Learn The Secret to Viral Video from Pittsburgh Dad

pittsburgh-dad-secret-to-viral-videoMy wife and I both grew up in Pittsburgh which makes us keenly aware of Pittsburghese.

According to Wikipedia Pittsburghese, or Pittsburgh English, “is the traditional dialect of American English spoken by many residents of Pittsburgh and parts of surrounding Western Pennsylvania.” Locals use words like yinz, gumband, dippie, hoagie, nebby, redd up, and slippy to offer a few examples. We also tend to have issues properly using need, want, or like + past participle.

The reason I’m explaining this to you is that the first time my wife and I watched a video from Pittsburgh Dad we were hooked.

Pittsburgh Dad is a very short internet sit-com highlighting Pittsburgh, Pittsburghese, and regional culture. My wife and I had an immediate connection to these films and watched episode after episode. As you can see from the view count on YouTube most of these videos have gone viral.

Is Your School using Video?

Schools are increasingly using video in an attempt to better market themselves and the recent school videos I’ve seen miss the mark in my opinion. As I thought about my reaction and connection to the Pittsburgh Dad videos I wondered if there might be a few lessons that schools could learn from this poplar internet series.

1. Focus on Content – Not Technology

I’ll admit that sometimes I even obsess about having the best camera, the best sound, great video effects, and smooth transitions.

We all need to stop worrying about the technology because great technology can’t make up for a lousy story. [Tweet]

As you think about your next school video focus on the story first and make sure the video connects with your intended audience. While technology can’t make up for a lousy story please do make sure to pay attention to sound quality. I’ve read again and again that viewers will forgive bad video but won’t be as generous with bad audio.

There is even a Pittsburgh Dad behind the scenes video where the guys responsible for the show explain how the first show episodes where filmed on an iPhone.

2. Story is Universal

As you think about telling a great story in your school video make sure that the story is universal in some way to your intended audience. In my opinion the story needs to make an emotional connection with your audience.

The Pittsburgh Dad videos highlight stories that are uniquely Pittsburgh and recognizable to anyone who grew up in this region. During the video below about a family and their thermostat my wife looked over at me and said, “Oh my gosh, he sounds exactly like my dad!”

3. Short

The Pittsburgh Dad videos average 1 to 3 minutes in length.

Most of school videos I’ve seen lately average at least 5-7 minutes in length which is a far cry from the 30 minute videos from 10-20 years ago. Audiences are craving, and have become used to, shorter videos and it makes a ton of sense to keep your videos in the 1-3 minutes range. If you find that you want to go longer than that I would suggest making multiple videos.

4. One Topic Per Video

I think that most school videos try to accomplish to many things at once. I would suggest following the lead of the Pittsburgh Dad videos and have one topic per video. If you find yourself trying to cover multiple topics in one video than split those topics into multiple videos.

5. Educate and Entertain

The Pittsburgh Dad videos are just plain fun, period. They entertain and make you laugh.

I realize that when you think about school videos entertainment is not high on the priority list but it should be. Those schools that are able to entertain while they educate their prospective families are going to get ahead because their videos will be unique, they will elicit some sort of emotion, and the combination will be memorable.

In order to get a sense of the Pittsburgh Dad videos I encourage you to watch the thermostat episode below:

Your Turn

I realize that creating a school video that educates, entertains, and is memorable is not an easy task but the next time you start to create a video for your school think about the 5 tips above to in order to maximize the chances that your school video might go viral.

Do you have a video for your school?

Do you like it?

Please share a link to the video in the comments section below. I would love to see more examples of school videos. Thanks!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Neil Pierson Storyteller

    There are over 100 Christian school promotional videos at http://www.whychristianschools.com.au/_blog/Christian_Schools_Blogsite_Discussion The quality of story, engagement with audience and humor vary dramatically. I agree Brendan that too often I try to cover too many things in a video. Your reminder to keep it short is a good one.

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Hi @neilpiersonstoryteller:disqus – Thanks for your comment and thanks for sharing the link all of the videos. I look forward to checking them out!

  • Ralph Cochran

    Was this used for a school? It seems to be a little hard to make a connection for a humouros video series like this to connect with prospective families. Maybe I am missing something.. You should note I attended Grove City College so I do get the video and think it is funny but not sure how a school in Pittsburgh would use it.

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Hi Ralph Cochran,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the question. These videos were not used for schools and I completely understand your thoughts about the connection. My point is that schools could learn quite a bit by taking look at the fundamental reasons why this video series is successful and apply those lessons to their next school video.

      I also suggest, and I suppose not successfully, that a school video should make an emotional connection with a prospective family and not necessarily a humorous one – although a little more humor in school videos would be great.

      A quick example would be this video from Assumption High School (http://youtu.be/5vaHvgZm3kY)

      Hope this all makes sense and thanks for reading!

  • Tom_WRACommunications

    We are starting to build our video library. A couple of examples are a video we created about the WRA experience: http://www.wra.net/page.cfm?p=1771 and, as a boarding school, one speaking directly to prospective boarders: http://vimeo.com/wravideo/boarders

    • http://www.schneiderb.com Brendan Schneider

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing a few video examples from your school!
      Thanks,
      Brendan