Sunday, September 28, 2008

YouTube: Pot of Gold

YouTube has become the most popular video website, and for good reason. This easily accessible site allows anyone, anywhere, who has access to a computer, to upload their own videos; however, this site is not limited to individuals, as many companies and organizations are taking advantage of this new social media as well. This site, put simply, is a free medium that reaches thousands of people everyday. Public relations' professionals should consider YouTube the pot of gold at the end of the pr rainbow.
So, how could pr professionals spend this "pot of gold" wisely? Obviously, the first step is to do just that. Spend the gold - use YouTube! There are many ways pr folks could promote their company through this site. As I have perused YouTube, I have noticed that many simply place their tv commercials for viewers to see. Others may choose to post an informational video or biography of their company here. Another option is for a pr person to create an interactive activity through YouTube. Such an activity may invite publics to participate in a contest or game that allows them to feel recognized, while also gaining the organization more "face time". For example, MythBusters, a tv show, calls for viewers to submit videos about myths they are curious about. Another way companies could utilize YouTube is by posting a VNR, or video news release about their organization. Companies may also seek out the goodwill of their publics by posting a PSA, or public service announcement. If any interested publics "pull" for the organization's information, they will discover a message that reveals the core principles of that organization. Posting a PSA allows a company or campaign to declare themselves to those millions of people who YouTube everyday.
YouTube is clearly a medium that provides a multitude of benefits for it's users. First, YouTube provides free advertisement for companies, campaigns, and events. The fact that it is free is amazing, considering the cost that would normally be associated with reaching so many publics. Next, YouTube is trendy; thus, it is a way for technologically challenged companies to easily get "up to speed" with the latest trend. YouTube also is interactive, which replaces push media with pull media. This creates a desire within the publics to seek out information, because they may perceive some benefit from doing so. Finally, YouTube creates a community across the world. This sense of community can belong to all users, and can spread to the companies that utilize YouTube.
YouTube clearly has many positive elements, each representing a different aspect or different color in the rainbow. It is important to remember though, that each rainbow usually has some rain associated with it. First, YouTube allows anyone to post their opinions or beliefs, with no restraints of honesty or dishonesty. Potentially companies could suffer if individuals posted negative or untrue videos about their organization. Another weakness is that there is an open forum regarding each video. This could be positive if the comments were good; however, many are negative.
The primary public for YouTube are young adults, age 18-26. This age group uses YouTube the most, while mid-age adults come in next. As a pr professional, it is important to find a way to draw in these users, as well as your target market. One way I would draw in this group would be through providing not only a quality video, but also a unique video. With millions of videos uploaded to facebook, this is quite a challenge. The video should stand out, yet still be directly associated with the co. or event you are promoting. In addition to uniqueness, I would focus on creating a fun, interactive game or contest that thinks "outside the box". Millions of people love YouTube because it gives them a voice, so a pr professional should focus on giving their publics a voice. People simply want to know they matter; thus, an interactive video challenge could provide just that. Finally, an organization could consider advertising their contest via traditional mediums such as radio and newspaper. An e-news release could be sent out making publics aware of this challenge. The co. could post an announcement and link on their home webpage to YouTube. Such efforts would increase the number of views on the video; therefore, the video might make it on the most viewed video list for YouTube.
Overall, YouTube is a pot of gold that is worth the journey to the end of the rainbow. Pr professionals should undoubtedly use this wildly- popular medium to serve both their company and the publics' interests.

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