The Keys to a Viral PR Campaign Include Timing, Platforms and Audiences

Four coworkers sitting around a table, each using their own laptop while working on a project together. They are focused on their screens, typing and scrolling through documents. The table is cluttered with notebooks, pens, and glasses of water.

Creating a successful public relations campaign requires more than just crafting a catchy message or hashtag. By tailoring your message to your audience and leveraging the unique strengths of each platform, you can create a campaign that resonates with your target demographic and generates widespread engagement. 

Targeting Your Audience

One of the most critical aspects of a successful PR campaign is knowing your audience. Understanding their needs, interests and preferences can help you create content that resonates with them and encourages them to engage with your brand. This can involve conducting market research or analyzing your social media analytics to gain insights into your audience demographics and behaviors.

According to Biz Hennigan, managing director and partner at creative agency Superdigital, "Seeking virality rarely gets you it. Really understanding your audience is most crucial. What's in it for them? Why should they care to share? Complex ideas often over-engineer the simplicity required for something to go viral. Don't overthink it."

For example, if your target audience is Gen Z, you may want to focus on platforms like YouTube and Instagram, which are popular among this demographic. You may also want to create content that aligns with their values, such as social justice, sustainability or mental health awareness.

​​”One of the most viral TikTok creators, Emily Zugay, and the Windows brand are a perfect example of a clever, simple organic exchange generating over 155M+ organic views. It all started with a simple ‘follow’ and a ‘comment,’” Hennigan explains. 


Timing is Everything

Hennigan adds, “Timing and relevance is everything when it comes to what makes an earned media campaign successful. In fact, it's how a lot of amazing TikTok content goes from a single video on one platform to a massive cultural conversation everywhere. Take Taco Bell as an example ...(Doja Cat) tweets and creates a [now removed] TikTok jingle about Mexican Pizza, which ultimately leads to an ongoing partnership and her announcing the re-release of the item during a key moment at Coachella. Taking something that's relevant and that people are already talking about and igniting it during a time where we have everyone's attention is a recipe for success.”

Jalila Singerff, director of PR at Jive PR+Digital, adds, “Timing is critical in a viral PR campaign. Launching the campaign at the right time can help maximize its reach and impact.”

It is also important to consider the time of day, day of the week, and season when planning the campaign.


Leveraging the Strengths of Each Platform

Understanding how social platforms work within your target demographic can help you create content that resonates with your audience and encourages engagement. Each social platform has its unique strengths and limitations, and tailoring your content to these can help increase engagement and improve the overall success of your campaign.

For example, Instagram is a visual platform that is ideal for showcasing products, while Twitter is a platform  for sharing news or updates. TikTok, on the other hand, is a platform that is all about short-form video content and is popular among younger audiences. 

Video and photo-sharing social media platform, Lemon8, is ByteDance's (the parent company of TikTok) new Instagram-like offering. The rapidly growing app, described as an amalgamation of Pinterest and Instagram, appeals to millennials and Gen Z fans. 


Measurement and Optimization

“To ensure the success of a viral PR campaign, it is important to track its progress and make adjustments as needed. This means monitoring…and making changes to the campaign to optimize its impact,” says Singerff. She also credited metrics such as reach, engagement,  impressions, referral traffic, conversion, and sentiment as ways to measure the effectiveness of a viral PR campaign. 

By targeting your audience, understanding the strengths of each platform, and timing your campaign for maximum engagement, you can develop a campaign that resonates with your audience and generates widespread engagement. “In general, successful viral PR campaigns often have several key elements in common, including simplicity, emotional appeal, shareability, relatability, and effective use of social media,” shared Singerff.

Tai Nichols is event content manager for PRNEWS. Follow her: @SathiyyahN