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

While people have long been both fascinated by and terrified of sharks, thanks to 25 years worth of jaws-filled programming blocks PR by the Discovery Channel, sharks are now perennial national storyline every summer thanks to Shark Week. The predator-centric programming block has evolved into a favorite even among surfers and ocean-goers—those among us who sit closest to the predators on the food chain. In 2011, Shark Week made a splash on social media, 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 and personalities as measured by Socialcam. 

For 2012, Shark Week's quarter-century milestone, the Discovery Channel's PR team launched its biggest PR campaign ye. And while not every brand has thousands of hours of programming and resources like Discovery Communications does (not to mention a brand tie-in big enough to cover a building [see photo]) there are five hot PR lessons to be learned from this years Shark Week:


  1. Engage & Enable Influencers: By hosting a series of events—from a media-focused party at Television Critics Association 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 & Make It Social: Shark Week fin-atics are notorious for lobbying for a month or year of sharks (instead of the annual summer tradition); by launching Shark Cam in early July consumers and media were able 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 unique co-viewing app—Discovery was able to tell the story of Shark Week across a variety of outlets.

  5. Remember Your Neighbors: Discovery is a part of the Washington, DC community and didn't forget that—bringing back Chompie (a 446-foot inflatable shark to their headquarters in Silver Spring), hosting a free local screening prior to Shark Week, and engaging nearby businesses by delivering surprise #ChompieAttack visits from Chompie Jr. in conjunction with local partner California Tortilla.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg