Beyond Viral Videos: Responding to Requests for Marketing Campaigns

The first question we should be asking as professional communicators is “why?” 

March 28, 2019

You’re at your desk reviewing your latest campaign when someone from the history department comes in. They want something with all the bells and whistles. Viral videos, flyers plastered across campus—everything you’ve got they want to throw at this new course offering. You let them run through their pitch and nod encouragingly. After all, it’s not every day you get to be on this side of the conversation. When they’ve finished their request, you just have one question.


You may see your presenter deflate a little, but as professional communicators it is the first question we need to ask. Why does this idea deserve its own campaign? Why is it a priority? And why now? Other questions are sure to follow, but if they can’t answer “why” the campaign is already in trouble. 

Those in marketing and communications have learned this approach well, but it can be difficult for others to understand. However, the following steps can develop ideas and create the buy-in you need. 

Set realistic expectations

Start by setting aside some time to have some in-depth conversations with the individual or team making the request. This is when you’ll discuss the basics of the campaign, such as what it entails, how long it might run, who needs to be involved, etc. Since this is likely a new process for the department, it may be helpful to send them some of your questions in advance of the meeting:

  • What do you think people need to know about this?
  • What are the highlights?
  • Is it important for people to know now, or would it be better to share around another event like course registration opening or graduation?

Considering these questions together can build trust and a communication plan that everyone will support. This is especially important if your team is trying to communicate in a time of change

Channel enthusiasm

After powering through the planning, your subject matter expert may be in danger of burning out. Now is the time to remind them of what got them excited about the project in the first place. One great way to do this is by letting them play a hands-on role in the implementation. This could include using them as an actor or voice talent in a video, conducting an in-depth interview where they expound on their ideas, or encouraging them to produce their own article on the subject. Finding someone who is passionate about a topic provides a real connection to the ideas and your university. With a little coaching and the right medium, you can create a powerful story.

You also get an internal win: building relationships with more faculty and staff members. The chance to really engage and make the project come to life is an important milestone, even if it’s weeks or months before distribution. Plus, the process could create an advocate for your work. There are bound to be times when faculty are resistant to getting involved with your marketing projects; having a few advocates offering testimonials can be a great resource.

Make it measurable

Measuring ROI is standard for marketing teams, but this may look very different to a faculty or staff member. Hopefully you can define what a successful campaign looks like early in the project when you’re setting those realistic expectations, but conversations should be happening at the end of the project as well. 

Looking at your data, you might surprise your subject matter expert with what you find beyond likes, views, and shares. It’s always important to get an idea of how many people accessed your content, yet you can learn more from how long someone watched your video, demographic information on the viewers, and other details that describe your audience.  

Finding ways to gather qualitative data could also provide important insights. Look for comments on articles and videos to get a sense of how your audience felt about the piece—this psychographic information is a valuable assessment piece because of the power of emotional appeals. In a college or university setting, you also have an audience that is easily contacted for surveys or focus groups for even more detailed feedback. These are insights that likes alone can’t give you.

While you’re still bound to get the odd request for a viral video, these steps can go a long way in finding the why of your campaign and building productive relationships between your communications team and the groups that they serve, all while creating effective, purposeful content.

Megan Hinderman is a content strategist and instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.


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