This Just In ...
Exiled Nigerian business man with millions of dollars to move seeks American with bank account. Must love to forward puppy-with-cancer e-mails within 12 minutes to 47 friends, purchase VIgAgra, VIeagRA and VelAGRA online, possess a strong desire to refinance student loans the quick and easy way while increasing the size of his or her ... um ...ability to sign and send on a petition declaring America the land of the free Internet and home of the brave new world of no-money-down real estate deals. Please respond to Gianluigi Dickerson, Gotam Clear or Heydar Luttrell and include your social security number, date of birth and savings account information so we may contact you with your prize. Trust us. It's good. You'll love us. It's fun.
Gnome Away From Home
Has a garden gnome disappeared from your town lately? Did Travelocity step up to the plate with a replacement creature and compliments on the ceramic midget's adventurous spirit as a PR stunt? 1 Certainly, their
random act of kindness was seen in major media sources that reached over 19 million people last month and appeared in countless blog spots as well. Good will has always made good news. But, can we trust that this was good will? Or is this one of those new public relations pushes to influence public perception through viral campaigns on social networks?
There's a Virus Among Us And It's Not the Bird Flu
When MySpace sells for $580 million and YouTube fetches $1.65 billion, it is a pretty safe bet that someone has a hefty belief in the power of the click at these social networks. Studies suggest that over one third of all Internet traffic on any given day swings by MySpace and hundreds of pseudo-facts or rumors get passed along as gospel at the speed of electricity. Think that's a recipe for restraint and factual fidelity? Or a big ol' anonymous playground for predators, hucksters and PR campaigns of varying degrees of respectability.
Millions Fooled... Heard It On The GrapE-vine.
In over 125 million impressions from traditional media sources over the past 90 days, coverage of lonelygirl15 2 on YouTube has been centered on what kind of people and motives were behind the creation of a fictitious girl that was viewed over 2.5 million times. Back at the YouTube farm, where both the content and its backlash are generated by the social network participants themselves, hundreds of deceived viewers posted videos that expressed their outrage at lonelygirl15, calling her a fake, a media whore and a satanist. At last count, an additional million viewers had also spent time seeing those videos and the actress who played lonelygirl15 was doing the talk show circuit.
Amazing Stunt Men and Creative Lighting
With public relations messages getting increasingly lost in emerging forms of media and thousands of PR majors who grew up on the Internet flooding the workplace, what should you expect? More stealth, more creativity, and campaigns so far under the radar that you wonder if they actually work. Perhaps the larger issue should be, what can you believe to be real anymore or does it matter for certain messages? Have stunt media ploys overridden believability from a PR point of view? Does it really matter if people believe certain types of mentions as long as the coverage is there?
Knock, Knock. Who's There?
Does this sort of campaign reach the right audience? The jury is still out. Most of the media coverage of viral public relations efforts focuses on deceptive strategies and tends to be negative, but the line of effectiveness is so blurred that even this type of attention may be a benefit to a campaign.3 In the end, companies still need to figure out if campaigns in a social network actually build trust and loyalty or compel the participants to value, buy or use what their business offers them.
Neal Combs learned to write in the first grade. Eventually learning to read during high school, he discovered a variety of deficiencies in his early work, which necessitated the long and torturous job of editing everything previously produced. He is now up to June of 1973. Stay tuned and please disregard any references to President Nixon and Captain Kangaroo. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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