The following post was written by Lindsay LeCain and Theresa Masnik, Racepoint Group Account Executives. Connect with Lindsay and Theresa on Twitter.
Last week, in the bowels of the Boston Public Library, PR Newswire presented a half-day session on the importance of “Employing Visual Content for Compelling Storytelling.” One of the presenters, Andrew Davis (@TPLDrew), had a particularly compelling Prezi in which he addressed the three “simple” (read: not easy) rules for successful storytelling. Here is a brief summary of his presentation:
Three Simple Rules for Excellent Storytelling
Build Suspense: Build anxiety about what will happen. Great storytelling is creating suspense. Viewers don’t want to look away because they feel the need to see what happens at the end. To showcase this concept, Davis presented a compelling case study about Juicing and Juicers. The campaign, sponsored by Breville (an Australian-based appliance manufacturer), was designed to get more people (men in particular) interested and invested in the juicing movement (fruits and vegetables, not HGH). So the company worked with Joe Cross, an Aussie on a mission to lose weight and get healthy. How did he do it? He rented a car and drove across the US. His road trip, however, was not a fast-food-eat-it when-and-where-you-can-get-it, but a “juicing across America adventure” wherein he shared the struggles and successes of his new lifestyle. The adventure was then made into a movie, titled, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. And people got it. Breville, the company sponsoring the trip and paying to promote the film, had seen stagnant sales in their juicers until about three weeks after the film was released on Netflix. Within weeks, the company sold out of juicers—not just in Australia or the US, but worldwide.
If you want to make an impact and show that your story is making an impact, you have to make the spikes at the times when they aren’t naturally spiking. (A great tool for this is Google Insights for Search)
What if your moment of inspiration is tied directly to the suspense you build? Ask yourself, is there inherent suspense in the story I’m telling?
Foster Aspiration: Inspire people to be better. Help people live the lifestyle they want. To show this notion of “fostering aspiration,” Davis showed the audience the story of “extreme” music video creator and producer, Devin Graham and the partnership he forged with Oregon-based lifestyle brand, Vooray. To encourage this kind of lifestyle embrace, Vooray worked with Graham to host just about the coolest non-event I have ever seen. Graham invited his friends (some really, really, really good looking friends) and had a party—on a lake in the middle of Oregon. Here is what that looks like. Graham set the day’s festivities to music and in doing so, managed to perfectly capture the cutting edge of cool in a way that did not feel the least bit commercial. As a result of this one video, the company went from limited distribution and fewer than one million in sales to international distribution and over 10 million in sales, in a few short weeks. This is the power of content that shows viewers how to live the life they want to lead.
What if your moment of inspiration is tied to your audiences aspirations? Aspire to create great exciting events and content that relates to that audience.
Ask yourself, what does my audience aspire to do or be?
Drive Empathy: Encourage people to perceive your product or service as something less commercial and a bit more human. A perfect example of this is the work IBM did with Jeopardy. Having Watson compete against “regular” people (i.e., the most successful individuals to ever play the game: Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter) viewers, regardless of their feelings about the concept before the show, found themselves empathizing with the machine. Win or lose, those watching (myself included) felt compassion for this amazing technological feat. This audacious request, proposed by the masterminds at IBM, was designed to make viewers feel something about the international consulting and mainframe computer manufacturer. After the appearance on Jeopardy, the company saw a 20% increase in consulting service sale—within one quarter of the show’s airdate. The subsequent coverage of Watson and the brains behind the supercomputer was made into a NOVA– The Smartest Machine on Earth—and although 90% of the content in this PBS feature was shot by IBM (generally a no-no in the world of independent journalism) the company managed to successfully show viewers the intense work and the process of development the company faced.
What if I was emotionally invested in your product or service?
Ask yourself: Can I empathize with the product?
The moral of the presentation can be summed up by this simple question and answer: What if we created moments of inspiration?
Ignore best practices and focus entirely on telling great stories.
Let me preface this post by saying that in no way am I medical expert or psychiatrist. But it doesn’t take a doctor to realize when something is strange. Viral videos – which many people aspire to create – seem to be having an unnervingly negative affect on some people’s health.
In July Newsweek published a cover story, asking if the Internet is ‘Driving us Mad.” The article looked at how KONY creator, Jason Russell, lost his mind after producing the most viral video in history, and was caught on camera at an intersection near his San Diego home, slapping the concrete and yelling about the devil.
In the end, Russell was diagnosed with a form of temporary insanity called reactive psychosis – and his wife stated that it had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. This was about the pressure of dealing with the attention that comes with a viral video.
Now today, we have found that another person in a viral video has suddenly died. Michael Leisner, a 65-year-old real estate agent, was featured in a YouTube video protesting against General Mills for being pro-gay marriage. In the video he tries to light some cereal on fire, but ends up burning more then he can handle, and flees the scene. The video has been featured on countless news outlets and television programs, and lead to Leisner being fired from his job. It’s reported that Leisner’ died in his car while waiting for his sons to finish playing tennis.
