Weird Al Teaches PR Pros a Thing or TwoBy Gini Dietrich

If you’ve seen me speak on the topic of Spin Sucks (the book), you already know I have a fantastic case study about PR, sex, and Miley Cyrus.

I mean, sex sells (when you’re selling sex) and Miley is a really great example of how, when done well, it truly works.

(I also really love starting a speech with, “Let’s talk about sex” and watch everyone’s eyes light up.)

Well, now I have a new brilliant PR case study to throw into the mix.

That is one of Mr. Weird Al Yankovic.

Weird Al, of course, is best known for poking fun at the late Michael Jackson with his song, “Eat It,” sung to the tune of “Beat It.”

More than 30 years later, Weird Al is back and in full force. This time because he wanted to prove his record label wrong. The record label that told him they’d release no more of his songs.

Weird Al Launches #8Videos8Days

His latest album (album #14), Mandatory Fun, was released on July 15.

To prove his record label wrong and promote the new album, he launched #8videos8days, which released one music video per day for eight days straight.

That’s cool in and of itself, but here’s the really interesting part: He partnered with one website per day and gave them each a video exclusively. Websites such as Funny or Die, The Wall Street Journal, College Humor, and The Nerdist.

So, you know, kind of a big deal, particularly with the audiences of each of those sites.

There were nearly 4,000 articles (4,001 with this one) written about him in that eight-day period (we even featured Word Crimes in Gin and Topics two weeks ago), which generated more than three million social media shares.

But, not one to get too hung up on the vanity metrics, I looked to see what else he accomplished.

Lo and behold! Mandatory Fun debuted at the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200, which was a first for Weird Al…ever.

More than 30 years of performing. Lots of fun songs. A well-known name. And it takes a traditional business to tell you no for you to look at things differently and knock it completely out of the park.

What He Did

Following is a breakdown of how he managed this:

  • Pre-campaign buzz. On June 16, he released, ‘Transmission,” a teaser that lives on his YouTube channel. After that, he released three more Transmission videos‚—#2 was on June 27, #3 was on July 7, and #4 was on July 11—to stay top-of-mind.
  • Launch of #8videos8days. On July 14, the day before Mandatory Fun premiered, Weird Al released “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s “Happy.” This ran exclusively on The Nerdist.
  • Mandatory Fun is released. With the release of his 14th album on July 15, Weird Al also released the video for “Word Crimes,” which is a parody of “Blurred Lines.” It also, according to Mr. D., is my theme song because bad grammar makes me crazy. He also participated in a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), which is super risky and very cool.
  • College Humor release. On July 16, Weird Al worked exclusively with College Humor to release, “Foil,” a parody of “Royals.”
  • Yahoo! Screen gets a shot. On July 17, “Handy,” a parody of “Fancy,” was released with Yahoo! Screen.
  • Funny or Die is next. On July 18, he released “Sports Song,” an original piece that was produced by the humor website.
  • First World Problems. We all joke about our own “First World Problems” and Weird Al partnered with Pop Crush to make fun of our whiny “issues” on July 19.
  • Another original song. “Lame Claim to Fame” came out on July 20, which is in the style of Southern Culture on the Skids.
  • Last day! The final day—July 21—of the brilliant PR campaign had the release of “Mission Statement,” another original song that pokes fun at corporate lingo (kind of like our internal game of corporate Bingo!). It was released on Speakeasy, a blog that lives with The Wall Street Journal.

All of that…and the songs were all free, which means you don’t have to buy the album to get them.

That sorts of seems counterproductive, but as Louis CK proved before him, it works.

What You Can Learn

About a month ago, Andy Crestodina had a blog post run with The Guardian titled, “Search Engines Are Changing.”

Setting aside the fact that it’s a guest post on one of the most remarkable sites in the world, Sean McGinnis said:

Andy officially wins the SEO game. Whatever you or I or anyone else did today is completely invalid. Guest post on The Guardian. Link back to his own site using anchor text of “SEO best practices.”

Andy acted very humble about it, in his typical fashion, but what he did there was brilliant.

He partnered with a high-authority site to write interesting and educational content that provided the very valuable linkback to his site.

It’s the same thing Weird Al did with this album launch.

He found the sites where his audiences already hang out and he worked a deal with them.

He took the Brandscaping mantra of, “Who has your next customer as their current customer?” and exploited it (in a good way).

Think about that from your perspective the next time you launch something big: Who has your next customer as their current customer?

Go build a partnership with them and introduce your organization to new audiences.

If Weird Al can do it, so can you.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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