I've often argued that video is a tool of social media. As PR departments take on many social media responsibilities, we see them becoming more actively involved in the creation and deployment of social video content.
Viral videos, branded entertainment, Web series videos and video-game trailers top the list along with original, entertaining product launch videos. This new breed of video content, rather than simply supplementing the efforts of PR teams, is often spearheading them.
Here's a list of 10 key ways that video is being used by PR professionals to help brands, businesses, organizations and individuals tell their stories.
1. Pitches and press releases. Videos make pitches and press releases infinitely more interesting and engaging. Referencing a hot new viral video, the latest video in a Web series, a video announcement from a key corporate player or simply a fun, informative video about a product can make a huge difference in how a pitch is received. Video gives journalists, bloggers and publications more content to share with their visitors.
2. Building trust and credibility with targeted groups. Video builds trust. Instead of reading a text quote from a company spokesperson, viewers are able to actually see that spokesperson speaking. There may be some coaching involved, but that's what directors are for.
3. Raising brand awareness/promotions/working with celebrities. Videos that offer something of value—such as cash, prizes or 15 minutes of fame—can spread like crazy and highlight a product’s involvement in a contest or promotion, raising awareness of the product and, by extension, the brand.
Creating and launching funny, edgy or cool video content involving TV, sports and YouTube celebrities guarantees a targeted audience. Launching a coordinated social media sharing strategy and integrating this effort with the marketing department helps PR teams to capitalize on that momentum, heightening brand awareness.
4. Product launches. Viral videos and branded entertainment are high-profile ways to announce new products or refresh old ones. Video gives PR teams a visual, entertaining and engaging tool around which to center campaigns. We were recently involved in creating a video for a pizza chain in which large amounts of cash were stuffed in the crust of its new pizza. The content was used not only as a standalone video, but also as part of a funny promo on a late-night comedy talk show.
5. Crisis management, shifting public opinion, corporate and CEO reputation management. In 2009, when two Domino's Pizza employees made a video of themselves sticking cheese in their noses and messing around with customers' sandwiches, the company was quick to respond with a video apology from Domino's USA President, Patrick Doyle.
In 2010, BP chief executive Tony Hayward made a video apology following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the top comments on the video reference the "South Park" episode that lampooned Hayward, but that's OK. The message still got out.
In both cases, the videos reached large audiences and supplied talking points for the media— both social and mainstream—to propel the video messages further. Both videos were effective in turning around negative perceptions toward the brands.
6. Content development. Company newsletters, blogs, speeches and annual reports are being sprinkled with videos. PR teams don’t need to produce a viral video hit for every newsletter, but they can encourage key employees to create video content at events and parties. Include the videos in monthly correspondences with clients and the media. Just be sure to edit them first, especially the ones from the Christmas party.
7. Social media marketing. If social media is UPS, video is the package. If social media is the rocket launcher, video is the rocket. Video can be branded as heavily or as lightly as the creative and messaging dictate, and the larger story can be shared and developed via social media. Having a PR message go viral across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other video sites and social outlets creates a new story that can then be pitched to, or organically picked up by, mainstream media outlets—enabling the message to reach TV, radio and print audiences as well.
8. Social and environmental responsibility. For brands, businesses and organizations, being socially and environmentally responsible can be a key way of differentiating themselves from their competitors. Video can bring the faces of individuals and positive actions of these companies to the forefront and help move brands closer to new and existing fans and customers.
Video can also be used to present a call to action, or as a rallying cry for public involvement in a good cause. Launching videos in which fans are encouraged to submit a response in video form helps a call to action to be spread even faster and with greater reach.
9. Events. Although a single live event reaches only the people attending, social video enables PR teams to share the event with everyone. This increases the exposure of the event and of the brand, product, organization or personality. Events don't always have to be real, either. Flash mobs are types of events that are staged and shared on Youtube and via social media.
10. Political campaigns. Politics is about persuading people to trust a candidate, motivating them to convince others that they should trust the candidate and getting everyone to vote for that candidate. Politicians are often recorded publicly for videos that can take on lives of their own—but funny, emotional or serious original video content can be produced and launched in order to manage the direction and spread of both positive and negative conversation. Political attack videos and damage-control videos can both contain humor, meaning or even shock value—and will be shared.
Online video is fast becoming the face of social media. Like their marketing and advertising counterparts, PR agencies and PR departments should be exploring the possibilities and pushing the boundaries.
David Murdico is the executive creative director and managing partner with Supercool Creative, a Los Angeles-based Creative Agency specializing in social video, integrated content, production, viral and social media marketing for brands including Atari, Pizza Hut, THQ, T-Mobile and IBM. Follow him on Twitter @DavidMurdico.