PR and marketing typically strive to control the message as much as possible – and to avoid approaches that lack control.
Yet early adopters view live streaming video as one of the most vigorous new PR and marketing tools. That’s true even though live streaming epitomizes lack of control. “Streaming,” you see, means real time and “live” means most anything can happen. No matter how well you prepare, live streaming video just might produce a serious “Oh, no!!” Better yet, it often produces a major “Oh, wow!!”
Companies that can improvise and release control will succeed with live streaming video, asserts marketing consultant Kathy Klotz-Guest, herself an improvisational comedian.
“The future of streaming video success belongs to leaders that embrace conversation, being human, and letting go,” writes Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping it Human, in a Convince & Convert guest post. “What streaming video does best is allow brands to drop the corporate veil, connect human-to-human, and allow users to participate in brand storytelling in ways that enrich the customer experience.”
PR & Marketing Uses for Live Streaming Video
Companies are using Twitter’s Periscope app and Facebook Live to stream company-sponsored concerts and other entertainment events, Q&A sessions with customers, announcements, product introductions, interviews with company executives and experts, tours of company facilities and backstage and behind-the-scenes views of the company and its products.
PR crisis management applications are emerging. Southwest Airlines streamed its operation control center during a snowstorm to show it was working hard to keep its aircraft moving. Over 100,000 viewers watched the video, vastly surpassing the company’s expectations, according to the Financial Times.
In one of the most prominent examples of live streaming video, GE used drones mounted with cameras for aerial tours of its facilities. The project required extensive preparation. However, the biggest challenge was convincing facilities managers accept the risk of broadcasting live, Sam Olstein, global innovation director at GE, told the FT.
“At the end of the day, you’re still live. We just had to make sure everyone was comfortable with taking risks,” he said.
Yahoo Finance successfully broadcast multiple hours of the question & answer session with Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger at the Berkshire-Hathaway annual meeting. With a live audience of over 40,000 in Omaha, NE, the live streaming broadcast attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers. The broadcast went off without a major problem – driven by the insights, strong opinions, and often humorous comments of Buffet and Munger.
How to Give Up Control & Embrace Risk
Klotz-Guest offers advice on how to companies can manage those risks and take full advantage of the emerging technology.
- Have a plan but don’t “produce.” In other words, develop a strategy, but abandon it if needed.
- Drop the fear of imperfection. Don’t expect polished webinars.
- Accept some risks and trust others. Ask followers questions, and then let them talk. Let outside bloggers or other influencers temporarily control your live streaming.
- Let your audience know you care. Establish a relationship with the audience via live streaming before selling.
- Demonstrate business value for your audiences and biggest fans. Highlight fans, partners and employees. Thank fans with behind-the-scene views.
- Have fun. A sense of humor and spontaneity is crucial when plans go awry.
“Nothing is perfect. Your brand isn’t, and customers don’t expect that,” she stresses. “What they want is human.”
Be Careful of the Danger
While recognizing live streaming’s power to humanize brands, others warn about its dangers. Poor quality can damage the brand’s reputation. Strong internet connection, good equipment including a tripod, and the right person in front of the camera are critical, says Alexander Clark at Smart Insights.
In addition, any slips of the tongue, misconstrued, ill-informed or slightly risqué comment or controversial remark could land you and your brand in hot water. “Please bear this in mind when broadcasting,” Clark warns. Much, but not all, of this risk can be mitigated by using buttoned-up (but entertaining) people on camera and avoiding potential loose cannons.
The very unpredictability of “live” is its real attraction. Live with it – maybe even arrange for it. But, by all means, use it to your advantage.
Bottom Line: Taking advantage of the considerable benefits of live streaming video calls for a shift in the mindset. Improvisations, flexibility and a willingness to accept risks, as opposed to relying on a script, are the keys to successful live streaming video.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.