Going viral is every PR and marketing pro’s dream.
How does it happen—and what can you do to capitalize on it when it does?
Take a few lessons from the success of “Harry Potter” yoga—an effort to increase
class attendance for Isabel Beltran’s Pint & Poses, a weekly yoga class
in Austin, Texas.
Attention peaked after Cosmopolitan published an article the day
after the class took place. Additional articles ran in USA Today, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly and more, amplified by
posts on the publications’ Facebook and Twitter pages:
The story also caught on abroad ,with mentions in Wired Italy, CNN
Indonesia, Glamour France and more.
As the PR rep and class co-creator, here’s what I learned:
1. One “yes” is all it takes.
Prior to the event, we pitched multiple media outlets seeking coverage. A
few thanked us for the information, but many ignored us.
The only person who showed true excitement was Elizabeth Narins, Cosmopolitan’s online health and fitness editor. She made no
promises, but asked to see post-event photos. Once the photos came in,
Narins took the story as an exclusive. From there, it took off.
2. Forge long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
Giving Narins the scoop meant several publications cited and linked back to
her story as the original source.
Offering exclusive information to a reporter, especially if it goes viral,
is not quickly forgotten. It can create a mutually beneficial relationship
that can last for years.
3. Pre-event coverage is not everything.
It was disappointing to receive zero press attention before the event. As
PR pros, we frequently think that success is tied to the hype we receive
before something takes place.
However, our main objective was to increase class attendance, not just
garner media coverage. The class sold out days before it took place, so our
goal was met.
However, going the extra mile helps. The post-event attention the class
received led to two more sold-out classes and requests from all over the
world to offer more. Bonnie Wright and Evy Lynch also tweeted their
interest in taking the class:
4. High-res images are crucial.
Do not be lazy: Make an effort to obtain high-res images of your work to
share with journalists.
This event went viral in large part thanks to photographer Alexa Gonzalez
Wagner’s images that captured its ambiance and details.
Photos of people doing yoga with wands inside a brewery’s taproom captured
people’s attention. Those details might have been lost had the photos been
low lit or grainy.
5. Teamwork makes the dream work.
The phrase might be cliché, but it’s true.
Part of the reason this concept took off is because people brought their
specific strengths and enthusiasm. Play to your strengths, and trust your
6. Respond quickly.
Response times matter.
The story gained international attention as quickly as it did because every
media request received a response within 15 minutes. After the first query
came in, we drafted a “frequently asked questions” sheet that we could
quickly copy, paste and send to anyone reaching out for more information.
7. Use Twitter to issue corrections.
An early article misspelled Beltran’s name. As a result, several other
articles botched the spelling. Twitter became a valuable tool to correct
the typo. Our team tweeted at reporters and outlets to alert them of the
error. Most responded within minutes to apologize and correct it.
If you notice an error in your coverage, use social media to get in touch
with reporters whose emails you don’t have.
8. Capitalize on the attention.
Attention can be exciting, but don’t lose focus.
Instead of just answering questions, use this as an opportunity to tell
your brand’s story (I shared how Isabel is also an artist who hand made the
event’s decorations) and promote your organization’s message (Circle
Brewing often produces unique events).
Create a call to action that benefits your bottom line.
9. Repurpose the media attention.
Get maximum mileage by collecting articles and posting them on your
website. Search Facebook and Twitter to see who is mentioning you, and
embed the posts on your website or blog, or in an email newsletter.
Bring online hype into face-to-face opportunities by printing articles and
framing them in your entryway. If you don’t have the budget for reprinting
rights, a simple “As Seen In” can do wonders for driving traffic to your
You don’t have to go viral to do this: Any time your business receives
media attention, make the most of it by stretching third-party
10. Be creative.
Tap into what you know and love to create something magical. It’s not about
how big your budget is, but rather how far you allow your imagination to
Harry Potter, yoga and beer resonated with people around the world—and the
idea came naturally, because it was something we already loved.
11. Pay attention to details.
Slapping “Harry Potter” and yoga together wasn’t what led to viral success.
Rather, it was bringing a fictional world into reality.
Details matter: In this case, it was a combination of the event’s timing
(the anniversary of the death of James and Lily Potter), “spells” as yoga
poses and props (including wands, sorting hat cookies, mandrake garden and
Prisoner of Azkaban photo booth).
Tapping into your community of fans can be invaluable. Skimp on the
particulars at your own risk.
Ximena N. Larkin
is the founder of
in Chicago. She has written for Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur,
The Chicago Sun-Times, Refinery29 and The Huffington Post.