How One ‘Community’ Rallied for the Brand They Love: Interview with Catherine Boyd of Save Community
My colleagues and I have blogged about Community before. But a terrible fate has befallen my favorite sitcom: NBC placed it on hiatus. And TV fans know that a sitcom on hiatus rarely sees the light of day again. (Except for Parks and Recreation, luckily).
But Community fans didn’t want to take this lying down. Instead, they hit Twitter and other social networks with outrage and capital letters. The hashtag #OccupyNBC sprung up. Just about every single post from NBC on Facebook had hundreds of comments along the lines of “Save Community!” A flash mob was organized at 30 Rock where over a hundred fans gathered and sang a Community-ized parody of “O Christmas Tree.”
One woman, Catherine Boyd of New Jersey, has become one of the leaders of the Save Community Movement. She’s helped organize the flash mob, spearhead the social media efforts, and outline specific ways to aid the movement. Intensely enthusiastic but sincerely humble, she and the rest of the people behind Save Community have a lot to teach businesses about passion and hard work.
How did you become interested in Community?
I found it on the Hulu home page. One show was all it took.
What made you decide to become an advocate for the movement? What motivates you to continue working on it?
I read a gossip blog post about the hiatus and the Twitter commotion. I hadn’t used Twitter much until the hiatus, but went on there to see what the commotion looked like. I felt so shocked and heartbroken when I heard the news. It’s just sheer terror and sadness that keeps me going.
I will not rip on NBC; I know that there are cash problems from the low Nielsen numbers and lackluster ad sales. I realized long ago that we had to do the PR and marketing. That’s a terrifying realization, but highly motivating. I am totally focused on drawing positive, funny, creative forms of street level fun to NBC to draw some press and heat to it.
How much time do you spend promoting Save Community?
Way too much time! I’ve been up until 4 a.m. every night since the hiatus was called, sometimes until 7 a.m. When I have a day off, I’m sometimes on the computer all day.
What are some of things you’ve done to support the movement?
The first goal is to encourage and mobilize the troops. I try to give away iTunes copies of the show and other small prizes. Other supporters and I all tweeted the ad sponsors of the show.
I’ve brainstormed with the others how to get corporate attention, a sponsorship, and the biggest media splash we can in the shortest time. Yoplait and their parent company, General Mills, were very nice to us on Twitter, so I’ve been working out a yogurt purchase, or a larger dollar amount of General Mills food to donate to a homeless shelter/food bank.
The flash mob idea came from wanting something surreal and funny that the press would find entertaining. I’ve already called for flash mobs, both physical and virtual, around Sony Pictures, Yoplait, General Mills, and the NBC Store.
I was up till 4 or 6 every morning voting for Abed in the Chicago RedEye online poll, and was interviewed by Ethan Sacks at the NY Daily News and We Love Cult.
In a way, my lack of self-interest is absolutely helping us. I have completely put myself on the line to save this show, and am completely motivated by a fourth season and making the cast and creator happy. Period. I think people feel that love and commitment. The media can hear how much I love this show, that I’m willing to do anything to craft a sound bite for them, and they feel good supporting an underdog. Maybe I sound a little strange on the phone after staying up all night for a month and a half, but my heart’s in the right place.
30 Rock was filled with singing fans
What are some of the most creative ways that fans are promoting Community?
One fan offered a copy of the season 1 DVD. The fan videos, fan fiction, and fan art are off the hook.
What tool (social media, blog, events, etc.) has been the most beneficial in raising awareness for the benched sitcom?
Twitter is amazing. We can hash things out like a conference call in a minute, and BOOM, we’re out and running. I absolutely love it.
A professor friend of mine who is versed in social networks told me that the best way to reach out is through family and friends. So I’ve tried to bring it back to Facebook and personal emails.
Sir Ribbit has Tumblr expertise, and I am so grateful I can hand my most precious information to him, and that it can go out that way.
The Craigslist flash mob post to Manhattan was my love letter to Manhattan, and led to the NY Daily News contact and a pretty good turnout for the mob, so we’re using that as an ongoing tool for future mobs. The L.A. one starts off, “Hello City of Angels!” I actually foresee some miracles with some angels in L.A.
Have you had any acknowledgement from NBC, Sony Pictures, the cast, or crew?
Every media person I’ve spoken with loves the show. The cast members are the nicest in the business. I think there is a deep industry love of the cast, and I think we’re seeing our fan stories printed because they have been so nice.
Sony Pictures filmed the NYC flash mob and interviewed all of us. They also followed us into the NBC store and watched us giggling over the merchandise.
Glenn at the NBC Store runs the physical and online store. The fact that he reached out to us was huge. We’re completely crazy, buying everything. Due to fan demand, he had to bring figurines into the 30 Rock store for the first time ever. He keeps selling out of Troy and Abed mugs, and is having trouble keeping up with sales.
I don’t watch and wait for cast and creator tweets, but Glenn was impressed that the many members of the cast tweeted the NYC flash mob. I am happy and grateful that they chime in.
More merchandise sold means better odds for renewal
Anything else you’d like to tell me about promoting the Save Community cause?
We need to strike hard and fast. Our crazy stunts are a good way to reach extra Nielsen households, so we need more of those. I think we have a very good shot at a fourth season. We are very passionate, committed, vocal, and willing to buy any merchandise needed to help the suits see the sense behind the decision. I even told Sony: if you monetize something, we will buy.
Other fans want a mob to help the rebuilding effort in Joplin, MO. We’re going to sing “Somewhere Out There” at Universal Orlando, and I hope we build a Guinness World Record blanket fort there.*
The most effective action a fan could take is to support Yoplait, General Mills, Sony Pictures, and/or the NBC Store with revenue. One yogurt a week helps, but it can also be incorporating General Mills products in your shopping, buying food for a shelter, movie tickets for a Sony Pictures movie, or things from the NBC Store. In all cases, a tweet or Facebook post with a goatee picture interacting with the product is good. A flash mob to the NBC Store at 30 Rock to buy merchandise, or a virtual mob to buy out the online store, complete with goatees in either case, would be positive also.
So let’s give ’em hell, give it our best fight, and I think we have a very solid chance.
What businesses can learn from Save Community:
- It isn’t all about you. Save Community is gaining attention because individuals are working as a team and not pulling the attention to their personal agendas. The end goal is clear and concise, and nobody is losing sight on the prize.
- Prepare to put in some hard work. Diehard Save Community members have already lost hours of sleep and taken time out of their days to create posters, go to flash mobs, or manage blogs. There are going to be long nights ahead, but it will be worth it when you see that first return in investment.
- You attract more flies with honey. Catherine says in every interview and blog post not to attack NBC. The repeat positivity has attracted good publicity from the media, Sony Pictures, and NBC themselves. Attacking another brand will not reflect well on yours.
- Seek outside help when needed. Catherine directly asks people to retweet Save Community news and passes off promotional tasks when outside her area of expertise. She’s fantastic at acknowledging everyone who aids the movement.
- Show a little love. Community will die unless network executives and advertisers can see some money from Save Community’s actions of buying merchandise. If you happen to sell furniture to an office supply company, return the favor and order some pens from them. You’re practically guaranteed repeat business and lifelong brand loyalty.
To keep track of the Save Community movement, follow Catherine on Twitter, search the hashtag #SaveCommunity in Twitter, or check out their blog.
What else can brands or businesses can learn from Save Community? Any Community fans out there?
*These are throwbacks to events in Community episodes.