PR News Hotlist: 5 Shark Week PR Tactics to Sink Your Teeth Into

Sharks have always been a source of both fascination and terror, but Discovery Channel has turned them into a national obsession thanks to 25 years' worth of jaws-filled Shark Week programming blocks. Each August, Discovery Channel's PR team works to make the event a national story and, more recently, a social media event. 

In 2011, Shark Week made a splash online, claiming the top spot on Trendrr with more than 750,000 enthusiastic tweets from celebrities and fans across the country, and Shark Week's Social Cam became one of the top 25 brands or personalities as measured by Socialcam. 

For 2012, Shark Week's quarter-century milestone, Discovery Channel's PR team launched its biggest campaign yet. And while not every brand has thousands of hours of programming and resources like Discovery (not to mention a brand tie-in big enough to span a building [see photo]) there are five hot Shark Week PR tactics that brands of all sizes can bite into: 

  1. Engage and Enable Influencers: By hosting a series of events—from a media-focused party at the Television Critics Association Tour to a Washington, D.C., screening for shark advocates and policy makers—Discovery Channel drove word-of-mouth conversation in advance of the premiere.

  2. Embrace Partnerships to Extend Your Reach: Discovery joined forces with TOMS shoes, Georgetown Cupcake, Oceana, PEW Environment Group, Shark Savers, Bolt Barbers and Volkswagen to extend the Shark Week celebration and message beyond TV and online to people's everyday lives.

  3. Don’t Underestimate the Appeal of a T-Shirt: Shark Week T-shirts are always hot commodities, and Discovery created special 25th anniversary shirts for media, employees and consumers—in addition to 1980s-inspired press kits to celebrate the occasion.

  4. Give Them More of What They Want and Make It Social: Discovery launched its Shark Cam—a live feed from a shark exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium—in early July for consumers and media to dive into Shark Week before the August 12 premiere, building buzz and deepening engagement. Through a digital and social media campaign—from live on-air tweets from fans to a co-viewing app—Discovery is telling the story of Shark Week across a variety of platforms.

  5. Remember Your Neighbors: Parent company Discovery Communications is a major presence in the Washington, D.C., area, and gave its Shark Week promotion a local spin. The company brought back Chompie, a 446-foot inflatable shark, to its headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.; hosted a free local screening prior to Shark Week; and engaged nearby businesses by scheduling visits from mascot Chompie Jr. and launching #ChompieAttacks in conjunction with local partner California Tortilla.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg