CEO Jeff Crilley spent 25 years in TV News. One of his favorite stories from his news days is one he has shared to audiences around the globe- and it’s is a powerful story that demonstrates TIMING in the news room. When you are thinking about doing your next pitch- remember the Elvis Turkey story.
The Elvis Turkey Story- Timing was everything that made this story a GLOBAL hit.
By Jeff Crilley, Founder and CEO Real News Public Relations
“It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I knew it would be tough to find a decent story to cover on Fox 4. Through two decades as a reporter, each season was the same. Predictable. The holidays equaled..Slow news day.
- Government offices shut down for the weekend.
- Police Departments run skeleton staff.
- Most people are out shopping, and that’s about it. Shopping hysteria is on every single newscast. Snore.
In other words, all my usual sources were home having leftover turkey. My cop contacts, my courthouse connections, everyone..
But the show must go on. News never sleeps.
It’s not like we can begin the five o’clock news with,
“Sorry folks, nothing important happened today, so instead we’ll run Gilligan’s Island!”
There I was, sitting at my news desk wondering how I was going to pull a rabbit out of my reporter’s hat this time. I was just about to light a candle and pray to the News God’s when the phone rang.
I heard my name, “CRILLEY FOR LINE 1, It’s a LIVE one”
Live one meaning.. one of those craze calls.
“Hey-yo Jeff, you don’t know me but my name is Shaun Walker. I raise turkeys in Kemp.”
I listened to Shaun, realizing Kemp is in the middle of no man’s land, at least 30 miles from Dallas.
“Okay, Shaun, How can I help you?”
“Well Jeff, I don’t know if this is a news story or not but I’ve got one turkey here I..well.. Ah. I just couldn’t slaughter.”
“Really?!” I asked.
“Well, I’m not a nut or nuth’n, but I couldn’t kill him cuz.. well, cuz he looks TOO much like Elvis!”
I practically dropped the phone, I was so excited.
“Now, Shaun,” I said. “Listen carefully. You are not to touch a feather on that bird’s head. You’re thirty minutes from Dallas? I’ll be there in twenty!”
So, there I was in my suit walking through a barn-yard with Shaun.
“Okay, where’s Elvis?” I asked.
“Right over there,” he said pointing proudly at one of his turkeys.
But as we got closer, all I could see was an ordinary-looking turkey who was just lucky that Shaun had a soft spot for The King.
“Forgive me, but I’m not seeing the resemblance.”
“Well, just wait a minute,” Shaun said.
And then he carefully took that little piece of skin that hangs from the bird’s beak and flipped it back up over the turkey’s head.
“Now, don’t that look like an Elvis hairdo to you?” Shaun asked with a big smile.
I still wasn’t seeing it.
“Shaun, are we talking about Elvis in the early years or the later years?”
He could see the doubt on my face.
“Wait, Jeff,” he said. “You haven’t heard him sing!”
So Shaun grabbed both of Elvis’ wings and started dancing around the barn yard with him.
The two performed a duet for me.
Shaun was the lead, Elvis sang backup.
“One for the money…”
“Gobble, gobble, gobble,” the turkey answered.
“Two for the show..”
“Gobble, gobble, gobble”
While Shaun and Elvis jumped around performing “Blue Suede Shoes,” the photographer and I could barely contain our laughter!
It was perhaps the strangest stories I’ve ever covered. And it was so memorable, not only did it air on our news in Dallas that night, but it was also picked up by all the big networks, CNN, NBC, ABC, everyone wanted the story.
Shaun and Elvis were seen WORLDWIDE!
As far as I know, the barnyard pair have yet to sign any contracts but if they gave our Grammy awards for Free Publicity, Shaun would have one locked up. He received more airtime around the globe that anyone could afford to buy in a lifetime.
I share the Elvis turkey story with you because it’s a great example of perfect timing.
It came on a day when everyone was still thinking about Thanksgiving. It happened to be the slowest news days of the year.
Had Shaun called on a busy news day, Elvis the turkey would have continued to live in obscurity.
News happens continually, but stories like this seem to fall by the wayside since hard news will always get coverage before soft fluffy stories like Elvis the Turkey. Especially when reporters and photographers are in short supply.
Another thing about Shaun’s Turkey story is the impact. It met our newsroom’s “Who cares” standards. It had an element of entertainment, with the dancing, surprise with the turkey as the talent, timely due to Thanksgiving. Also, the ever popular fan base of Elvis will always live on. Everyone would agree that Elvis would be the most memorable story in our newscast that night- so it definitely had an impact on our viewers and hundreds of thousands across the globe with all major networks picking the story up!
Don’t Be Ordinary
Why was this so memorable? Because it was unusual. News doesn’t cover ordinary stories, the news strives to cover the extraordinary. The old news slogan still applies today, Dog bites man, who cares? Man bites dog.. Lead story.
So as you are shaping your extraordinary story, think of a twist!
The newsrooms just might GOBBLE them up like they did with Elvis the Turkey the day after Thanksgiving 😉
This chapter and more are featured in my book, Free Publicity. You can sign-up for my newsletter to receive more stories and tips on how to get news coverage. (www.jeffcrilley.com)
My PR firm develops our client’s stories to get coverage. We would love to work with you!