This is the final piece in our series on BuzzFeed editor Stacy Lambe's "Scaling Green Communicating Energy Lecture Series" recent talk. The first two installments are available here and here. The topic for this post is "buzz" -- what is it, how to create it -- from the creative force behind the viral phenomenon, "Texts from Hillary."
Our first question to Stacy was straightforward: what is "buzz?" According to Stacy:
Buzz...[is] something that we consider is going viral, something that we consider is a hot topic, or just anything of interest that is considered shareable. The idea is not just you would like it, but you and 20 of your friends...would like it as well.
A classic example of how this works was undoubtedly "Texts from Hillary," which quickly became a viral phenomenon, on both social and "traditional" media. But why did "Texts from Hillary" work so well? Stacy's answer revolved around the concept of shareability, along with the word "meme" -- "an idea that is propagated through the World Wide Web," and that "spread[s] from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, news sources, or other web-based services."
Texts from Hillary came about at the right time that really spoke to what was the undercurrent of the current mood in Washington, as well as apparently the nation. We created something that was definitely very genuine and real. I think it was funny. It was simple, and it kept it politics free, which I know sounds bizarre because it's labeled as one of the best political memes of this year. But our idea was to never take a stance on a certain issue, it was capturing the idea or persona of someone we've all come to know and then letting people have an outlet for that.
In addition, as we've noted in previous posts on Stacy's talk, the keys in a social media world, which we certainly appear to be living in these days, revolve around being short, punchy, visual, creative, approachable, genuine, and interactive, and shareable. Pictures are great too, as well as anything that taps into the zeitgeist.
Given our particular focus on clean energy communications, our follow-up question to Stacy was how public relations professionals can latch onto, or even create the next, "Texts from Hillary." Stacy's response, in short, was that it's not so easy. Hey, you can always dream, right?
That's a very hard one, I've been trying to figure out that myself, trying to see if I can strike twice, and I don't know if even I can per se. I think it's... a matter of just paying attention to all the memes and all the things that do go viral, and just looking for those opportunities that make the most sense for you and your client...
So, these strategies worked with "Texts from Hillary," but how about with clean energy? As the example of Greenpeace"s fake, satirical Shell website demonstrates, it's certainly possible. The key, it appears, is tapping into hot, popular memes; presenting stories in a user-friendly way for information-overloaded internet dwellers; and, as Stacy Lambe puts it, making content -- clean energy or whatever it is -- an "inviting experience that [people] can react to, that they can participate in."
These days, in Stacy's view -- and we tend to agree -- simply presenting "hard news or straight news told at [people]" isn't going to cut it. Instead, professional energy communicators need to work at acclimating themselves to the world of BuzzFeed, the world of "Texts from Hillary," and the world of social media more broadly. That is, if they want to succeed at what they're doing.