“We’d like to create a viral video”

It’s a phrase that PR agencies and clients like to trot out – more often than not during the pitch – and everyone says “yes, great idea!” and then it usually goes one of two ways. It withers on the vine, due to lack of resources; or ends up as some horrifically over-branded marketing content that’s never going to be shared.


So what makes a video go viral? I’ve had two videos on my Facebook that have had considerable shares and while the things they covered are very different, the basic principle is the same. Unique content that is unusual, compelling and interesting enough that you want to show other people. 

FireworkBrixton Evening

For news organisations, that means getting the story out first. But this obsession to be the fastest with the mostest can cause problems. Last summer, Buckingham Palace had to issue a denial that the Queen had died after a junior BBC employee tweeted that she had passed away. The reason? She’d seen a rehearsal (which all news organisations do for very famous people) and assumed it was the real thing. It wasn’t. To be fair, Ms Khawaja’s tweet did go viral, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Queen Tweet

For PR, marketing and the like, tapping into a breaking news event is unlikely to be successful and can often backfire as Crocs found out to its cost trying to promote a brand off the death of a celebrity.


So what this means is that you need to be creative and come up with something that is either unique, topical or funny. What’s more, it’s got to not be overly contrived or branded. And if it is set up, don’t get caught. The internet went wild about an old man performing grime on Carnaby Street until Vice got hold of someone who said they saw a two-camera shoot when he first appeared and the ‘Hunt for the Grime Grandad’ lost its momentum. Great idea – flawed execution.

Some companies – such as Troll Station – stage real life dramas which then go viral. Its clip of a transvestite being subjected to homophobic abuse who eventually fights back went everywhere: although in this case, they were indirectly driving traffic to their channel – rather than promoting a brand – and that might be a bit too ‘edgy’ for some companies to associate with.

But even if you’ve got all the elements lined up, how do you get your brand in? Do you make the video pertinent to your topic? Do you go for something way out there and hope it works? The 2001 John West Tuna viral advert (probably the first true branded viral video clip) had the brand/pay-off at the end and it worked. But creatives like that are rare – and these days, the general trend has been to hire a celeb to give the campaign a boost, not always with success.

In truth, there is no magic formula; just avoid the tail trying to wag the dog. If you can get the key elements into the idea – unique and interesting content that grabs the viewer – you are three-quarters of the way there.

by Daniel Emery


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“We’d like to create a viral video”

Clarity at CES – what’s the buzz?

CES is a tech writer’s content dream. Everyone is writing about it but because there are so many new products, announcements and cool startups (not to mention workshops and gossip) to talk about, it just doesn’t get old.

Clarity’s US team have been at CES the last few days. They say the most popular products at this year’s CES seem to be drones and those that focused their offering on augmented and virtual reality.

The team is soon going to be giving us an update on their picks for startups to watch in 2016, but in the meantime, these are the primary on-the-ground buzz topics as reported by Clarity’s T. Anthony Patterson:                        


During CES, Netflix announced they were immediately releasing the online streaming service in over 130 countries. Boom, just like that… world domination. Or something like that. No one really saw it coming, either. This puts them in almost every country in the world, with plans to move into China in 2016.                                                                                                                                               

The question now is not so much, “where does this leave traditional pay and cable TV services?” but “how will they fight back” or maybe, more pessimistically, “when will they fold?”


On Tuesday, Oculus was the scene stealer. It was mayhem around their stand the entire day – hour long queues to see their demo version of the new Oculus Rift – set to be available later in 2016. If you’re interested in learning more, PC Mag posted this first impression piece yesterday.

Queue for Oculus demonstration

Queue for Oculus demonstration


You heard that right. Kodak had a notable presence at CES. They brought a bit of nostalgia to the show, doing a good job of gauging the audience. Bringing to the table a mix of old and new and an announcement that they’re releasing an updated version of their old Super 8 camera from the 80s – designed by Yves Behar.


