5 Myths About ‘Viral’ Video Marketing


Confession: I have been at this PR thing for a while. In that time, I have learned a few irrefutable truths:

  1. There will always be a client that thinks he or she knows more about the media than you.
  2. There will always be at least one agency that can — and will — do it cheaper, faster, and worse than you … and they will still get the business.
  3. There will always be a couple of PR pros on your team who believe the only way to get ahead is to place a knife in your back.

Recently, a new dogmatic fact has crept its way onto the scene, lifted its leg, and marked its territory with authority: Someone — client or fellow flack, it doesn’t matter — will always exclaim, “Oh, we can make that go viral. Easy.

Can we please take that animal out back and make it into glue? Like today?

I was eating lunch with a journalist buddy of mine the other day and, as chance would have it, two PR peeps sitting at the next table over were griping about work. In a case of one-upsmanship, one flack said to the other, “Dude! We could so make that video go viral for our client.”

At that moment, my water almost shot out of my nose like Orca during a show at Sea World. That statement typifies the latest trend among PR people who think they know more about the Internet than say, Google.

On behalf of those of us who know better, I say: Please stop! 

stop it now

There is another way of asking: “How can we make this video viral?”

Try this: “How can we make a video buzzworthy enough in the social space and optimized enough in the digital space so it is found in search … a lot?”

Public relations should be about positioning over stunts. If we can position a client using a video that people will click, then we can add that to the wonderful list of tactics.

Here’s the secret when it comes to virality: It’s not you. It’s me (the viewer, not the PR professional). 

As a member of the public, I make the video go viral. Your job is positioning said video to make me care. Now for five myths about video marketing:

  1. It is only for big business. Anyone with a camera, a USB port, and an idea can make a video and get 15 minutes of fame. Anyone. Literally.
  2. Sharing can happen many times. So not true. Sharing happens once. The moment someone sees a video, they decide if they want to share it, and with whom they will share it. If your video doesn’t make the cut that time, it won’t any time.
  3. Videos are expensive. They can be, but if this were always the case, flip cams would never have been created. One idea. One flip. One button. One download. And that’s all it takes. You don’t need star quality. You only need quality.
  4. Cool things “go viral.” Really? A child’s laugh. A cat missing a jump. Any prank from Jackass. Those things “go viral.” Stop thinking about virality and just aim for entertaining. You’ll be better off.
  5. A video is a great way to launch a product. Only if you are good at it. If you are aiming for real virality, consider the process — not the product. Do you really understand your audience and what they find entertaining? Do that, and shares will follow.

 All better? Now don’t be that dude.