Companies: Grecco Gear; Denver Public Library Timeframes: 2003 to present; March 2006 Video content has enhanced many PR campaigns, either through the traditional use of VNRs or b-roll footage or in special promotional tapes sent to sales staffs and potential clients. However, the non-traditional use of video content also scores PR points. Two entities with little in common - a wrestling apparel line and a municipal library system - shared a common ground when they opted to follow offbeat PR routes using online video. Grappling With Success Lawrence Grecco never intended to run a business. A New York-based fine art photographer, Grecco keeps in shape via submission wrestling - a roughhouse sport that is more intense than traditional Greco-Roman wrestling but not as violent as Ultimate Fighting tournaments. Three years ago, the entrepreneurial bug bit him while he was cleaning out his closet. "As a wrestler who had a few dozen old wrestling singlets laying around, I had been auctioning them off (clean, of course) on eBay and I was receiving some very high bids on them," he recalls. "The older vintage style ones from the 80's and early 90's seemed to fetch the highest bids, so it occurred to me that there was business potential here, and thus Grecco Gear was born." Traditional PR opportunities for Grecco Gear were limited: Grappling Magazine was submission wrestling's sole publication and a few martial arts magazines gave the sport minimal coverage. Grecco initially promoted his line via banner ads and links to submission wrestling Web sites - but another unexpected inspiration arose. "I had gotten into the habit of video taping my private wrestling training sessions," he says. "I had one regular training buddy with whom I'd meet once or twice a week and we taped just about every session so we could watch it afterwards, which is a great way to learn and improve your skills." Grecco wondered if anyone would be interested in watching these videotaped sessions. Using a low-cost digital video camera and his Mac computer as his DVD production tools, Grecco tapped into his network of wrestling buddies to create his own all-star line-up. He first photographed the wrestlers wearing his apparel for a "Grappler Gallery" on the Grecco Gear Web site (http://www.greccogear.com), then he began videotaping their wrestling matches. Production costs averaged $200 per match, with the biggest expense involving wrestler compensation. The DVD product line offered Grecco with a new revenue stream, but the titles also helped to promote the wrestling apparel. "I have noticed that 50% of my customers who initially purchase a DVD end up ordering a singlet within three weeks," he says. "So the DVDs are very much responsible for encouraging wrestling singlet sales." Grecco's DVD promotion was initially an e-commerce effort from his Web site, but another surprise PR opportunity arose. "I stumbled onto Google Video by following a link someone had e-mailed me," he says. "It seemed like an easy and free way to promote the DVDs." Grecco posted a four-minute sampler from one of his DVDs, with his company's URL at the start and finish of the clip. "It has already been viewed thousands of times and inspired a lot of new orders," he continues. "My site has always gotten a lot of visitors, but after having the DVD clip out there I'd say I get an additional 1,000 visitors a week." Movies By Modem While Grecco Gear came to Net video by accident, the Denver Public Library saw Net video as the next logical step in its service line-up. Last month, the library became the first in the nation to offer its patrons free movies and educational videos for Internet download. Using a technology service developed and maintained by OverDrive Inc., the library kicked off its digital video downloads with 82 titles ranging from silent classics like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "The Phantom of the Opera" to cult favorites like Fellini's "81/2" and the surfing documentary "The Endless Summer" to self-help offerings like "Meditation for Beginners." The titles are available at http://downloadmedia.denverlibrary.org and are accessible for those with Denver library cards. "We've had growing demand for other download services besides our e-books and audiobooks," explains Michelle Jeske, manager of web information services. However, because of its mission the Denver Public Library cannot charge its patrons for the service. "We obviously need a different delivery than iTunes. We lend materials; we don't sell them." To achieve this goal without giving away free movies, the library's titles are copy protected using the Microsoft Windows Media Rights Manager, thus preventing unauthorized duplication and distribution. In fact, the downloaded files become inoperable after a week - the same time period the library mandates for the return of DVDs borrowed from their collection. Half of the titles are available for download by as many people as possible, but others exist as a single file for one individual to access - a holding list is maintained for others who are interested in the title and they are contacted via e-mail when it is available. From a PR perspective, the program has been a big winner. In the first two weeks since its March 21 launch, Jeske tracked 808 downloadable checkouts. Media coverage helped fuel interest in the service: Jeske's appearances on a local NPR station (the interview was repeated six times during a week) and the local CBS News affiliate spiked interest and doubled the number of new registrants to the library's Web services within the first two weeks of operations. But even before any of the films were online, media coverage stirred interest. The local newspapers announced the service was coming weeks before its debut, and that coverage also generated higher numbers of people to the library's online site. Strangely, the most popular titles for download have been a number of documentaries that were originally presented in the widescreen IMAX format. Jeske has enjoyed these films, even if they are not being seen as originally envisioned. "I have a Pocket PC with a screen that is about two-by-three-inches," she says. "But they are actually still very entertaining." Contact: Lawrence Grecco, firstname.lastname@example.org; Michelle Jeske, 720-865-1725. Lessons Learned: Placing Videos Online If you are planning to put promotional video clips online, here are a few quick suggestions worthy considering: Keep it short, simple and succinct. Nobody wants "Gone with the Wind" on the Net (not at the moment, anyway). Short clips (maybe 10 minutes maximum) are ideal for online presentations. Beware of pirates. Not Long John Silver and friends, but the Net-version who swipes videos and posts them without permission (sometimes with inappropriate new soundtracks). The controversial YouTube.com has plenty of pirated videos on its site. Keeping your URL in the video (try putting it across the bottom of the screen) may help deter pirating. Remember the dial-up crowd. Yes, there are still plenty of them. Consider running online videos at two speeds, for slow and fast Net connections.
Case Study : Let’s Go to the Video…and Score Online PR Success!
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