Why live, online video should be PR firms’ next big land grab

PR pros that missed the boat on social media know that it can take a lot of time and energy to catch up. Get in on the ground floor with live video.

This article originally ran on PR Daily in May of 2015.

If you’re a fan of the board game Risk, you know the object is to occupy every territory on the board. Public relations firms have a similar endgame, always looking to conquer the next big communications territory that will help clients reach and influence their intended audiences.

Social media was the previous frontier up for grabs among PR firms, ad agencies, digital agencies and search agencies. Those adequately prepared to stake their claim early established their dominance. Those who did not now have the chance to get back in the game by setting their sights on the next prime real estate for communications pros: live, online video.

The power of live, interactive video

The biggest trend coming out of this year’s SXSW Interactive conference was the emergence of Meerkat, which quickly popularized the integration of live streaming video with social media. In the aftermath, pundits started pondering the marketing potential of this combination, piquing the interest of many PR agencies.

Indeed, there are many inherent benefits to using live interactive video for a variety of marketing and publicity purposes.

When a brand’s product experts and advocates appear on live video, their passion for the brand and products shines through and makes a strong, authentic and emotional connection with the audience. Pre-recorded video has a polished sheen, but one that savvy viewers can often see right through. Reporters, consumers and other typical targets of PR communications aren’t looking for pre-packaged, commercialized spin. Rather, they desire a more genuine, conversational experience with brands.

Live video engages the viewer even more deeply when the host incorporates interactive social media elements, turning the broadcast into more of a two-way dialogue. It enables reporters and other viewers to live-chat questions and comments directed at the video’s host.

Such tools also enable companies to bypass the press altogether if they so choose and go straight to the consumer with their PR messaging. This could even include adding call to action buttons that enable the viewer to buy a product or find a local retail location, for example.

There’s also a refreshing immediacy to live video, in much the same way social media provided brands with a means of publicly communicating with a sense of urgency and timeliness.

Parallels between live, interactive video and social media

The comparison between live video to the emergence of social media marketing and the resulting agency land grab makes sense, considering that when social media burst onto the scene, it embodied a new combination of immediate/real-time communication (PR agency domain), Web-based digital presence (digital agency domain), brand voice (ad agency domain) and search ranking (search agency domain). No wonder there was a struggle for agency dominance in driving a client’s social strategy and execution.

Similarly, live video is a combination of video content (video production domain), live interaction (PR agency domain), brand voice (ad agency domain) and social interaction (everybody’s domain).

For these reasons and more, live online video is beginning to mimic the same kind of competitive atmosphere that compelled various agency types to aggressively pursue control of social media. PR firms who were too slow to incorporate social media into their core capabilities learned the hard way that there were consequences to being late to the party.

As the land grab commences, it behooves PR companies to start formulating a business case for why their live video capabilities would provide better value or produce more valuable results.

The case for PR firms

The good news is that PR firms are uniquely qualified to claim ownership of live video, because their media outreach efforts tend to focus more on timely news or event-driven campaigns such as product launches.

A PR agency looking to beef up its live interactive video offerings must know how to successfully build on its traditional skill sets. Based on our experience at Brandlive producing over 3,000 live interactive video events for over 120 brands, PR firms that can pull together a team with the following skills to form a “live streaming video center of excellence” will be best positioned to succeed:

  • Structuring and crafting brand and product stories
  • Preparing client executives for on-camera/on-stage appearances
  • Activating social interaction
  • Knowledge of audio/video production

The bottom line: Live video drives engagement

PR is a fast-paced industry where it is easy to fall behind the curve. Live video may still be in its early adoption phase by brands and retailers, but for how long?

Many top brands and retailers are already conducting live video events, including GoPro, TaylorMade, MasterCraft, New Balance, Seagate, REI and Pottery Barn. These are all innovative brands that have recognized that live video dramatically increases engagement and conversion for whatever the call to action is (buy, learn more, etc.).

Consider my own company’s internal research, which revealed that consumers were over three times more likely to buy a brand’s product after it was featured on a live interactive broadcast. In comparison, other industry data shows that consumers watching pre-recorded product videos were only one and a half times more likely to make a purchase.

Now imagine trying to convince one of the brands involved in this study that live video is an unproven PR and marketing tool. That’s a move no firm can afford to make in the Risk-like existence of PR agencies looking to stake a claim for this new territory.

Fritz Brumder is CEO and co-founder of Portland, Oregon-based Brandlive, a live interactive video platform used by brands and retailers to put product experts live on-camera to conduct product training, marketing and e-commerce events.

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