Today, I can post about literally nothing other than the Royal Wedding. It’s not that the world has stopped turning or that there is no other news, but with 8,000 journalists attending the affair in England, it has become almost impossible to discuss anything else. CNN alone has a team of 400 covering the nuptials.
The event has engulfed traditional media, as expected, but also social media in a very powerful way. The wedding could be the most “truly global” event yet, according to Julian Gratton, creative director for Red C, a marketing agency located in Manchester, England.
For example, in the 30 days leading up to the wedding, there were 911,000 tweets, 217,000 Facebook status updates and 145,000 blog posts about the pending nuptials. Of these, only 20 percent came from the UK. As far as social media attention goes, the worldwide wedding buzz surpassed that of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and also that of the uprising in Egypt.
The happy couple anticipated the onslaught of social media and prepared well. To prevent photos and videos from getting out early, the royal family decided to install signal-blocking technology in Westminster Abbey to prevent cell phone use. In addition, the couple fired a guard from the wedding after discovering that he insulted Kate Middleton on Facebook.
Even though we won’t see any live tweets from inside the Abbey, the rest of the world is buzzing. I’m reading comments about everything from how much the wedding cost (unverified at $132 million) to what designer Kate Middleton chose for her dress (and yes, it was a gorgeous gown from Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen).
Even brands completely uninvolved in the actual ceremony have managed to capitalize on the wedding hype.. Magnum Ice Cream, owned by Unilever, is the company promoting the #RoyalWedding Twitter hashtag. More motivation to discuss the wedding via social media arises when people realize that there is a trending hashtag, which in turn brings publicity to your company. What ice cream has to do with the royal wedding, I do not understand, but I will admit I explored the link to the company’s facebook page due to its promoted tweet.
ABC has also jumped on the bandwagon, using the royal wedding to promote itself. It has a twitter account, @ABCRoyals, and has began “hashtag polls,” asking followers to use #RoyalSuccess and #RoyalMess to discuss what they loved and hated about the wedding.
Social media has even propelled Kate Middleton to meme-royalty in the days leading up to the wedding after Anne Clark started a Tumblr account called “Kate Middleton for the Win,” which combines photos of Middleton with sarcastic and sometimes snobby captions (all in jest, I assure you). In addition, you can follow @PrincessKateFTW on Twitter.
As many PR folks have observed, today is not the best day to try and pitch a story. On social media, the wedding hype will quickly push your tweet to the bottom of your followers’ feeds. Even the Vatican is afraid that the wedding is stealing attention away from the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. And it’s a good thing Apple released the white iPhone yesterday, because no one would care if it were today.
On the flip side, Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA, has pointed out that for an organization, the wedding coverage might be just the smokescreen needed to divert attention away from a less-than-positive story. Such popular international media coverage of an unrelated event can serve as both a threat and opportunity.
As opposed to outside companies taking advantage of the wedding hype, the event has major reputation influence for brands included in the wedding like the dress designer and cake maker. For example, the wedding dress is from Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Burton took over the brand less than a year ago after McQueen’s death in May 2010 and this is one of her big chances to prove herself. So far, the dress has received rave reviews from fashion critics. We will soon see how the wedding publicity affect’s Burton’s reputation as McQueen’s successor, as well as the reputations of all organizations actively involved.