Sex sells, especially when paired with one of the most contentious, divisive and profitable issues of our time: Our choice of smart phone.
This piece from OKCupid pulled in coverage from hundreds of publications.
A search on Google for “iPhone users have more sex” reveals coverage in Time, Wired, Buzzfeed, Cnet, Business Insider, Gawker, CBS News, Huffington Post, Engadget, Gizmodo – and this is just the top 10 results.
OKCupid surveys their users on a whole raft of subjects, from what smartphone they use, to how often they have sex.
This data (anonymised, obviously) can be used to create stories.
This coverage was because of a blog post containing a graph. Nothing fancy. The right words.
It contained content that was irresistibly shareable by both iPhone users and Android users as they partake in one of the pointless endeavours of our time: arguing with strangers on the Internet.
Here are the key reasons why this worked:
-> The subject matter… sex & smart phones. It’s hard to imagine a better pairing of topics.
A few ideas that could easily have been done before:
-> Apple / PC laptop choice and alcohol consumption per week
-> IQ and political affiliation
-> Average life expectancy and socioeconomic status
-> Reported salary and favourite NFL team
-> Average number of children and level of education
-> Divorce rate and religious affiliation
-> Reported happiness and job title.
-> Suicide rate and birthplace. (Morbid, I know)
You’ll note some of these involve surveying an audience, (e.g. Apple/PC and alcohol consumption per week) and others are take existing data and creating a story out of it (e.g. Divorce rate and religious affiliation).
Surveying has long been used by PR professionals to craft stories, but often these are resigned to the middle pages of free newspapers.
One example was an online bingo company who surveyed the UK asking “How lucky are you?” and ‘Where do you live?”. From this, the company could identify which area in the UK was the ‘luckiest’.
This got coverage… but it’s not really a story that you’d remember, save for trying to finding an example of the obvious use of surveying for PR purposes.
Few experience coverage in countless highly authoritative publications like OKCupid’s piece.
Here is how you can do the same.
Just add 1 metric that is a barometer of success, e.g. average salary, life expectancy, IQ, suicide rate.
And add 1 metric that is either:
– a personal choice (Apple/PC, smartphone choice, favourite NFL team, job title)
– an event of circumstance (birthplace)
There also needs to be:
– 1 winner
– 1 loser
– A big patch of grey area.
On that last point:
There has to be room for people to pontificate widely or at least utter their favourite profanity.
It’s obvious the iPhone story is based on self-reported survey answers.
Perhaps iPhone users, like men under the magical 6ft mark, are known to exaggerate on dating profiles or surveys?
Perhaps Android users, with their penchant for standard headphone jacks, prefer to express more discretion?
You can see the arguments forming when you start connecting the stories.
For the PC/Apple example, you can imagine the jokes and memes already:
“PC users drink more because they have to dim the pain of using Windows!”
“Mac users drink more to dim the pain of having to take out another mortgage to buy a laptop!”
Here lies the fun. Just like smart phones, everyone has an opinion.
The Internet, with all its transformative power, has somehow convinced people they should definitely tell the world their opinions, insights and inventive pejoratives.
You can see how there are deeper stories lying under the surface with many of these.
For example, “Is ‘level of education’ always a choice?” – This doesn’t even have to be woven into the story, someone will add that element to the discussion on social media.
When I speak to journalists about a potential story, I show them examples of how other stories containing elements of mine have gained traction on social.
I show them Google Trends examples to show how much interest my themes have.
I give them headline ideas.
I talk in their language.
Journalists have KPIs too. Unique views, page views, new visitors, social shares, comments etc.
If you can help them write a story that will interest their audience and help them give their stats a boost, you have the magic formula and it’s likely they will cover your story – even if they’re on team Android.
I’ve attached a second picture, which is from the website, “Spurious Connections” which shows “the number of people who drown in swimming pools” is closely correlated with the number of films Nicholas Cage has starred in.
This also got a lot of coverage – just because it’s an amusing story that proves a point “Correlation does not mean causation.”
While this is a funny example, one can imagine a swimming pool company reacting, adding to the discussion that there is also a correlation between swimming pool ownership and “Who has the best pool parties?”
So there you have it – how to create a viral news story using a blog post, a graph, and internet users who know they are ‘right’.
I’ll end with a quote:
“Last night’s ‘Itchy and Scratchy Show’ was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured, I was on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.”
– Comic Book Guy, The Simpsons
(pictured, right, yellow face, smug/angry disposition, has opinions)