Should The P.R. Industry Move Towards Live Video Streaming?


Unless one has been fairly oblivious, the words Periscope and Meerkat should be instantly recognizable. The live video streaming apps have been two of the most talked about new media tools this year. Meerkat made a huge splash at this year’s SXSW festival and immediately on the heels of its success, came the official launch of Periscope, which had been purchased by Twitter.

Just four months after its launch, Periscope reportedly had over 10 million users, outpacing Meerkat considerably, which currently only has a little over 2 million users. So what does this all mean for the public relations industry? Is live video streaming the future that all organizations will have to embrace? Well, the answer is that it remains to be seen.

Live video streaming is not exactly new and certainly did not start with Periscope and Meerkat. YouTube had its first major live streaming event in 2008, appropriately titled YouTube Live, which was attended by many celebrities and watched by millions. In 2011 the video sharing site officially added a live section that offers streaming videos in real time as well as older videos. Other popular live video streaming sites that have been around for a few years include UStream, Livestream, and more.

What is particularly significant about Periscope and Meerkat is that they are the first live video streaming app services and this matters as the world moves more and more toward a mobile culture. Smartphones have become incredibly pervasive, which means being mobile friendly is increasingly becoming a necessity for various organizations. And if live streaming apps are becoming more prevalent it would certainly seem sensible that the industry evolve with it.

However, as with every strategic tool, live video streaming has its benefits and its risks. One of the biggest disadvantages of live video streaming is the fact that it is, well live. And as with any live event, there is always the risk of something going wrong. In an industry like public relations where the client’s image is extremely important and doing or saying the wrong thing can be disastrous, that is a very big risk. Another risk of the live aspect, particularly because it is live video streaming, is technical difficulties, which is always a possibility.

Another very significant disadvantage, particularly as it pertains to tools like Periscope and Meerkat and other video streaming apps, is the mortality of the videos. Both Periscope and Meerkat have time limits on the life span of their content. Meerkat videos disappear immediately after the broadcast is over, while Periscope videos are only available for up to 24 hours. This is significant as the industry has been moving in the last few years towards content curation and its importance.

Finally, as the use and popularity of live video streaming is still fairly new, being able to accurately measure its success is also still mostly in its infancy. Like many new media tools there are some analytics and methods of tracking performance such as video views and likes. However, like most new media tools, there is no established standard. And it is always a risk to invest in something that an organization cannot accurately measure its success or failure.

However, despite these advantages there are many benefits for organizations using live video streaming. Some of these include:

  • Direct Audience Engagement – Live video streaming allows for organizations to directly interact with its audience in real time. Most live streams often include a chat room while the stream is running, where individuals can comment on the content, ask questions, etc. which gives the organization immediate feedback and a sense of what worked and didn’t work, how the audience feels about something that was said, some new product, etc.
  • Increase Audience Engagement – As stated, live video streaming often allows the organization’s audience the opportunity for immediate feedback. This increases the audience’s feeling of immediately being in the know and being directly connected to the organization. And this feeling is likely to increase their engagement about the organization in other aspects, such as commenting about it on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or making their own video reactions on Snapchat, Vine, etc. And those mentions will only increase online awareness of the organization, including its SEO, as the multiple mentions is likely to increase its Google rankings.
  • Increase Awareness/Public – The more conversation about the organization on multiple platforms, the more likely that someone who had previously not been aware or a supporter will become one or at the least be willing to pay attention and seek out more information. The cornerstone of public relations is good publicity and positive word of mouth, and a successful live video stream can help that happen.
  • Cost Effective – Live video streaming can be incredibly cost effective because while it can be done a lot cheaper than many live events, it has the ability to reach far more individuals a lot quicker. Most press conferences, launches, etc. require securing a venue, planning food and refreshments, organizing multiple schedules, etc. A live video stream can be done at the organization’s offices and only requires working video equipment and a strong internet connection. And with a simple tap or click, the organization’s message can reach millions immediately.

However, as with every strategic decision, in order for organizations to be successful if they do decide to utilize live video streaming, there are certain steps that should be taken.

  • Have a Plan – As always, to be successful at any endeavor, one must have a plan and employing the use of live video streaming is no different.  Even though the stream will be live, it does not mean no preparations should be made. It is no different than live events such as press conferences, interviews, launches, etc. CEO’s and executives are never sent out for these events completely unprepared and the same rule applies to live video streaming.
  • Choose An Appropriate Tool – A key part of having a plan is establishing the goal and objectives for having a live video stream. Understanding what the organization specifically wants to achieve can influence which specific video streaming tool they use. Much like other social media tools, different video streaming platforms have different advantages and disadvantages, including a few different capabilities and features which can mean different things for different organizations.
  • Practice – An organization would never conduct a live interview, press conference, launch, etc. without practicing, to ensure that all aspects come together and work as they should. From practicing speeches, to checking the sound systems, video systems, etc. it is essential to make sure everything is working as it should and ready to go.
  • Promote Stream – Just like any major event, product launch, etc. would be promoted, it is important that organizations promote the stream prior to its occurring or else most individuals would not know it is happening and likely not watch.
  • Respond To Comments – One of the main benefits of live video streaming for organizations is the direct interaction from viewers who can post comments, ask questions and give feedback as the stream is happening and it is important that the organization responds to this feedback in real time. Part of the planning for a live video stream should include someone or multiple individuals tasked with monitoring the comments and responding in kind.
  • Be Relevant and Catchy – As with most social media activity, the more relevant and catchy something is, the likelier it is to grab individuals’ attention and resonate. Announcing a video stream in the most banal and bland manner is unlikely to draw too many eyeballs. Instead, it is important to feature something that the organization’s audience is likely to care about and make it sound as interesting and compelling as possible. Always remember, public relations is a storytelling function and it is always helpful to make that story as captivating and interesting as possible.

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