We think of memes or ‘viral’ as internet phenomena but whilst the internet is particularly suited to the spread of memes this kind of effect was observed long before the internet came into being.
Fashion and music are areas where this is common and there are also crazes like the Rubik’s Cube the mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 but which exploded in popularity during a few months in early 1980 eventually selling over 300,000,000.
Whilst we can not promise to deliver memes as part of a PR campaign we should be able to recognise them and to facilitate their development. Punk Rock which crash landed on youth culture in the seventies was memetic in its spread; starting as an underground idea but quickly crossing into the mainstream leaving a lasting stamp on fashion, music and design. The punk explosion was also partly the result of Malcolm McLaren’s innate understanding of the media and his ability to manage the message and provide press, radio and TV with strong themed stories surrounding the ‘Sex Pistols’.
The creation of memes is often beyond our control but when we recognise the opportunity PR people are well placed to propagate their spread. (Adapted from the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available from Amazon and other book sellers).