Bird Brained Idea or Brilliant Publicity Stunt?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
If you were watching the U.S. Open trophy ceremony on Sunday night, you saw the bird man (or “Jungle Bird” as he calls himself) disrupt the ceremony by jumping in front of the camera and making bird sounds.  He was quickly grabbed by a security guard and ushered off stage.  I have to admit, my husband and I initially broke out laughing when it happened.  It was just so goofy.
But, as a PR professional, I quickly changed hats and thought: How in the world did he even get up on stage in the first place?  Where was security?  And…how sad for the tournament and the winner to have what should have been a joyous occasion momentarily marred by this jokester.
The Jungle Bird claims that although he had a few beers before his five seconds of fame (Really? What a shock!), he had actually planned out this stunt well in advance (was it beer number three or four that had him thinking this was a good idea?).  He wanted to raise awareness about global deforestation and says he plans to do it again at other public venues.  
I guess if you’re a fan of extreme publicity stunts, it worked.  (Although somehow I don’t think the audience for this event got that message.) To me, it’s disturbing to think that someone believes it’s OK to disrupt an event, activity or ceremony with this kind of behavior.  And yes, I know it happens in other venues and activities, and I feel the same about it.   
There is also a lesson to be learned for all of us in the PR business.  You can never plan enough. You can never let down your guard during this type of event.  You have to be able to anticipate what might happen and be prepared.  It’s easy for me to say the bird man should have never reached the stage in the first place, but I know the reality is, in PR, anything can happen.