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  • Writer's pictureJon McBride

Kate Hansen, Beyoncé and the biggest pitch I've ever landed

Let me tell you about Kate Hansen … our BYU student who found internet fame.

As you can see, she competed in the Sochi Winter Olympics in Luge. We identified her early on, before the Olympics, knowing that she would be competing in the games … actually the only BYU student competing in this year.

So we wrote up a small feature story on her. This was plan No. 1. We wanted to introduce her to the BYU community and mobilize our fans to follow her throughout the Olympics.

It worked out well that she won the final World Cup event going into the Olympics. This made it the perfect time for us to feature her.

One other part of early strategy was that we actually mailed this BYU hat to her in Latvia before the World Cup stop. We asked her to just send us a pic to use with our story. This turned out to be a small thing that was very helpful to the brand.

An interesting part of her background was that she actually never told anyone of her fellow students at BYU about her luge career. No one knew. We felt like we had a real opportunity to introduce her to not just the external community, but to our internal audiences as well.

So we pointed to this from our social channels and sent the release out to our local media, and for all that we knew, that was it! She wasn’t predicted to medal in the event. We didn’t know if NBC would even be showing the entire event. Luge isn’t the most popular sport in the Olympics. So at this point we sat back a little, were happy with the response we got from our efforts and though this might’ve been it.

Then this happened …

NBC picked up on her pre-race routine. Which … if you can’t tell, is a little different than stretching out and staring off into space (like most athletes). Kate’s routine is to put on the headphones, pump Beyonce (and only Beyonce … remember that) and bust some pretty fresh dance moves.

And the coverage continued. All of a sudden, Kate’s dance moves were being shown all over the place.

Also … a small note, the color commentator on the broadcast actually made a comment about how he didn’t like what she was doing. He said he wanted to see something a little more “sport specific.” The internet did not like him saying that.

So at this point, we now start monitoring like crazy. What are people saying about Kate? Turns out … some pretty cool stuff. Headlines like “Kate Hansen’s Beyonce warm-up dance is everything” and “Meet your dancing Olympic spirit animal” and “US luge star’s Beyonce dance warm-up routine wows the internet”.

We especially liked this one from CBS Sports, and strategically chose to share this one with our social media following.

The first two paragraphs of the story were important for us. The key for us is that there was a BYU mention. Not all of the stories had that. We felt like we needed to push this one to make sure that got in the conversation.

We also tried to be strategic about which content made the most sense for which social channels. Story on FB. Vine on Twitter. GIF on Google+. Video on Instagram.

So we shared all this, the results were awesome and reached another one of those breaking points where we asked ourselves, “what’s next”? How do we make this even bigger? The answer?

Beyonce. The answer is always Beyonce.

We were in our weekly planning meeting talking about different ideas when someone threw out the idea of pitching Beyonce and seeing if she’d say something about Kate. There was audible laughter in the room. It may have even been said as a joke, but I perked up at that point and decided to go big. I told everyone that I was going to find the publicists info and go for it.

And FYI … Beyonce had a following of 63 million at the time on Facebook.

So how was I going to get in touch with the publicist? Well … thanks to Google and Buzzfeed, it wasn’t hard finding this.

You might remember when there was a big deal made about Beyonce’s publicist trying to tell sites to take down unflattering pictures on Beyonce. Well, Buzzfeed thoughtthis was pretty funny and decided to publish the email. As you can see, they tried to preserve the privacy of the publicist a little by blacking out the last part of her email address … but omitted to black out the first part! I felt so investigative at this point. J Now all I had to do was guess the domain that the email would be associated. That wasn’t hard. It was obviously the same as the organization’s website.

So … I fired off an email, still thinking this was a huge long shot. But I just sort of laid out the situation. I didn’t feel like I had to make a crazy hard sell. I included a couple of links to show what was being said and then just explained why this would benefit Beyonce for sharing it. I also mentioned the part about the color commentator, and sort of framed it in a way that showed how Beyonce could stick up for the little guy here.

I should also mention at this point that I was very thankful for having the responsibilities that I have in my job. You may have noticed that I’m a media relations and social media manager. That means I do traditional media relations with news media for 50 percent of my job and social media for the other percent of my job. I’m not sure how many other communications shops are set up like that, but we feel like it works pretty well for us. So I get a lot of experience “pitching” to media. That’s kind of what this email felt like. And I’ve found myself doing more and more social media pitching now.

It’s my opinion that social media and media relations can learn a lot from each other.

So … I sent off the email at 2:17 … and I’m not sure if I ever really believed that I would hear back, but I definitely hoped. Then … later that night … I got a response!

Here’s the ensuing back-and-forth.

Then … this.

Just two words. But two words from Beyonce to her 63 million followers is gold. We were so happy. Even our bosses were happy. We regularly get placements in our office with the New York Times and the Washington Post, but even they understood that this was awesome.

So now, after Beyonce posted, we entered another unexpected phase. Now we started seeing the entertainment industry, which covers everything Beyonce says, cover this story about Kate. And things just got bigger and bigger.

Here she is dancing outside of the Today Show set on camera with some fans. Wearing her vans high tops. We really liked Kate’s style. I should mention that. She just turned out to be such a good ambassador for us. She definitely bucks the stereotype of what a typical, Mormon, BYU student is. She is Mormon, by the way, but a cool one. And those exist! And that was cool to show.

Here she is with Lester Holt on NBC’s set. Great headline by Deadspin here.

Now check out the other girl on set here. This is the day after the luge event completed. Kate finished 10th. Which is awesome … 10th best in the world at something is incredible. But people who finish 10th at the Olympics do not ever get much media attention. So the other girl dancing on set here with a bit of a forced smile on her face, is Kate’s fellow American luger, WHO FINISHED SECOND! She had a silver medal! But she’s getting overshadowed by her dancing teammate. We started feeling kind of bad for her, that Kate was stealing the spotlight.

Kate also partnered with Jimmy Kimmel on one of his prank videos.

And that wasn’t the end of it. When she came home she was invited on America Ninja Warrior, more talk shows, being a guest judge at various hip hop dance competitions … and the list goes on.

We also used Kate to kick off our new institutional spot/commercial.

It was a wild ride, but really fun to be able to have something so cool happening real time where we could spread the message of BYU.

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