’s oldest commodities. His creativity first got him fired, then earned him viral press, then became a social media empire that drew 100 million eyeballs in 2021.

Going totally off the wall is risky. But it’s also how you can cause an entire industry to think differently.

Focus on your niche target audience(s)

Americans love our pizza. We spend tens of billions of dollars a year on this great comfort food. But no matter how much you love your pie, you’re not going across the country for the world’s best. After all, it’s just thin bread with cheese and some toppings. That’s why no media in Hawaii, New York or Texas covered Riko’s Pizza moving locations in Stamford, Connecticut. It’s a local pizza franchise in a nation with thousands of them.

But local media devoured the news, covering the closing and the reopening. Riko’s clearly built a brand that locals cared about, kept its eyes and PR on the right audiences and let the media tell customers where to go.

Get others to brag for you

Last year, a law firm won a disability accommodation lawsuit against a school district. It won because the firm has good lawyers, but that’s just a day at the office. And most of us don’t want to read about people in boring dark suits talking legalese.

But what many people might do is watch a local news story if we have kids in the district and/or have a disabled child, read a disabled student’s story out of simple human interest and seek to understand how this decision impacts other school districts.

This story isn’t about a lawyer winning a case; it’s about changing how schools treat disabled students. That’s a story of interest to disability rights activists, parents of disabled students, lawyers, teachers and even the general public.

It’s a story that can’t just be told by the lawyer. That’s just bragging and everyone would tune him out. It must be told by his happy client and the student’s parents. It has to be told by disability rights activists, politicians and school officials. It needs to be seen and heard in the press and on social media and turned from a stodgy courtroom case into a story of helping David beat Goliath.

What stands out to your audiences?

You’re not alone in feeling that your clients are too ordinary to stand out. But somewhere is your unique opportunity to help them rise above the norm, to become the Elon Musk of your industry or community. Maybe it’s their mission, or perhaps it’s just doing something totally different or simply narrowing their target market focus.

The opportunity to make your client the most exciting thing since Elon Musk is there. Go find it.


Dustin Siggins is Founder of the publicity firm Proven Media Solutions and a writer with bylines at Forbes, Insider, and elsewhere. Robert Kuykendall is a campaign veteran and former non-profit executive who is now a private-sector entrepreneur.