Unlikely PR genius: Big Bird

Brands can learn from PBS’s response to Mitt Romney vowing to cut government subsidies for the network.

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The fallout—a social media uproar and a savvy PR move from PBS—is something brands should note.

Nearly 30 minutes into Wednesday’s debate, Mitt Romney vowed to cut government funding for the iconic character and all his pals at PBS (including Jim Lehrer). “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you, too,” Romney said to Lehrer. Ending subsidies to PBS and NPR is one way the GOP candidate plans to help fund his proposals.

The comment touched off a social media frenzy, with “Big Bird” grabbing 17,000 times per minutes and “PBS” getting 10,000 tweets per minute. The Los Angeles Times noted that “Big Bird” was the fourth-highest-rising search term on Google.

Naturally, a series of fake Twitter accounts popped up within minutes, along with an enduring #SaveBigBird hashtag.

The surge in attention wasn’t entirely organic. To sustain interest, PBS made a series of strategic tweets and comments, as well as an opportune ad buy on Twitter.

It began with a tweet from Big Bird, who said:

Big Bird: My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?

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