PR Needs to Delve Deep(er) into Digital Video

By Justin Finnegan, Vice President

Last week, I was afforded the chance to wear a sharp suit coat and attend a Publicity Club of New York luncheon on the rise of digital video. (Wait. Wait. This isn’t an ad-tech post. Please come back.) This was a publisher-centric panel, with editors from Mashable, FT, WSJ, Fast Company, Vox and USA Today, discussing prevalence of digital video content.

That publishers are generating digital video content apace is kind of a “no-duh” statement. A quick nature walk through Facebook and Twitter will more than showcase the amount of video publishers are pushing out.  It makes sense; audiences are arriving at content through social platforms on mobile devices and video naturally lends itself better to this medium than text.

However, when it comes to PR in general, I find that digital video gets third (or fourth-billing) behind digital print, traditional print and traditional broadcast despite its apparent strengths:

  • Content – Publishers who are investing dollars into building a video channel need content by the bucketful, as they need traffic and engagement rates to justify these channels.
  • Reach – The reach of publisher video channels is a secret weapon, oddly. This was one of my personal takeaways from the PCNY event. Joanne Po at the Wall Street Journal said that the WSJ’s video arm had 32 additional partners, lending a reach that rivals many traditional business broadcast audiences. This was echoed by Chris Booker at the FT, who has 9 distribution partners including AOL and Yahoo.
  • Social – Unlike a traditional broadcast piece, most digital video can be shared instantly through owned and social channels

There are tremendous opportunities for PR to really utilize digital video to its full advantage.

  • PR teams spend a lot of time and resources assembling and pitching written bylines and contributed pieces. Seemingly, a 500-800 word byline could be turned into a three-minute video piece and then pitched as video content at a shorter incubation than a written piece.
  • Going back to Joanne Po at WSJ, she mentioned that the channel has five live broadcasts a day with a similar production schedule to a CNBC or Fox News. Given WSJ’s reach, a client could theoretically get the same amount of awareness with an appearance on one of these shows as they would with traditional broadcast. However, I would wager the producers of the WSJ channel are not getting the volume of pitches as their traditional counterparts.
  • Publishers are eager to adapt and use new video tools. Mike Schmidt at Mashable said that they are looking for ways to incorporate Meerkat and Periscope into their channel. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for PR teams to work with publishers to adapt traditional news pitches to holistically match up to the publication’s digital plans. Example, perhaps a funding announcement could be made via a publisher’s Periscope with a written follow-on.

A lot of this is not rocket science. I know that many savvy SHIFT teams have already incorporated digital video into their PR plans, but I still believe there’s a lot of room for PR to play in this space.

(Author’s note: Yes, I realize there’s a certain irony in this being a text post versus a video, but with full transparency I didn’t shave today.)

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