In October of 2006, our agency was contracted to produce a video documentary for a startup.
The working title of the project was “30 Days To Launch: Behind the Scenes of a Startup*.” The idea was simple: produce a weekly program showcasing the behind-the-scenes efforts of a group of young entrepreneurs in Southern California as they move from concept to corporation. “30 Days to Launch” had all the makings of a reality show by design – a cast of characters, a luxury beachfront set and a storyline about making millions. Instead of an on-air broadcast, the video series would be available from video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, Veoh and Vimeo. An audience scattered across the Internet could watch MojoPages start their company from the ground up in only 30 days to build their brand recognition, attract partners and investors, and, perhaps, get famous along the way.
My role began as cameraman / producer / director—an embedded reporter capturing the behind-the-scenes action of the organization in daily crisis. I would also capture the drama (yes, drama) of five men coming together to build a company under the leadership of a blonde-haired boy wonder (you’re welcome, Jon). Viewers could watch an episode the day it “aired” (became available on the site) or on-demand (when their schedules permitted). They could watch it themselves or with their friends, they could share the link with a colleague and they could engage by leaving comments on the video for the characters in the show. The content was always available.
In addition to the weekly videos we were responsible for producing, publicist Ray Drasnin was hired to approach the media for news coverage. Ray’s job was to develop an idea for a story, dial every TV and print editor on a well-crafted list of media outlets, then pitch with a furious vengeance until someone told him they would do a story on MojoPages. With our shows being hosted on video-sharing sites, Ray shared a link to the video assets for his email pitch to the media. Editors appreciated seeing what Ray was talking about during his phone pitch and getting to know the people behind the story before they committed to sharing MojoPages with their respective audiences, to which they did.
Rodney Rumford was an early pioneer of the Internet and was contracted to create interest from what, at the time, was called “the blogosphere.” This was the Internet’s version of the media, and Rodney was leveraging his relationships with the writers and editors of the more popular blogs to help tell the MojoPages story online. Rodney shared the link to the videos with the bloggers he was pitching for the same reason: exposing the new business to new people. When bloggers bought into our storyline, they embedded (shared) our video episodes into their blog posts to share with their audience.
In our individual efforts, we were able to accomplish our expected goals. Some people watched our videos, some of the media wrote about MojoPages and some bloggers wrote about the new idea for an online company. Like many people, you may be interested to learn how they were able to launch an online company – including securing the funding – in only 30 days.
What was supposed to take 30 days took more than 120, and a contract for four episodes turned into an extension to produce 14. On week five, we started planning further in advance because it didn’t look like this was going to be just another week or two.
As we continued planning our individual efforts, building off the best practices we were learning, we began seeing patterns in what we had accomplished. Ray got CEO Jon Carder placed on the cover of Fortune Small Business. Rodney got a blogger to write a post about the front cover. I included Jon thanking the Fortune and the blogger for covering MojoPages in our video. We changed these typically one-to-one closed connections into an infinite loop of open communication, which, as we discovered, kept everyone talking (perpetually) about the other.
A blogger would write about MojoPages, saying “thanks” for the mention in the video. Then, the media would write about the support we were getting from the bloggers, and we would thank the new list of supporters in the next video. Each of our singular audiences was interested in the content from the others. The more we continued with this cycle of integrated communication, the more momentum we created for the business, the more media coverage MojoPages received and the more support we received online.
There was something to this. People were engaged.
MojoPages was transparent, by design, which meant we shared everything with the public. From the CEO’s vision, to the concerns with the COO – even the challenges getting funding from the CFO – our audience saw it all from us first on YouTube, as it happened. They saw the people behind the titles; they got to know them – faults and all, they saw the success and failure, and the audience trusted them for doing so.
With each new episode, we created opportunities for MojoPages; we attracted new partners, investors knew our pitch before we showed up, and users were counting down the days until we opened for business. What we would soon realize was that we discovered how to create engagement – an interaction between MojoPages and their audience. By integrating multimedia content with traditional public relations tactics and the growing Internet community, we created word-of-mouth with all our target audiences. We were getting MojoPages in front of the right people, and the numbers proved it. Partners were not only open to deals, but they were making them. Investors were not only taking our meetings, but they were investing. And before we even launched MojoPages, we had a higher Alexa Internet rating (web traffic analysis) than any of our competitors already open for business.
Mission accomplished. Or was it?
Admittedly, in 2006 this strategy wasn’t something we had used before – it was a new tactic with a new ingredient: the Internet. Sure, our client was ecstatic that it worked for them, but as a marketer and an academic, I wanted to learn why it worked. If we could repeat this success for other clients, in other markets, we would have something of great value.