While the reason for Leisner’s death has not been determined, based on the timing it is fair game to speculate that the viral video could have had something to do with it. The amount of attention that any viral video brings to an individual – especially negative attention – can be way too much to handle, especially considering the number of media requests and amount of social media attention that one can receive.
This is a guest post by Mandy Miller. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyMayM.
Remember the “Live Under a Rock? Geico commercial? Well, in case you do live under a boulder, you may be wondering what this Kony business is about. Naturally, it stirs larger political and foreign relations and policy debates, but you have to give it to Invisible Children, it truly deserves the title of an “EPIC” social media campaign – at least for now. According to GigaOM’s estimates, the seemingly long (by YouTube standards) 30-minute video created by the group and shared widely on Facebook and Twitter was viewed 80 million times in just five days. In case you haven’t seen the video, give it a ‘quick’ view here.
I’ve worked and lived with many friends that have visited and worked specifically within Uganda as well as many other foreign counties within Africa and abroad. The tale and truth here is that these types of atrocities are nothing new. While generic in ‘corporate speak,’ I’ve seen many a social media case that attempts to ‘drive awareness’ to bring attention to them and, of course, bring a call to action. Never have I seen such a viral reception of a campaign of this nature.
The interesting thing about watching the Kony campaign is that it’s REALLY working. I’m not naming any names, but via my social media networks, I’ve been witnessing individuals who have previously voiced no concern or action in foreign policies, affairs, events, etc. now pushing on this content – pushing it hard, at that. The individual that spearheaded this effort, Jason Russell, produced an amazing video. In broadcasting, capturing human interest can be very difficult. Have you ever noticed how long a network news segment is? The average segment is a single minute – some are longer at two minutes. Now, think of the amount of information that goes into that. It takes talent to pull together a video that not only looks good, but ‘touches’ the viewer. I believe Russell has done just that.
While it’s too tough to tell where this campaign will go and how its success will be measured, an interesting point to think about is how this kind of multimedia will begin shifting how we market brands and interact with end-users and the general population. While it’s nothing new, even to people under rocks, the future of media is constantly evolving. With The New York Times recently putting the philanthropy beat on the chopping block, marketing communications professionals, and, more specifically, non-profits, have to be thinking of new and creative ways to cultivate conversation. My guess is that we are going to begin integrating multimedia and social media much more. You can see this in practice with the recent rise in infographics – packing a lot of useful nuggets into an atheistically pleasing package.
What other ways have you seen or think you will see media shift more towards integrating multimedia and social media?
Everyone hates paying extra money to check a bag when flying, but a group of US soldiers returning home from Afghanistan recently were particularly irked.
According to the soldiers, the US Army has an agreement with Delta in place where they can check 4 bags (Delta claims the 4 bag policy was for first class passengers only, but has since changed their policy so any soldiers can check 4 bags). Each soldier was charged $200 to check their 4th bag, which one soldier was carrying the weapon he was issued by the US Army.
While on their flight home, two US soldiers made a video and posted it on YouTube, explaining their frustrations with Delta. While the video doesn’t have a significant number of views yet, it is quickly gaining attention, and Delta decided to put out this fire before they had a United Breaks Guitars situation on their hands. Since the video was published, Delta says they have changed their policy so that any US soldier can have 4 bags on a flight.
The debate about which party misunderstood the policy can be determined by Delta and the US Army. However, Delta deserves kudos for understanding the power that this video could have, and acting swiftly to resolve the issue before it got out of hand.
Early this week Universal Pictures invited RaceTalk to attend a private screening of the documentary “Catfish.” Given our extensive coverage of social media, and particularly Facebook, the studio felt we were the perfect viewers.
The film follows a young, New York City based photographer, Yaniv “Nev” Shulman as he forms relationships with a family in Michigan. After seeing one of Nev’s photographs in the New York Sun, this Michigan family sends him a painting of his photograph, done by their eight year old daughter Abby.
Nev winds up “friending” Abby’s mother, father, sister, brother and more via Facebook and communicates with them regularly. Over the coming months they share countless emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, photos, videos, song recordings, and of course, more paintings. Eventually, Nev begins to form a romantic bond with Abby’s older sister Megan. He talks to her every day on the phone, via text, email and she sends photos and recordings of her singing songs she wrote for him.
One evening Nev discovers via the power of Google and YouTube, that Megan has been sending music recordings that are in fact stolen from an artist named Amy Karney. When he confronts her about it, she becomes frazzled and overly emotional. From this conversation on, things with Megan and the entire family begin to unravel. In an attempt to get some closure on what now feels like a mountain of lies, Nev and the two film makers (his older brother Ariel and their friend Henry) decide to drive to Ipsheming, Michigan to meet the family in person and uncover the truth.
Without spoiling the ending, because if you are an active user of Facebook you must see this movie, I will say that “Catfish” caused me to rethink my personal approach to Facebook. As a PR professional, we counsel our clients on the use of social media and the real-time web, and encourage them to share, share often, and share with complete transparency. We position social media as an easy, low cost way to reach your target audience on the websites and applications they are already using. Personally, we do the same. We use our Facebook profiles to share photos, videos, articles we enjoy, blog posts we write and more. Facebook has become so ubiquitous; we behave this way without question.
