Spread liberally: the journey of a viral video

As a PR agency, we regularly hear clients asking for help to make video content ‘go viral’. But even with compelling content, those behind successful videos know there’s no such thing as content from a corporate going viral without a helping hand.

These days, the path to viral success usually involves calling in the help of a seeding agency to secure guaranteed online placement. For New Zealand-based businesses, these seeding agencies are often based offshore and offer the peace of mind of knowing which websites in western markets, particularly the US and the UK, are the right places to be seen to get those elusive video views.

The base reasons for people to share a video haven’t really changed. Ultimately, it’s still about content that’s interesting enough to stir a reaction or emotion. This means the same rules apply with how those of us in PR would go about securing coverage of a newsworthy story, by getting editorial media and online influencers to write, talk or post about said content.

Millward Brown studied the main drivers of viral viewing last year and found that PR can have a major impact by sharing content with opinion formers and “fanning the flames” to ensure wider awareness and create quality buzz. Unilever used this strategy to light the viral fire of its Dove ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ video. 

In all of the excitement that comes with the production of video content that’s destined to go viral, in-house marketing teams will often be guided by their advertising, digital and social media agencies to employ the services of a seeding agency to guarantee placement of their content, typically through buying placements. I can imagine this would seem like an attractive and simple solution when faced with promises of placement on overseas websites with a large following. However, targeted pitching of strong video content on its own merits or newsworthiness as earned media has the potential to secure far greater exposure in the early stages of content going live. Even more so when working in tandem with seeding agencies in terms of content and timing for both paid and earned media.

Pitching video content to editorial media and online influencers can amplify the reach of seeding agencies, with PR teams able to work media contacts that will differ to those of a seeding agency. In the case of Tui’s Beer Plumber campaign last September, Porter Novelli Auckland, London and Los Angeles worked closely with US-based Giant Media to drive global talkability of the prank that saw a bunch of Kiwi lads plumbing their mate’s house with beer.

While Giant Media had strong US contacts with websites that traditionally share video content, Porter Novelli used its media contacts at some of the western world’s most influential news websites such as The Daily Mail, USA Today and Huffington Post to get the prank talked about. The media coverage secured added extra commentary to the story rather than simply posting the video, earning the prank headlines such as ‘World’s Greatest Prank’. Part of our strategy was to fuel the debate and online conversations that had started about whether or not this was a marketing stunt and the work of a beer company. We were also able to broaden the story by offering interviews with the lads to both traditional TV and online talk shows, which lengthened the news cycle.

For Tui, at the outset, viral success equated to a million views. With the international coverage we secured, we reached that in the first 24 hours and beer fans and envious blokes both in New Zealand and globally started to share the video among their own social media networks. For those of us who were on the phone talking to media non-stop in those initial days, we couldn’t help but smile with satisfaction when we saw friends post the video on Facebook and Twitter as a clever video they’d come across and just couldn’t resist sharing. By the end of the campaign, the video had been shared 51,000 times on Facebook alone.

Working with a PR agency with a strong global network, where you are securing earned media can catalyse results and deliver real value when compared to the placement costs that can come with a seeding agency working alone. In an ideal world, using the services of both to help a video that’s taken hours to craft and perfect, can be the strongest ingredients in the recipe for a viral video.

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