Drone technology is just getting more useful and cooler. Fleye, who specialise in innovate aerial film and photography, announced that they’re on the brink of developing a drone which keeps its movable parts inside a protective outer covering, meaning it can bump into people without doing any damage.

Fleye demonstration

Fleye demonstration

Star Wars

It’s probably not much of a surprise that that CES was still gripped by Star Wars fever and the hype around the highly anticipated movie hadn’t died down. Sphero had a clever tie-in with Star Wars with the release of their Star Wars force band. This unique toy proved really popular and there were swarms of people hanging about the stand all day for a chance for the force to be with them… for bit.


Our male correspondent was a bit freaked out by this, to be honest, but says it was one of the most interesting demos he saw. The stand was set with a woman in a white wedding dress against a white background, demonstrating the various apps within Modiface. The most interesting of which was the ability to get a virtual makeover. You stand in front of a camera and it applies make-up, eye shadow, contact lenses, etc. to your current look.


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Clarity at CES – what’s the buzz?

Why Twitter’s character limit increase is good news for PR consultants

Twitter’s shares took a tumble on Tuesday with the announcement that tweet character limits might jump from 140 to a massive 10,000 characters.

What will this look like? Re/Code reported that your feed will essentially remain the same on the surface. Longer tweets will display as normal – in 140 characters – and then, if someone is interested enough, there’ll be functionality to click and reveal the full content.

Critics have slammed the move, saying the expanded character limit takes away from Twitter’s simple elegance. Regardless of what you think of the announcement, the reality is that Twitter will still remain an important news channel.

When the expanded character limit is introduced, what should PR professionals be aware of and how should they best use the expanded space?

Simplify access to your message

Before, regardless of whether your tweet was punchy enough to grab the attention of browsers wanting to know more, you had to rely on them clicking on a link which took them outside Twitter. Now, your headline becomes your 140-character tweet and your press release/alert/blog post can easily be displayed underneath – all without the user having the leave Twitter.

Articulate yourself

As content makers, we are used to consolidating our message to create maximum impact with minimum perceived effort. What I mean, of course, is that while we might spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over a few paragraphs, the end product won’t (or shouldn’t) look like it. Our aim is usually pretty simple: spark interest, consideration and action.

Twitter has been good for helping us develop our cut-to-the-chase skills but it doesn’t exactly allow for much more. How can we truly get across a brand’s proposition in a short tweet? Obviously we don’t need to wax lyrical every time, but trying to cram an amazing story into 140 characters feels a bit… hollow. Having more space to creatively build a fuller brand story around that cool new initiative or product isn’t a bad thing.

Increased engagement

Earlier last year Twitter removed the 140-character limit from Direct Messages. Do you even know how much easier this has made it for me to complain about my crappy sandwich or bad train journey? Lots.

In all seriousness though, the 140-character DM limit used to frustrate me so much as a community manager. How can you genuinely respond to a complaint or engage in a broader conversation with a client or a member of the public? I resented having to condense my replies, fearing that the brand was coming across as unsympathetic and definitely not that interested.

The increased DM character space has allowed brands to build more genuine relationships with their followers privately. Having the ability to publicly clarify concerns or provide a more in-depth explanation to a question has the two-fold effect of both increased brand awareness and brand trust amongst followers.

Your blog away from your blog

Twitter is used a lot by brands’ bloggers to help drive traffic to their website. These brands use pictures and snappy headlines to help achieve those elusive click-throughs. Now brands and individual bloggers can host a proper preview of their full post within Twitter. If browsers like the excerpt, they’re likely to click through to the blog anyway to read the rest of your post and/or to see what else you have to say.

Fast access

Quite simply, this ups the chances of more of your content being seen by more of the right people.

By Lydia Lobb


What do you think of the proposed character limit increase? Do you think it’s a good or a bad thing for companies and their PR teams?


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Why Twitter’s character limit increase is good news for PR consultants