In David Kirkpatrick’s book “The Facebook Effect” he chronicles the early days of Facebook when a user was required to have a college, .edu email address to join. Mark Zuckerberg felt the university email address provided a level of authenticity that you are who you say you are. Once Facebook was opened broadly, and that requirement disappeared, you could use any email address to sign up, even a fake one.
“Catfish” demonstrates that the internet and in this case Facebook, allows users to not only share content, but to also steal content; to poach photos, videos, music and more and re-purpose it for their own use. The current explosion of content on the internet and social networks provides users with the ability to pluck content off the web and create an entire identity with stolen information.
Nev is still an active user of Facebook. His experiences have not diminished his use of the network. However, “Catfish” will force you to re-think the way you use Facebook and exactly how open you want to be with your personal information and the people you allow into your network. This film is a haunting, brutally real look at the power of social media.
While this social media campaign has already attracted a lot of buzz, it’s still a very new initiative that is quickly building momentum. There is no doubt that Mustafa will be in high demand for personalized videos going forward, and Mustafa recently told ABC News that he can product 100 videos a day, with help from Old Spice’s advertising agency.
This campaign should be a launching pad for other businesses looking to capitalize on social media, and it would be a surprise to see other companies follow suit (such as the Miller High Life guy).
In a recent blog post, Socialnomics author Erik Qualman shared updated figures on Twitter’s presence in the online search game. Twitter has officially edged out Yahoo! and Bing in number of monthly searches. See graphic below:
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Twitter founder Biz Stone shared that Twitter now has over 800 million search queries per day, which is a 33% increase from the last time he shared search figures in April (2010).
On his blog, Qualman writes, “We have indicated all along that Twitter & Facebook would be bigger search competition for Google than Yahoo and Bing. The fact that this is coming to fruition so soon is astounding. Social search and social commerce are becoming reality and it’s a great thing to see. Keep in mind we haven’t even mention YouTube and its social search activity.”
To the people who say social media is a fad, or that these sites are unimportant for business I say, think again. Consumers are searching for your products and services on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and if you are not there, they will find another provider.
A YouTube video of Israeli soldiers dancing to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” has quickly become widely viewed – but is not without controversy and criticism.
The soldiers appear to be patrolling the streets of Hebron (the largest city in the West Bank) when a song is suddenly blasted over speakers, and the soldiers break out into a choreographed dance. They are fully dressed in their uniforms and carrying weapons during the duration of the video.
While the video is entertaining, the soldiers are currently facing disciplinary charges. Additionally, the chosen location for the video (Hebron) won’t help the soldier’s cause, as the conflicted area is the centerpiece of many ongoing disputes. A location such as Tel Aviv would have been a better location for the video – but any video at all might have still been frowned upon by army officials.
Last night Racepoint Group hosted an event about social media and its return on investment (ROI). As social media continues to become a larger focal point in public relations and marketing campaigns, it’s critical to understand how to articulate it’s value to clients.
Last night’s event centered around a panel discussion with three social media experts: Larry Weber, Chairman of Racepoint Group, Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing for HubSpot.
After Larry Weber’s opening remarks, Qualman shared how he first dipped his toe into the digital space by sending a company-wide email instead of the standard hard copy memo. View his story here:
Volpe was up next and shared with the group the origins of his marketing career and the way tracking and reporting on ROI is evolving. Watch him provide tips here:
The evening was full of tremendous ideas and recommendations. The five big takeaways from the panel were:
1) Social media is not about technology. It’s about human interaction. It’s about sharing information and making connections. People who are intimidated by the technology aspect of engaging in social media should not view the applications as a hurdle. It’s simply the current mechanism to maintain relationships and reach out to new people.
2) When it comes to tracking social media, its important to focus not only on the quantitative (number of followers, number of re-postings) but also the qualitative. We need to take into account engagement and tone. Qualman said, “If social media is so trackable, we should just have robots running things. The human element is necessary here.”
3) Everyone and anyone can be a content creator, a publisher, a media property. As we shift away from traditional print and broadcast media, both we and our clients have the opportunity to get innovative and create and distribute our own content. Additionally, content creation should not be isolated to the PR and marketing staff. Volpe shared that, “50% of HubSpot employees have written posts for the HubSpot blog.”
4) Although much of PR and marketing is based in the written word, we need to start thinking more visually. We need to tell stories through pictures and videos. We need to make our content more authentic and dynamic.
5) On a personal level, Volpe stated, “The new resume is what comes up in Google when I type in your name.” As digital and social media continue to play an increasingly vital role in our PR and marketing efforts, we too have a digital and social persona, and that is now what employers are most interested in.
Thank you to Erik Qualman and Mike Volpe for joining us at Racepoint Group last night and providing such pragmatic, realistic, useful and inspiring guidance on the social media ROI frontier. Be sure to follow @equalman and @mvolpe on Twitter for real time updates on their social media adventures. You can also view all the live commentary during the event with the #smroi hashtag here.