It’s early October, and soon the ghouls and goblins, and yes, the Zombies, will be haunting neighborhoods across the country. Are you prepared if the Zombies attack your community?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is getting ready for their 2012 Disaster Preparedness Campaign. Last year, in an effort to attract new audiences and raise awareness for emergency preparedness at the beginning of hurricane season, they launched the “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign. Yes, Zombies! Here is what they did:

Right after the earthquake in Japan last spring, the CDC asked their twitter followers what they were concerned about and what they were preparing for. Surprisingly, a lot of people said “Zombies.” The CDC thought it was very interesting that this “concern” kept coming up and decided to use it. They created the CDC Zombie Preparedness Campaign, launched May 2011.

The campaign got a ton of media coverage and was an example of using social media to the hilt. Through their blog, Public Health Matters, they published a post called “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,” that included a picture of a creepy woman with dirty fingernails and a couple dressed as zombies. The blog was published on Monday, May 16, followed by a soft launch teaser Monday and Tuesday where they called the media and told them that they had “something interesting for them.” Wednesday morning they posted their first tweet about the “Zombie Apocalypse” and within 10 minutes their site crashed. Other stats:
• 60,000 page views per hour; an estimated 3.6 billion viewers the first week.
• One tweet resulted in 70,000 clicks and over 1 million people driven to their site.
• Over 3,000 articles and news broadcasts.

Why did it work?
• They listened to their audience. They could have ignored the people who answered their question on Twitter, but they didn’t. They listened and then ran with it.
• The campaign had a combined relevance. It was about Zombies, but tied to disasters and preparing for disasters.
• They used humor. It was very funny while at the same time providing important information.
• Brand identity. Everyone knows the CDC
• Timing. It was a perfect blend of a great idea and the right time. You may recall that in May 2011, it was predicted that the world would end.

So what are some takeaways for PR people or companies looking to do something “outside the box?”
1. Create two-way social media dialogue. Don’t just throw up a Facebook or Twitter page. Engage your audience. Ask customers and followers questions about timely topics that pertain to your business.
2. Be innovative. Who would have thought a serious organization such as the CDC would have done something about zombies? “
3. Create engaging content. Don’t write “ho, hum” stuff. Keep it brief and find something topical or new to talk about, while still sticking to your brand messages.

What creative campaigns do you have in mind this Halloween season? What tricks and treats do you have in store?

Leave a comment