Can Publishers Learn a Lesson from Mister Splashy Pants?

In What's the Buzz by Erin L. Cox

By Erin L. Cox

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Today, the folks at TED: Technology Entertainment Design, arguably the largest tech conference in the world, posted videos on their website of talks from last month’s TEDIndia event, including a presentation by the social media site Reddit.com’s co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, entitled “How to Make a Splash in Social Media.”  

Coincidentally, today’s lead story, “Why Smart Publishers Care About Tech Conferences” about last week’s LeWeb Conference in Paris, focused on the same issue—how publishers and writers can better use social media to promote directly to their audience.

In Ohanian’s talk, he reiterated the power of social media and how it can be used to further marketing opportunities, but with a condition.  First, you have to be willing to give up control of your message and the outcome.

Ohanian used, as an example, an online campaign Greenpeace started to name a whale.  Two of the options were thoughtful and the third was Mister Splashy Pants.  While Greenpeace offered Mister Splashy Pants as a joke, the social media world spoke and 78% of votes went for the name.  Now, one can buy a Mister Splashy Pants t-shirt, send a Mister Splashy Pants e-card, and all in support of Greenpeace.

In this example, Ohanian showed the impact of social media and the lesson that Greenpeace learned: it’s okay to lose control of your message in order to really make an impact online.  You can’t always choose the outcome and you might not want to own it in the end, but it can also have pleasant benefits of a new audience, more effective ideas, and, most importantly, more revenue.

But are publishers ready to lose control of their message?  Are authors?

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox is the Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives and a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.