While television remains an important part of broadcast strategy for many, the Internet provides creative opportunities.
To help launch its mobile dictation product this past October, speech recognition software company Nuance staged a competition between the world's fastest text messager at the time, a BlackBerry user, a T9 (a feature on cell phones that allows text to be entered without typing each individual letter) user, and a Nuance product user.
While it invited local media and an AP photographer to cover the event, Kristen Wylie, Nuance's corporate communications manager, says the company knew it needed to do more. It hired Medialink to produce a corporate video that would highlight the event and make it more engaging for consumers.
The result: "Man vs. Machine," a video that featured a round-by-round account of how Nuance's product is faster than even the world's fastest text messager. But instead of targeting traditional broadcast media with the video, it opted to put it on YouTube. "This is where a lot of our end users are going to be going," Wylie says. "That's the gist of who our market is - YouTube viewers."
Not only did the YouTube placement attract nearly 35,000 viewers, but it also led to coverage in influential tech blog Slashdot. And Nuance's sales team has since taken the video to incorporate into sales presentations.
Putting such a video online has its advantages over standard broadcast outreach, Wylie says. "It gives us the ability to control the message more versus if it's just sent out as b-roll," she notes.
Internet video is increasingly becoming part of corporations' media outreach, and traditional broadcast PR companies are turning their attention to these opportunities. Hurt by public criticism of VNRs, possible Federal Communications Commission oversight, and a shrunken news hole, these companies are looking for ways to survive - and making the Internet a bigger part of their offerings could be the answer.
"We're all having to adapt accordingly," says Bev Yehuda, VP of media relations at MultiVu. "Broadcast is always going to be the base that people want to use to do their initial outreach... [but] clients are more and more open to the fact that we have to utilize different tools to reach consumers on multiple platforms."
MultiVu's recent work on behalf of NVIDIA, a programmable graphics processor technology developer, included outreach not only to traditional broadcast, but also to sites like Metacafe, which reported visits from more than 65,000 viewers.
"Increasingly, podcasting is becoming perhaps a greater-use element of [VNRs] than broadcasting," says Jack Trammell, president of VNR-1 Communications, adding that repurposing VNRs for most online video sites can often allow for more commercial messages than would ever be allowed on broadcast TV. "We can be much more specific about the value of the product or service being offered by the client."
VNR-1 recently produced a video podcast for pain therapy provider Advanced Neuromodulation Systems that was downloaded more than 22,500 times from video search sites like Google Video. Because of the popularity, Trammell says his team re-edited the piece to include a call to action for consumers.
While broadcast far exceeds the audience numbers for online video, reaching out to online sites is much more about a targeted approach, says Larry Thomas, COO of Medialink.
"Broadcast is about reaching a massive audience, and within those millions of people, you'll find the thousands that you want to reach," he says. "With broadband, it's really about reaching those thousands directly, but then having meaningful interactions with those individuals."
Not just an add-on
And while Internet video is increasingly being seen as an add-on to traditional broadcast PR projects, some clients are hiring broadcast PR firms to produce content exclusively for the Internet.
DS Simon Productions recently completed a project for XO Condominiums, a residential development in Chicago set to break ground in 2009. The video, which included a virtual tour of the condos, was featured exclusively on the company's Web site.
Doug Simon, CEO of DS Simon, says using traditional broadcast PR firms for such work is not new. In fact, many of them have done corporate video since their inception. Yet the strong adoption of broadband makes Internet video much more of a reality.
Similarly, when On the Scene Productions covered a media event for Live Nation for the band Korn's launch of its Family Values Tour, it filmed the event using cell phone video so that it could be uploaded to YouTube and maintain an authentic feel.
Building on that success, On the Scene EVP Stacie Hunt says that company recently created a network of 20 viral video sites dubbed "Christine, On the Scene," to which all of its projects are automatically sent. Led by alternative media coordinator Christine Pulmano, it includes Friendster, MySpace, and YouTube.
"I think the sale of YouTube to Google made everything OK," Hunt says. "Now when [clients] come to us, they are expecting great ideas in this arena."
In all of the excitement following the success of YouTube and similar sites, it may be easy to overlook the opportunities that exist for video on traditional media sites.
"The reality is that there is more usage of video by news organizations than ever before, whether broadcast or online," says Shoba Purushothaman, CEO of The NewsMarket.
A recent survey The NewsMarket conducted with Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism found that 77% of the US' top 150 newspapers offer video on their Web sites. Purushothaman adds, "The savvy clients understand that just sticking something up on YouTube does not mean you have a video strategy."
5 steps to a successful Internet strategy
Know your target. For example, a repurposed healthcare VNR will likely not do well on YouTube, but could find success on a healthcare-specific site
Keep production quality in mind. VNR-1 president Jack Trammell says the quality of the video will need to be higher to translate well to the computer or third screen. Avoid wide shots, if possible
Have a strong story. Just because user-generated sites afford more time and, perhaps, a more commercial message does not mean you can ignore the basic rules of broadcast
Don't ignore traditional media. The NewsMarket CEO Shoba Purushothaman says newspaper Web sites are hungry for video content these days. While they require a more journalistic approach, they are a good second home for VNR packages and b-roll footage
Don't overlook your client's existing audience. Posting video on a client's Web site or utilizing existing partnerships should be the first part of an Internet video plan, says DS Simon president Doug Simon