Like many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teenagers, when I started my first internship in the industry I wanted to form my career, I had no concept of what I was going to be doing. I truly had no idea what public relations really was but I did understand the ultimate goal was to make our companies well known.
Over the years through some eye opening experiences in leadership, exceptional mentorship and being thrown into the deep end, I've come to see, inside-out, the media landscape and our roles as brand marketers. There is no such thing as just "PR" anymore and there is no specific formula to make something go viral.
But what does viral mean? It's not just a cat meme or a funny video, it's something that moves people. It's creating influence on consumer behavior.
Through working with many truly amazing entrepreneurs, and having many failed attempts at virality, I can't tell you how to make your product go viral, but I can tell you how to design something that will.
Spoiler alert: its not how good your marketing or PR team is.
The brand must have a clear voice
A confused brand voice will cripple a company before it ever takes off. There is a great TED talk by Simon Sinek about this. He talks about why a brand does what they do versus what they sell. Sometimes this sounds a little like smoke and mirrors (and I get it, believe me) but it is the difference between a great company and a failed one is how well the customer interacts with it.
A great example is LA based alcohol delivery app, Saucey.
In the beginning, before all the fun stunts and stories, Saucey was in beta, like anyone else. Their core advantage, and what initially attracted me to them, was their clear understanding of themselves, what they stood for, and who their customers were. Without question, the reason they will come out on top is because their customers connect with them in a way that their competitors can't.
It must be a part of a larger story
Touching on the previous point, a brand won't have legs if the brand is not relevant culturally. As yourself if what you are doing matters right now. If the answer is no, maybe it's time to hit pause until it truly makes sense.
Must be genuine
Consumers cannot be fooled. The biggest mistake a company can make is to fake authenticity. Don't even try.
Have a solid brand promise, and keep it
With any industry, if your company doesn't have a great brand promise or value proposition that is different or better than your competition, its time to reassess.
To touch on my point before, you must provide a well communicated value proposition to the customer. If you don't keep your promise, you will lose trust faster than you can imagine. Distrust is a ripple effect you don't want around your business.
If possible, align with brands who share a similar psychographic
I use this example all the time, but Saucey and LA based underwear company MeUndies, partnered in 2014 to deliver booze via MeUndies models. The models are somewhat famous on their own, as many people associate the brand with influencers with large followings.
This move went viral quickly as both brands had very similar voices and shared similar customer demo and psychographics. It made it easy to tell the story - we didn't have to stretch to make it fit.
Find something remarkable
A new company called Shhhowercap is exactly what it sounds like, a company that makes showercaps. No, a shower cap itself isn't remarkable, but these are. They are beautifully designed and work about a million times better than the average plastic piece of saran-wrap you find in a hotel bathroom.
They were able to create waves and coverage because they are exceptionally beautiful and well designed to function better than what currently exists in the market.
Remember, your brand is a personality
MeUndies is a great example again - they are an underwear company in Los Angeles that touts the most comfortable underwear in the world. The last few years they've made headlines with their unique campaigns with personality.
Be your own marketing arm, PR is not your marketing arm
This is important to remember for any brand. You cannot rely on editorial to be your only marketing tactic. Something to keep in mind is to make sure you're constantly telling the story you want yourself. A company we worked with, Laurel & Wolf, puts a great emphasis on their blog which not only helps with SEO, but in telling their own story as well. They are able to control the content therefore controlling the conversation around their brand.
Design is as important as anything else
There is only so much you can do with a great narrative. Something can't go viral if it isn't truly great. There is a company called Artis, a makeup brush that is designed to function ergonomically. A makeup brush, like a shower cap, is not the sexiest product in the world, but they are everywhere in the beauty world right now. Not only are they far superior to any other brush or makeup tool on the market, they are also absolutely beautiful.
Design is not only physical product either, design includes experiences, web skin, ads, everything. Good design can take mediocre to exceptional.
Ultimately, there is no real recipe for virality - its more of an art than a science - but I can tell you you must actually be great in order for it to work. Spend time and energy on the steps above and you will be.