I’m about to write a blog that is not likely to win me friends in high places. Then again, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.
Yesterday, Marvel did something that ultimately endeared them to movie fans, particularly superhero movie fans, but movie fans nonetheless, worldwide. They announced a series of movies, nine of them actually, to a house packed with media and fans alike. Marvel had sent invites, super “secret” invites to a mysterious announcement type event, and then turned around and invited fans in the Los Angeles area as well, making sure that audience was completely filled.
Those that couldn’t make it weren’t left in the cold. Marvel live blogged the event, and encouraged those in attendance to tweet using a specific hashtag. That way, as the announcement of the next nine movies that Marvel is working to release was made and events unfolded, fans around the world were included in on that excitement. Marvel had set up an entire team of social media to cover the event, knowing that in order for this announcement to go over huge – which is exactly what they wanted and needed – they had to win fans over and create that same sense of excitement whether or not you were in the venue, reading about it on Twitter, or even seeing news of the event in the following days. You see, fans run the show. They are who buy the movie tickets and the merchandise, and they are who shout from the rooftops about the things they are excited enough about to share. They just need to know what to yell. Marvel gave them exactly that, and more.
Now, this event wasn’t just a static announcement of movies, dates, celebrities and so forth. It was a celebration. Actors were invited out onto the stage, logos were shown, dates were announced, and immediately following the event – new accounts for individual superheroes hit Twitter.
My friends, THIS IS PR IN THE YEAR 2014. This is using social media the way it is intended to be used, and this is what it means to utilize the power of fans. Getting the power of fans behind a project matters FAR more than the old, tired retweeting what another celebrity said in passing about a 20-year old album or video. Fans post and tweet about what they like. Fans TALK about what they like – and that reach can be huge if given the encouraging environment in which it can grow.
On the other hand, Warner Bros. announced a series of eleven new superhero movies earlier in the month. At a investors conference. No fans were in the seats cheering. Nothing was mentioned about it on social media until a press release made it’s way across the web. The news was basically bookended with announcements of three new Harry Potter spinoffs and another Lego movie. In order to see the movies they were announcing, you had to scour the article…which wasn’t necessarily effective PR.
Don’t get me wrong, the news of more Harry Potter is exciting. If you’re into Legos then I’m sure that news is certainly welcome as well, and the rest of the movies mentioned will definitely interest people as well. I have no doubt that fans will go to see the movies once they appear in theaters….but what I am more interested in at this point is the LEGS that the news had (or lack thereof). Is it getting chatted up in the same way the Marvel announcement from yesterday seems? I’d argue no. Absolutely not. Let’s face it, Marvel knew that they needed to grab the attention (and loyalty) from fans. This isn’t about just sending out a boring PR announcement, this is about shaking the trees and getting Marvel’s voice heard above all else. It’s about using the power and passion that fans have, harnessing it and making it do a good portion of the work. It’s about investing a little to get a huge return…one that goes on beyond the announcement event itself, and it works. I highly doubt a single person who came out of that Marvel announcement didn’t at least send a single tweet, photo, make a Facebook announcement, or comment to someone about the event itself. I know I saw hashtags about it all over Twitter yesterday, and more on Facebook today.
From my point of view, there is much to be learned from this single example. You can release an album that you’ve been working on for a couple of years with a bunch of promo appearances and let the media do the work – because well, isn’t that the job of the media?! A few fans will show up at these appearances, they’ll tweet here and there and hopefully, radio will kick in and maybe something will get some play. The more interesting alternative; however, is to do something completely out of the box, get fans to the event and excite them so much so that they turn around and shout that news out to as wide an audience as possible, and so on. Something like that, has real legs. Talking about the event will go on for many days AFTER the event, and that’s what you want as a PR person. Go ahead, do the promo appearances. Use the media….but don’t forget the biggest built-in publicity tool you’ve got. The FANS. Movies and TV are doing it with great success, using announcements similar to Marvel, events like comic-con and others…isn’t it time the music industry caught up?