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How to Incorporate Viral Trends as Part of Your PR Strategy

It seems like every week there’s a new social trend taking over our feeds. From lip-syncing battles, viral dance challenges and cooking hacks (last year’s delicious feta pasta is still in our dinner rotation), these trends can change from one week to the next, but while they’re here, they can seemingly take over the social conversation. We’re also seeing more and more media outlets cover these trends with their own commentary, recipes, product recommendations and more.

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Most trends — which can be anything from an everyday hack, recipe, sound, transition or video style — begin organically, with one user sharing something that resonates with others, which is then rewarded by the algorithm showing to more and more people, resulting in others participating in the trend or sharing their own take on it. Let’s use the butter board phenomenon as an example of how a trend works: last September, Brooklyn-based cook Justine Doiron declared butter boards to be the “new charcuterie board.” The video received a lot of commentary — both positive and negative — and soon others were sharing their takes on butter boards. From there, other “board” recommendations followed, such as cream cheese, peanut butter, hummus and Nutella. Media outlets were also covering the trend, with The View doing their own butter board tasting, Bon Appetit sharing their commentary on the trend and other outlets sharing the best butters, accompaniments and tools to use for a successful board.

Reacting to these viral trends has become an important part of every brand’s PR strategy, but it’s important to do it right. Consumers, especially the younger demographic, are savvy when it comes to a brand's authenticity and it can be damaging to a brand’s reputation to miss the mark. As a guide, we’ve listed out our recommendations below for the best way to participate in viral trends as part of your overall PR strategy.

Move Quickly

Trends happen quickly and disappear even faster. If you want to join the conversation, it’s important to monitor for trends consistently, and be prepared to plan and execute within a couple of days. To stay ahead of trends, ensure you’re spending time on various social platforms whenever possible and consistently be evaluating whether it’s a fit for your brand to take part in. There are also some great resources to help you stay on top of social trends, such as Later’s round-up of TikTokTrends or TikTok will also frequently release trend reports. Media are also covering trend predictions more frequently, so you can do daily monitoring for this type of content or set up dashboards via your media monitoring platform.

Don’t Force It

Before jumping on a trend, think about whether or not it’s the best fit for your brand identity. Some trends can be quite niche or just fall way too far outside of what your brand stands for or its purpose — and audiences can tell if you’re jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it. As well, participating in a trend requires time so you want to ensure you’re spending that time wisely and going for quality over quantity when it comes to trend participation. For example, if butter boards are trending and you’re a brand that sells kitchen appliances, it’s a great opportunity to share a video creating your own butter board highlighting “everything you need to master the butter board trend” and highlight your own products, with tips for what type of board works best, and what accessories are ideal for whipping, spreading and drizzling. You could also draft a pitch to media with that commentary and list of products for consideration in their editorial. Or, if you sell a food product, perhaps you can create your own board integrating that item. However, if you’re not in the food or lifestyle space, this is a trend you’ll likely want to skip. When determining whether to participate, ask yourself how you can benefit in a tangible way. Will it help you sell more products? Create content that your audience will find engaging and/or make you as a brand appear clever? If not, hang tight and wait for a trend more suited to you.

Put Your Own Spin on It

Many businesses have successfully adapted trends made by creators, but it works best when the brand puts their own spin on it rather than just duplicating the originating video. As well, that’s often what generates the biggest response from users and from the algorithm, as it’s different from what everyone else is doing. This is your chance to get creative and think outside of the box while staying true to the overall trend. For example, pizza brand Papa John’s shared its own take on the butter board phenomenon with a garlic sauce board. They shared a video of someone spreading the brand’s signature sauce over a board and serving it with garlic knots, chicken wings, pepperoncini, chicken poppers, and breadsticks.

Overall, once you determine if the opportunity to contribute to a trend is the right one for your brand, participating should be fun and it’s important not to take yourself too seriously.

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