At some point in a fandome during the attempt to creation a fictionalized narrative; all regular roads to promoting the narrative will begin to wane. This is where Tugboating and Life Rafting come in.
Usually it’s a signal that the ship has got too many holes in it and so they deploy other accounts that seemingly do not have any connection with the shipping fandom or that they quote parties that have no connection with shipping which they can use as examples of hope and promise in an attempt to refloat the ship.
How to Life Raft: You want to get confirmation on a fake narrative that you support or have created. For this example say you believe Sam Heughan and his costar Caitriona Balfe are dating. You get friends and acquaintances to post comments saying they are dating and you get other shippers to point out the comments as 3rd party, unrelated account who sees what you see to confirm it.
A more desperate attempt to refloat a ship by getting the ‘life raft’ members to author (or post a shipper authored) pieces on their blog claiming to have specific knowledge or be experts in a certain field.
How to Tugboat: Find a friend who has no connection to your fandom who has a blog site. Have them author (or you author) a blog giving “expert” opinion (which they don’t have) on the fake ship narrative.
A supershipper who used to go by the name of GrammysGirls when the Watchtower suggestions were first announced was so outraged that she claimed to have called Starz and spoke to a gentleman in PR who promised her that he would “do something” about the Watch Tower (this website):
She went on for several days posting promising that Starz was going to release a statement and shut this actual website down. Then when her promises and her bizarre postings of her alleged conversations started getting tiring she posted this:
So I called and spoke to a Starz VP in New York when we read about this firing. Both Mr. Shatner and I were very concerned that an innocent person may have gotten fired. I pointed Starz to GrammyGirls blogs and the woman I spoke to promised she would check but said that if you call the Colorado office that you need to have a specific name of a person and not “ask for Public Relations” as GrammysGirls put into her post.
The following day I received a call back by the VP. No one had been fired. The story was completely made up. She verified that while people had called into the Starz office in Colorado that they never got past the switchboard operator. GrammysGirls lied about the entire thing.
So GrammysGirls used a life raft to keep hope alive that something would be done to help the ship.
One of the examples in the Outlander community is the WishesandSwitches tumblr account. The woman follows a supershipper who claims to be in PR. Out of the blue she posts commentary on Sam and Caitriona’s alleged romance citing that she has “20+ years of PR experience” and that she is a “PR Executive”
Her Twitter page indicates she is following the PR shipper yet her Tumblr posts claim she has no idea who the PR shipper is.
Her LinkedIn page shows zero information about any kind of PR experience but she is trying to back up her posts on the Sam and Caitriona romance fiction by stating she has all this PR experience and that she is not a fan of Outlander just someone who ‘knows’ how PR works.
Her posts are examples of tugboating the Supershippers.