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How U2 can benefit from live streaming media

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Live streaming media can provide PR practitioners and companies with a direct, personal means of communication with their target audiences, but using it effectively can be a challenge. Observations following a recent U2 live streamed concert offers practical lessons on when and how to use the medium, writes GAVIN MOFFAT, director of common sense for puruma business communications.
U2 recently achieved a PR coup when they decided to stream their Rose Bowl concert, the last in their 360° world tour, to anyone anywhere in the world – for free. The event, hosted by popular online streaming media provider YouTube, garnered some 10 million streams during the course of the show.

The critical response to U2’s event offers valuable lessons on both the strengths and limitations of live streaming media (any audio, video or combination thereof that is being transmitted as an event occurs) for companies looking to use it as part of their communications strategies.

By streaming the Rose Bowl concert, U2 opened the door to a huge number of new fans and endeared themselves to their stalwart supporters. They did so via an easily accessible, public platform for what should have been a relatively small capital outlay.

A Still from the U2’s ‘Boots’ video.                                           No Line On The Horizon.

Know your goal
Bono had previously expressed disappointment with the sales of their new album, ‘No Line on the Horizon’ (No Line), and had been reaching out to new audiences via other channels such as the Saturday Day Night Live show and partnerships with technologically sleek players like Apple and BlackBerry.

Looking at the event’s commercial success, things get a little less clear. ‘No Line’ enjoyed only a conservative rise in sales on the iTunes chart on the day of the concert and, in a Los Angeles Times article, Best Buy’s senior music purchaser indicated they weren’t expecting a huge sales increase as a result of the live streaming concert since they have not previously correlated online content with increased sales in their catalogue of music products and downloadable music.

Nonetheless, U2 would appear to have succeeded in a less quantitative way. While there is no metric that can measure the value of a customers’ relationship with your brand, the heartfelt public messages and comments left by viewers on the website – such as the user Annastacia’s [sic] tale of her mother dying during the Ireland leg of U2’s tour and the fact that she could now watch it – has certainly improved U2’s image and relationship with their fans.

Another aspect was the potential to convert any of the viewers within those 10 million streams who weren’t aware of or had never purchased U2’s music into fans who may be interested in delving into U2’s back catalogue to see what they have missed.
U2 had something very specific they wanted to show for a specific purpose – we can only surmise whether it was aimed at improving sales, creating goodwill around the U2 brand or reaching new fans – and realised one of the best ways to maximise its impact was to present it ‘live’.

The platform is not your own
U2 did well to leverage off YouTube’s infrastructure and viewer base, and provided some call to action incentives to make it easy for consumers to buy their album during the show, but it could be argued that YouTube gained the most mileage out of the event.
Streaming media serves as a means to drive your target audience to your website, but the cost of streaming the content yourself can be prohibitive, so companies rely on both streaming and host media service providers, such as cracker, zoopy, qik.com, YouTube, Livestream and Justin.tv.

The implication of this is that audiences aren’t engaging directly with your company, but with the content and service providers, so you need well-branded and interesting content for the viewer to take the next step and associate that content with your company.
Practical suggestions

U2’s example offers PR practitioners and companies interested in using live streaming media some key points to consider. You should use live media specifically when what you are presenting can generate the buzz of a live event – such as a concert, a competitive event, an exclusive presentation at a conference that your audience is not going to be able to access any other way.

It is important to note that you could dilute the ‘power’ of your live event – the buzz being generated and potential attendance levels – if you make it available indefinitely after the ‘live’ event. A good way of ensuring that your content retains its allure is to only make available smaller, incomplete snippets of your live stream afterwards. U2 made the entire concert available for only two days before cutting the footage down and limiting the available ‘hosted’ (recorded) media to just the songs played at the event.

Not every company can invest in major, buzz-generating events, but you can use streaming media in several other ways. For example, to establish yourself as a thought leader who is willing to engage both customers and the media via a regularly scheduled live streaming event is simple, cost-effective and requires little more than the investment of time.

Use the interactive nature of streaming to your advantage. Livestream, as an example, integrates a live video feed with an attached chat room through which you can interact with viewers as they comment and discuss your content. Combined with the social and interactive nature of the web, live streaming media helps create a communal aspect to the media being presented.

Don’t forget that you are talking to an audience that has ‘opted in’, is receptive to your messages, that wants to be engaged, and who are willing to spread that message to their friends and colleagues – so preparation is key. You will need to balance a direct and off-the-cuff attitude with meticulous attention to detail. You will need to lay out a plan, practice your delivery, ensure your appearance is appropriate and control the live feed comments and interactions with your viewers.

If the medium is being used for the right purpose and you are willing to put in a U2-like amount of effort into the performance, live streaming media can prove to be a powerful, cost-effective tool.

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