Inside the Profession PR Training

I Want Viral and I Want It Now!

The panel shared what they believe to be the seven principles to creating a compelling word-of-mouth marketing campaign while relating the principles to recent, “buzz-worthy” campaigns: research & insight; remarkable idea; innovative execution; be channel agnostic; seen excitement with influencers; work holistically; report and measure.

That’s the dreaded phrase you never want to hear your clients say.

I attended a session at the PRSA 2010 International Conference called “Spin Gold, not Cotton Candy: Buzz Campaigns That Drive Business Results,” hosted by PainePR. Immediately they got my attention by throwing out terms like “buzzability,” “buzzed about” and many other words Webster’s dictionary won’t recognize. I have a natural affinity for word-of-mouth marketing, so this session really hit home for me. The panel shared what they believe to be the seven principles to creating a compelling word-of-mouth marketing campaign while relating the principles to recent, “buzz-worthy” campaigns.

  1. Research and Insights
    All great campaigns start by asking the right questions. Who is the target? Where and why are they engaging? What are their motivations? What are the competitors doing? What are you overlooking? Answer those questions and use the insights to inform your strategy.
  2. Remarkable Idea
    Good ideas take many forms. They don’t always need to be funny, but they should seek simplicity and resonance. Use the napkin gut check — if you can write it down on a napkin while at the bar, then it’s simple enough to catch on.

    Case Study: Earth Hour Video

    The idea: Turn off your lights for one hour on Earth Day. More than 318 U.S. cities participated, reaching 80 million people. The campaign garnered more than 280MM impressions, 3,800 news stories and was a Twitter trending topic for 48 hours.

    What can we learn from this case study? Simple, easy ideas are sometimes the stickiest!

  3. Innovative Execution
    Innovation is relative — know your organizational limits. You don’t always need to recreate the wheel. Consider extending existing programs, audit current assets you have on hand and amplify them.
  4. Be Channel Agnostic
    Channels are ubiquitous, but your content must seamlessly travel across all of them. Focus on the interests of your target and encourage them to tell the story in different ways. (This is usually the hardest part for agencies and brands, but we can’t/shouldn’t always control the message.)

    Case Study: Old Spice Video

    The idea: Make Old Spice a household name among a younger demographic. Old Spice filmed 184 unique spots as part of the “Old Spice Guy” campaign (believe it or not, the copy was drafted on the fly). Seeding the campaign with influencers like Ellen helped Old Spice generate excitement through celebrity endorsements. Old Spice strategically launched the campaign after the Super Bowl because they had a small budget. However, the content was so compelling, consumers still tied the campaign to the Super Bowl (it was named “one of the best commercials of the Super Bowl”). As a result, the campaign generated 150MM YouTube impressions, 1.5 billion PR impressions, was named the biggest viral campaign by AdWeek, and at the end of the day, Old Spice established category leadership and now appeals to a much younger demographic.

    What can we learn from this case study? Platforms and channels are tactics not strategies but you need to respect their unique nature. The best campaigns should enable cross-pollination between all channels, but you must ensure content for one works on others.

  5. Seed Excitement With Influencers
    Empower influencers to share and engage with your story and allow influencers/stakeholders to be part of the campaign. Let your influencers reach the masses for you. Give exclusive content to those with the most resonance and seek opportunities to elevate people relevant to your brand.
  6. Work Holistically
    Start with a core idea shaped by insight, layer paid, consumer relations, diigital, etc.

    Case Study: Doritos Video

    The idea: Make Doritos number one during the 2009 Super Bowl. The “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign asked America to create a Super Bowl ad. Simple and bonus, it takes the heavy lifting off of the brand! As a result, Doritos generated 1.4 billion impressions, saw a 16 percent sales lift and received $40MM in ad equivalency, all with a $45k public relations investment.

    What can we learn from this case study? Good ideas come from anywhere. Keep outcomes in mind — don’t just stop at the idea.

  7. Report and Measure
    Buzz building campaigns only succeed if they achieve goals. Measure, measure, measure. Once you find a formula that works, keep it going.

    So I think we’d all agree there isn’t a magical formula to “make it go viral,” but if you follow these principles, it does increase your chances of spreading the word.

    What word-of-mouth principles do you follow? Let’s add to this list.

    Click here to view the Best in Buzz presentation.

Ashley Walters, manager, Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Empower Media Marketing, oversees social media planning and execution for a variety of CPG clients. Ashley contributes to Empower’s social-media-focused blog, “Social Study,” and is a board member for Cincinnati’s PRSA Chapter. Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn and follow Ashley on Twitter @Ashley_Walters .

For more coverage on the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, visit PRSA Intelligence, follow #prsa_ic and the Conference blog.

About the author

Ashley Walters, APR

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