On February, 25, 2015, the Internet was forever changed. The world was introduced to #TheDress, a social media phenomenon with as much staying power as Grumpy Cat, and Nyan Cat, and Keyboard Cat.
#TheDress drew so much attention in a few short days that it was even featured in a 2015 Super Bowl Ad. Was #TheDress just a passing fad, or would its time in the spotlight leave a lasting impression?
To analyze the long-term benefits of short-term PR, Fractl partnered with Moz to study the top six PR events of 2015. We had a theory that brands like Roman Originals (the makers of #TheDress) benefited well beyond the 15 minutes of fame. Now that a year has passed for some of these events, we're able to see the long-term effects from major media coverage.
We focused on three different criteria: press mentions, site traffic, and backlinks. We assumed press mentions would quickly die off within days or weeks of the event, but wanted to see how long site traffic and backlinks remained high, as this indicates long-term benefits (or consequences) for the business.
Surprise is the Surest Path to the Spotlight
The Miss Universe pageant has faced relatively few problems in its 60-year history. Each year a new woman is crowned, the media cheers politely, and everyone forgets about it a few days later. This year, Steve Harvey changed that when he accidentally crowned Miss Colombia and then had to backtrack and re-crown Miss Philippines.
The 2015 Miss Universe pageant had a 200% increase in media mentions and 123% increase in organic traffic over the 2014 pageant. No one was more surprised by the publicity than the Miss Universe producers, except for maybe Steve Harvey.
Time and again we've seen brands try to "go viral" and force their way into the spotlight, but the best moments always take the media and the public by surprise. All of the PR stories we looked at were surprising in some way, from a dress that appeared to change colors to a shockingly greedy pharmaceutical company.
Controversial Stories Generate More Attention
2015 also introduced the Internet to America's least favorite businessman. Martin Shkreli is the former CEO of Turing Pharma, a company that bought and raised the price of a prescription drug by 5,000% overnight in the name of business profitability. Instantly, the cost of this life-saving pill went from a few dollars to a few thousand. The company made headlines for its unethical decision and a strong public backlash quickly followed.
In the month after the story broke, Turing Pharma saw an 812% increase in press mentions and 382% increase in backlinks. This story has continued to drive links to Turing more than six months after the event, proving that negative PR will follow you long after you're out of the public eye.
Small Businesses Show Big Gains from Major PR
Brands that are unfamiliar to the public have more to gain from getting thrust into the spotlight. A year later, Roman Originals has tripled its site traffic year-over-year and continues to grow. It might be no surprise that positive PR has a positive long-term effect, but what about bad press?
When the story broke that a review site called Peeple was about to launch -- described as Yelp for humans -- it was instantly coined the Internet's most hated app. People could hardly believe that someone would launch an app where you could rate friends, family, and co-workers -- so they had to see it for themselves. This brought the average monthly traffic to the site from barely double digits to more than a thousand, and generated 3,800 backlinks before the app even launched. This may have been bad press, but it attracted a lot of attention to Peeple.
For more examples of companies that went unexpectedly viral in the news, check out our full coverage or view the flipbook below.