Elyse Porterfield: HOPA

Dry Erase Girl

PR peeps, it’s really not about social channels, is it? After all, anyone can set up a Facebook fan page and Twitter feed or upload a piece of video on YouTube. It’s really all about a good yarn, i.e., one whose narrative resonates.

As our industry struggles to compete with other marketing disciplines for clients’ rapidly growing spend online and in social circles, agencies are fixated on finding talent that profess proficiency in Facebook, Foursquare, Digg, Twitter, etc.

Is it really the knowledge of digital and social channels that drive a story’s ability to capture eyeballs and generate buzz? Hasn’t it always come down to whether the piece of content itself can surprise, delight, inspire and create empathy? And if so, shouldn’t agencies re-focus on acquiring talent that possess rich and vivid imaginations and story-telling abilities versus Facebook pages and Twitter feeds?

In this blog’s never-ending quest to pinpoint the secret sauce for creating compelling content, especially video that goes viral, today we’re treated to the insights of a pair of hoaxsters who appear to have cracked the code. Yesterday, the “Like,” “Share” and “Forward” buttons went in overdrive with a pictorial narrative featuring an attractive young woman who displayed sequential messages on dry erase boards to quit her job and, to the audience’s delight, diss her boss in the process.

TechCrunch outed this clever hoax here, and in so doing talked with one of the Resig brothers who perpetrated the buzz as a means to draw attention to the site The Chive:

John Resig: ‘We came up with a hoax that was completely relatable. It wasn’t spread by TechCrunch and Reddit. It was spread by Facebook and inter-office email. Everyone wants to quit their jobs like this.'”

Here’s more of the backstory from TechCrunch:

“All they had to do was post the images of Porterfield holding the dry erase board on The Chive at around 4:30 am this morning, and College Humor re-posted, followed shortly by TechCrunch. Resig says they targeted us because his publicist said that they should try for a TechCrunch write-up (Nice work guys). When asked if this was done purely to garner traffic and get media attention, Resig responded,

“We didn’t do this for the media. I’d did it almost to prove to myself that I had it in me, to make something go viral at 4:30 in the morning before the world wakes up. You get a pure thrill of watching your site go from 15,000 uniques to 440,000 uniques in a single hour, watching yourself sucker every site from a-z who didn’t do their backstory.”

And it worked by striking “a personal chord…that people wanted to share…” to the tune of 238k Facebook shares and 31k Tweets.

Resig went on to describe the point I tried to make at the top of this post: creativity is key:

“People, particularly journalists, underestimate America’s appetite for a good story. This story wasn’t primarily done to see how many people in the mainstream media we could hoodwink (though that was fun), it wasn’t done for the publicity, money, nor was it a slapdash reaction to some JetBlue clown; it was done purely for the entertainment of the people first and foremost. The purpose of the hoax was to entertain and inspire, not to inform, so what difference does it make if the story has a single ounce of truth?”

Of course, we in the PR biz are saddled with a mandate to both tell the truth and inform, which shouldn’t preclude our ability to “entertain and inspire.” Right?


  1. And just for the record, I sad they chose sexual harassment as the offense of choice to have fun with.

    Why not use some less offensive offense like wife-beating or incest?

    Just saying…and quit looking at my butt.

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