PBS PR Flies High Through Big Bird Story

After last week’s presidential debate, Big Bird was big. I mean really big. Perhaps bigger than he’s been in a long time.

After Republican challenger Mitt Romney told the world that Sesame Street‘s famed character would likely be killed if Romney were elected president (meaning no more federal funding for PBS), Big Bird was ever so popular, with most people coming to his defense online.

CNET reported that a number of new Twitter accounts popped up, including BigBirdRomney (nearly 11,000 followers as of Wednesday afternoon), SadBigBird, BIGBIRD and Fired Big Bird. One tweet stated: “100 Retweets and I’m going to make my nest outside Romney’s bedroom window.”

While all of that demonstrates the “power of Twitter,” as people like to say, the impressive part of the story is not about the bird, it’s about PBS. CNET reported that the public TV network bought a promoted tweet tied to the term “Big Bird.” Anyone searching for Big Bird would see the tweet that said, “PBS is trusted, valued and essential. See why at http://www.valuepbs.org.”

Now, PBS has had a reputation of being a bit antiquated, a bit staid. Yet I say this Twitter tactic is a savvy PR move. The valuepbs.org page has a number of interesting facts and figures related PBS’s impact on the public. And at the bottom of the page there’s a “Get Involved” link, which takes you to a donation page. And if any organization needs donations right now, it’s PBS.

The network has done what every communicator should do: get your message across via the practice of newsjacking—linking your own story to hot, breaking news.

I would, however, put that “Get Involved” link at the top of the page, not the bottom.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp

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  • Emily Homuth

    It’s amazing how much one comment can induce such massive efforts by means of social media. The comment made by Mitt Romney has not only sparked political debate, but it has drawn in people who may not always be following the current presidential campaign process. The PR that PBS has now implemented in order to save their public organization uses various social media sources. I think we can really learn something from this campaign process and from PBS. PR can take many different directions, but the common point of it is to reach the public and affect their actions/emotions. PBS is highly capable of doing this.

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