Viral Videos – Adding value to traditional PR

15 Mar

ImageIn todays digitalized world, it is almost impossible to not have seen some kind of viral video. This can be YouTube sensations as “Gagnman Style” by Psy (Seen by over 1 billion people), “Harlem Shake” by Baauer (Seen by almost 50 million people) or “Sneezing  Baby Panda” (Seen by 157 million people). So what makes these videos so popular, and how can we use viral videos in PR?

There are several factors that interplay when it comes to the popularity of videos. Our New Media teacher, Matt Holland pointed out that the viral basics are:

1)  The video should be authentic

Amateurism rules on the Internet. People will forward videos that looks like they are made at home with no intention of going viral. Friends will share videos that has humour, will surprise or impress.

2)  Do not make an obvious ad

People will not share a video that feels like an ad. It is very rare that outright ads go viral. Of course, there is exceptions like for example the Old Spice Commercial (

3)  Makes a video that is easy to remix/ make a parody of. If people can make their own videos of it, this will prolong the popularity time of the video.

4)   Make it shocking. ‘Shock’ the audience and make them want to investigate the factors surrounding the video further.

5)   Make people laugh. People love videos that are funny. Just see how much “Harlem Shake” has been shared and remixed over the last months

6)   Solve a problem. ‘How to’ videos are very popular. This can be everything from food recipes to how to solve the ‘rubix cube’

 So how can we use viral videos in PR?

To use viral videos in PR is a way of adding value to traditional PR. Videos can be used to approach a problem sideways and associate the video with the brand without being an outright ad. This can be like for example what Greenpeace did in December 2012 by making their own version of ‘Gagnman Style’ to raise awareness of the issue of illegal fishing vessels.

I think it can be extremely beneficial for companies to add value to their campaigns by making a viral video. YouTube and other video sharing platforms gives your company a big opportunity to be seen amidst all the media noice, and if you manage to make a video that is worth sharing you will also raise awareness of your campaign.


Lecture Notes ‘New Media’ Module, Matt Holland, University of Westminster 2013

Lecture Notes ‘Issues in PR’ Module, Michaela O’Brien, University of Westminster 2013

Image in courtesy of: Chicago now 2012

Videos in courtesy of Youtube


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