Tracy King is the Managing Director of February Marketing, the organiser of TAM London and co-organiser of The Big Libel Gig. She speaks on a range of topics including viral marketing, advertising psychology and using marketing in science communication and critical thinking. She is the producer of Tim Minchin’sStorm” movie, a regular writer for Skepchick and The Skeptic Magazine (UK), and her work has appeared in the prestigious journal Nature.

Who is Tracy King and how did she end up in the running for a BAFTA?

I was recently described by Padraig Reidy as “queen of the angry nerds”, which I think is fairly fitting, although I’d go with geek over nerd. Better social skills ;) Outside of that I guess I’d describe myself as a producer of things. Until very recently I ran a marketing company, and I still do some consultancy, but Storm has allowed me to pursue my artier ambition of running an animation studio. We didn’t get the BAFTA, but it’s still amazing to have been even close. The short answer to how you get to be in the running is “tell them your film exists and see what they do.”

Was it difficult to promote Storm? Did you have a social media strategy in place?

Easy and difficult in equal measures. Easy because we had somewhat of a captive audience (Tim is an arena-selling performer and Storm in audio form had already gone viral), but difficult for exactly the same reasons. In other words, if Storm had been rubbish after all the hype and expectation, then it would have been very difficult to promote. As it was, most people seem to like it and have been kind enough to share it online. The hardest part about getting people to watch it is the length. Ten minutes is very very long in YouTube terms. It’s also very long in animation terms, which is why it took two years to make.

I should stress that Storm was a non-profit project. I wanted to make Tim’s amazing poem into an animation. So although I did have a basic social media strategy in place, nothing like to the degree I would for a commercial project, simply because I didn’t have any budget for one. It’s doing fine without, though!

February Marketing

You have worked on a number of great projects, but one stands out in my mind as it has been viewed a staggering 85 million times: The Colour-Changing Card Trick. What is the secret behind creating a successful viral marketing campaign?

I should clarify that 85 million views includes television airings worldwide. On YouTube it’s around the four million mark. I give a talk on what the secret behind a successful viral marketing campaign is, the shortest version of which is “there is no secret”. You have to have killer content (i.e. you can’t polish a turd), but you also rely on a million other factors including a huge amount of psychology, and none of it is particularly predictable. If you can’t make a video that taps into one of the key motivators for passing along content, then it won’t go anywhere, but equally you could tick all the boxes and it might still go nowhere. Sadly I see a lot of crummy cynical commercial attempts at getting videos to “go viral”, when really people should just be concerned with making something good that they like. If it is good, it will find an audience. It may not be the hundreds of thousands you want, but if you’re just playing a numbers game then you need to consider why you’re making videos in the first place. If it’s for commercial purposes then innovation is the key.

A concern for many businesses when it comes to social media is ROI. How can this effectively be communicated to clients and what metrics do you think are the most important to track?

This is hard to answer because every campaign is different and every client defines ‘return’ differently. If a client is looking to follow click-throughs and considers a successful campaign only on the basis of conversion to sales, then they aren’t going to get the best from social media. It’s about building trust and long-term relationships.

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If you could share just one status update with the world what would it say?

“I love the smell of facepalm in the morning.”

Finally, some people have a book that has had a profound impact on them, rewiring their brain or changing their outlook. Does one stand out for you and if so what is it?

I have two titles, equally important. Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World turned me into a rationalist and science advocate, and Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman gave me a sense of humour about it.

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Thanks Tracy for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions for a person in the series just let me know by pinging me on Twitter.

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