July 24, 2009
Copyright © 2009 PRSA. All rights reserved.
By Larry Thomas
The following article appears in the July issue of PR Tactics.
A federal agency needed to explain the facts behind the recent peanut butter recall to the American public. The goal was to teach Super Bowl fans about which products were safe and which ones should be avoided when buying snacks, drinks and meals for the game.
A consumer technology company wanted to educate mothers nationwide about a new family plan to save money during a recession. The desired outcome was to drive those moms to a Web site where they could learn more about the plan and ideally become customers.
A global engineering conglomerate sought to inform federal legislators in Washington about the company’s role in constructing green buildings, smart grids and hospital technology. The desired outcome was to raise awareness for specific policy issues while positioning the corporation as a viable supplier.
A Fortune 1000 company needed to explain to its global employees the actions it was taking to weather the economic downturn. The desired outcome was to rebuild trust through transparency and receive real-time feedback after recent layoffs and disappointing financial news.
In each of these real examples, the PR professionals most likely used the same medium to drive the desired outcome: video. But as you’ll see, each one used it in a very different way.
People are watching
Video is the next best thing to being there. That’s why so many people are watching — on TV, computers, cell phones and billboards.To tell your story, then ramp up effectiveness by delivering your key messages visually.
Online video consumption has reached critical mass in the United States and many other parts of the world. According to comScore, a market research company, nearly 150 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 97 videos each per month — totaling nearly 15 billion videos per month.
However, many people don’t know that TV viewing is growing too. The average household now watches eight-plus hours of TV a day, and while TV ratings for single programs and networks are lower, more people are watching than ever before.
Savvy PR and marketing professionals realize that audiences are not migrating from one medium to another. They are spreading their attention across all platforms. Trying to reach (and impress) a target audience that is presented with a steady stream of messages every day is already difficult — and in today’s cross-platform world, we’re expected to reach a moving target.
What’s a PR professional to do? Learn how to think and communicate visually. Then start every campaign by addressing three basic questions:
• Who is your target audience?
• What message do you want to deliver?
• What is the desired outcome?
Then ask these three questions:
• Where does your target audience receive information?
• What compelling visuals will appeal to them and most likely affect behavior?
• How many ways can I distribute the video?
The answers will lead to a clear strategy with specific tactics intended to achieve measurable results. And by repurposing content — shooting it once, deploying it often — your visual assets will provide a strong return on investment.
Plan ahead. A good producer can capture a significant amount of video in a short time. That content can be edited and distributed in different versions and formats, carrying the same message for your various audiences. You’ll also end up with enough background footage, or B-roll, to refresh your library and increase the likelihood of future coverage.
There are several types of TV and online media, each requiring a different format and style. For example, most bloggers are interested in narrated packages or cutting sound bites in a streaming format so that they can easily embed a finished piece into their sites. The same is true for Web sites of print outlets. A local newspaper or trade magazine typically does not have the time, budget or expertise to edit video. A large online news operation like Yahoo! News may require downloadable files that can be edited. And individuals publishing on social media sites tend to prefer finished video they can easily tweet or post on Facebook. One common aspect is that all of these professional and consumer publishers demand transparency.
So how did the organizations identified at the beginning of this article deliver their messages?
The federal agency with the message about peanut butter began with TV and radio, conducting satellite and radio media tours to reach the masses. Then they distributed an interactive news release with social-media tools to take the message directly to consumers on the Web. As a result, millions of people received their message and took the necessary precautions.
The consumer technology company took the opposite approach, beginning online with a series of webisodes it pitched to bloggers and other online news outlets in addition to a direct-to-consumer campaign that included search engine optimization (SEO) and social networking. They parlayed the popularity of the Web videos to book a satellite media tour that aired in more than 30 key markets — Web site traffic spiked by 46 percent.
The B-to-B multinational knew that it needed TV to reach legislators in a short time period. The company pitched and distributed B-roll to the specific TV news outlets that were most likely to cover the story. In markets where the message was less likely to garner earned media coverage, narrative marketing was used to deliver the PR message through paid media spots. Additionally, the company posted the video in an online newsroom to support future outreach to TV and Web media outlets. Finally, the video was repurposed for sales and marketing e-mail campaigns and in-person presentations. Legislators received their message, and the video is still being used to support sales efforts.
The Fortune 1000 company educated its employees with a password-protected video webcast that incorporated Q-and-As and live polling. It also contained B-roll of various facilities and products to help employees understand the strategy and feel like they were part of the solution. There was strong feedback during and after the event, and the organization continues to conduct quarterly internal webcasts.
Messages, audiences and desired outcomes vary from organization to organization and campaign to campaign. So do the types of video and the tactics used to distribute them. The key is to think visually and ask the six basic questions above. Then, engage your audience wherever they are in the format and style they prefer.
For some free tips and practical examples on video best practices, check out a few short videos from our “Soundbites” series.
As chief operating officer, Larry Thomas guides Medialink in its development of strategies, technology and tools to help companies engage with their audiences on the Web, television and radio.