How to Break a World Record

With sore backs and soaring spirits a group of dedicated staff and volunteers from Illuminate Colorado IMG_9991aplanted pinwheel number 2,009, completing their attempt to break a world record for most pinwheels in a line (the current record is 1,000). Illuminate Colorado, a network of four established organizations partnering to build brighter childhoods and prevent child abuse for kids in Colorado, successfully raised awareness for their cause with their world record attempt, securing local media coverage and reaching thousands of people in-person and across TV and digital channels.

Recently, GFM had the opportunity to work closely with a client interested in raising awareness for their brand and cause, but in a month crowded by other organizations looking to do the same, the real challenge was how to stand out. Together, we decided to attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records (Guinness) record with the goal of earning media coverage and gathering content to leverage on social media.

Like digging a trench in your yard, breaking a world record can seem straightforward, but once you start moving earth you might run into unexpected gas or sewer lines. It’s best to take time to consider what you’re getting into before you dig in. Here are our lessons learned.

Existing Records

Confirm the existing record and make sure it’s one you think you can break.
Start by signing up for an account on the Guinness website to access the record application search function. We found that the publicly available record search is incomplete, both in the type and record numbers that are listed. For example, one record our client wanted to attempt wasn’t listed on the main site, and in the record application search it was listed but indicated there was no record holder. Once we clicked to complete an application, we found different parameters for the record all together.

Find out whether a record exists
You might want to make the world’s biggest avocado toast, but since that’s not an existing record it may not be allowed, or it could significantly affect your timing (see the timing section below).

Read the record descriptions and rules carefully
There are considerations for each type of record – if you made the world’s largest avocado toast, Guinness stipulates that you make sure it all gets eaten. The record for most selfies in an hour sounds beatable at 1,449, until you realize it’s a record that can only be held by a single person, not a group.

 

Evidence

To prove you broke a world record you will need to submit evidence to Guinness. Make sure you have the capacity to provide it all. The standard requirements are photos, videos and independent witnesses and surveyors. If you’re doing a crowd participation record, you need one witness for every 50 participants to verify their participation. You can read the general evidence guidelines in advance, but the evidence specific to your record is only sent to you once your application is approved. That leads us to the next element to consider – timing.

 

Timing

If you don’t want to pay to submit an application, you will need to allow up to 12 weeks for your record application to be processed. Remember, you won’t know all the guidelines until your application is submitted and processed. If you are attempting to break a new record, one that hasn’t been set previously, you’ll need to allow even more time, and it’s possible Guinness will reject your application entirely. If you have any questions about the Guinness requirements, you can submit them online, but they “aim to reply within two weeks.” In our experience, it took longer than two weeks for a response. Basically, make sure you have either a big budget or a long lead time. If you’d like to have them process your application in six days you can pay $800. If you want to have an official judge present to verify the record on the spot, it can cost thousands more. Once you’ve made your world record attempt, if you didn’t pay for a judge, you have to submit your evidence and wait again to find out if you officially broke the record.

 

Promotion

PR
To get the most out of your attempt, consider how you can leverage each element of the world record to raise awareness for your brand or cause — from encouraging people to sponsor pieces of your record, to attaching branded information, to securing press coverage. If you’re attempting a record that involves a quantity, look for a number that gives you enough of a lead that you can hold the record for a while, and consider a number meaningful to your organization, if possible. Consider where you’ll attempt the record – and go for a high-traffic location if getting eyeballs on your efforts is important to you. During the record attempt, use signage or volunteers to help passersbys know what’s going on and, of course, let the media know what you’re doing, where and when!

Social media
Keep social strategy in mind throughout your world record attempt. For example, designate a hashtag that you can display at the attempt or attach to any items used as part of the attempt. Get people excited about your record attempt in advance, invite them to join you and help break your world record or record it. Photos rule social media, choose a record to break that is Instagram worthy. If you’re a nonprofit, you can apply to collect donations through Facebook, then run a Facebook live stream of the event. Any live social channel can help you amplify the audience for your event. We found Periscope, Twitter’s live platform, is effective at reaching people beyond your followers.

You can successfully leverage a Guinness Book of World Records attempt to bring attention to your cause or brand. Just be sure to plan in advance and consider your entire communications strategy before deciding which record to break.

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