So, what do you do once your 36-second YouTube video garners more than 150,000 views and, in the process, gets a ton of national (and some foreign) media attention?
That was the big question on Wednesday morning, about 36 hours after my friend Lindsey Miller and I created and posted a video in which she asked actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a date.
Well, the other big question was (and still is) whether he’ll say yes. It’s not farfetched. Gordon-Levitt, you see, stars in “50/50,” a movie about a 20-something with cancer. Miller is “a super cute 26-year-old gal” (per E! Online), and she has cancer, which she writes about in her blog.
Given what Miller and I learned as Ragan Communications colleagues about social media, viral videos (including how not to shoot a video), and PR, we decided to take Miller’s wish to go on a date with Gordon-Levitt to the next level. Call it video dating 2.0.
He said he’s aware of her request but hadn’t yet seen the video, so the verdict is still out. In the meantime, her story has been picked up by more than 50 news outlets, including “The Washington Post,” “CBS,” and “E! Online.” Today, she’s talking to “Access Hollywood” and “Inside Edition.”
If your company produces a video that suddenly goes viral and you’ve only got two people on your PR team (and one is the star of the video), you might benefit from these lessons gleaned from our fledgling social media sweatshop.
You might’ve thought my vacation to L.A. would be filled with glitz and glamour, but Miller and I have spent the last 72 hours hunkered down in her apartment, glued to our phones, iPad, laptop, and desktop computer. When she’s talking to reporters (she’s had at least 15 media requests), I’m managing fan email (more than 300) and media mentions. Forget the beach. No sightseeing for us. We’ve got a job to do.
Plan your day
Think about your day in simple chunks: morning, afternoon, night. What do you want to accomplish in each portion? We found that it’s better to respond to the media in the morning, schedule media interviews in the afternoon, and work on smaller projects at night and start planning for the following morning.
Think of questions that reporters might ask
Some journalists have been asking Miller pretty basic questions, but as the interviews progress, the questions will get a little tougher. Predict what you think the media will ask—and come up with a good sound bite. For example:
Q: Why didn’t you ask the writer of the movie on a date?
A: “I didn’t know if he had a girlfriend,” Miller replies. “I know that he wrote all the words in the screenplay and went through treatment himself, but JGL had to play the character and experience the cancer without actually having to go through it in real life. And he did a wonderful and very real job at it.”
Q: Do you think it’s fair to ask celebrities to do this?
A: “I didn’t expect or plan that the video would become this popular,” Miller says. “The Internet did that by itself. JGL is by no means obligated to say yes to my date request—and I won’t hold it against him if he says no.”
Jump up and down—and scream!
It’s OK to take a moment and let all this sink in. It can be overwhelming to have so many people email and call, but remember—the news cycle moves fast—in less than a week, this will be old news and a new viral sensation will grab the spotlight.
But seriously—how many times in your life will you and your friend be on NBC LA?!
Organize your emails
Miller’s inbox has been flooded with date requests, interview opportunities, well-wishes, and funky medical advice from around the world. We’ve been putting the emails into three categories: Media, Respond, and Date. It’s impossible to respond to everyone who has sent her an email, so she’s decided to respond to people with a connection to cancer or people who write particularly thoughtful emails.
We make media requests a priority, and she’s done interviews with every major outlet that has contacted her. And if her date with Gordon-Levitt doesn’t work out, she’s got plenty of other offers.
Because Miller can’t respond individually to all her new fans, she wrote a blog post to thank and welcome her new followers. This shows that she’s listening and appreciates the support she’s received.
Go to sleep—really, I mean it this time
I know I said this in my last article, but I can’t figure out how to do it. Honestly, I’m just too excited to close my eyes. Usually, I read a book before I go to sleep, but now, I’m up at 2 a.m., clicking the refresh button on YouTube. Oh, well. There’s always time for sleep on the plane ride home, right?
Keep track of media mentions
I’ve kept a Word document of all the news outlets that have written stories about Miller. Several reporters misspelled her name—it’s Lindsey, with an e—or misidentified her type of cancer. We’ve sent emails and tweets to all the major news outlets immediately and followed up with the smaller ones later.
Originally, I was supposed to fly home to Chicago this morning, but it didn’t feel right to leave Miller alone to handle all of this herself. Virgin Airlines was kind enough to understand my situation, so they re-booked a new flight on Saturday at no cost. Miller, a grad student, made sacrifices, too—on Tuesday and Wednesday, she skipped her classes.
We knew it was a bad sign that one of our “to-do” list items was to “eat lunch.”
“I’m just worried that you guys aren’t getting enough food, water, or sunlight,” said Roula Amire, the managing editor of Ragan.com, after I talked to her about our nonstop, overdrive schedule. “You do realize that Lindsey has cancer, right? Don’t wear yourselves out.”
She’s right. After “eat lunch,” we wrote, “take a walk outside.”