Showcase your idea, service or product for free

If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Philosophical niceties aside, it doesn’t matter how good your idea, service or product is – if no one sees it, it might as well not exist.

In a world dominated by social media and the internet, the golden fleece of visibility is the viral video. Creating an online video that others enjoy, and want to share, is the communications equivalent of winning the lottery.

But can a viral video be made to order? Is there a magic formula we can follow that will enable us to produce one? Of course not, because a viral video, by definition, is always going to be something that stands out from the crowd.

Creating viral videos may not be an exact science, but it’s not an entirely random activity either! When we worked on our ‘Busting the Mehrabian Myth’ animation we intended to create something that would appeal to specialist and non-specialist alike. In line with our communications ethos, we attempted to make an animation that was engaging, persuasive and memorable.

Almost a year later, I think we can claim a modest success. ‘Busting the Mehrabian Myth’ has been viewed nearly 30,000 times in less than a year – which is pretty good going for a niche video about a relatively obscure piece of communications research. And when we started working with our client on ‘The Project Manager’s Story’ – the custom video I blogged about last week– we had the same aim in mind.

And yesterday the client who commissioned ‘The Project Manager’s Story’ called us with some encouraging news. She had just sent the animation to Project Manager Today – one of the industry’s leading magazines – and they liked it. In fact, they liked it so much they immediately posted it on their website and offered her the chance to write a piece about her company, which would feature the animation too.

So what is it about our animation that opened the door to such valuable free publicity for our client? I have a hunch it may be more than just the cartoon element…

Here are a few of the tips we give our clients when we begin the process of writing a script with them – they don’t add up to a comprehensive answer, but they’re a useful start:

The gift
Offer your audience something of genuine value – with no strings attached. Share a useful technique or insight with them – or simply set out to give them an enjoyable and amusing experience.

Keep it Simple
Turn the fact that you’ve only got one or two minutes to make your point into a positive advantage – think of the video as your online elevator pitch. Step outside your professional/specialist mindset and put your audience first. If your video can hold the attention of a twelve year old, you’re probably on the right track. Keep your language simple and visual – and avoid jargon!

Use metaphor
Translate your specialist knowledge into everyday analogies that are capable of conveying the idea and feel of what you’re saying to a non-specialist audience. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in our experience fellow professionals/specialists appreciate this approach too – think of Project Manager Today’s enthusiastic response to ‘The Project Manager’s Story’.

And finally,
Tell a story
We all love a story – and stories are a great way of shaping content, and making people care about it. The classic problem/solution – headache/aspirin – narrative structure can be an effective way of creating interest in your product or service.

Whether you’re writing a video/animation script or working on your elevator pitch, if you apply these tips, it’ll give your message a fighting chance of distinguishing itself from the competition – and, who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to produce something that infects your audience and goes viral!


  1. Thanks, Martin: engaging, persuasive & memorable down to the virus reference in the last line!
    This evening I was at a live streaming in Manchester of Matthew Taylor’s RSA lecture on 21st century enlightenment: a concept of autonomy, universalism and attention to human ends now with added self-awareness, empathy and questions as to what ends we’re serving. The power to speak compellingly to a huge YouTube audience is in a way part of that next phase of questioning what progress means and fostering wider engagement in those questions.

  2. Great post, Martin. I especially liked your first point. *Everyone* asks “What’s in it for me?”, even if only on a subconscious level. Demonstrate to your audience that you can really benefit then, and they’re far more likely to be interested in you.

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