Startup Lessons,

#StartupLessons EP019: The Six Key Elements to Viral Success w/ Hope Brookins

August 10, 2017

We’re excited to bring you another essential startup lesson this week.

Viral: What is it? What does it mean? And how do you do it?

These are all questions that we had asked ourselves before getting today’s teacher on the show.

It was important for us to find somebody who has firstly gone viral and secondly has the knowledge to share on how they did it.

That’s why when we found out about Hope Brookins, we knew she would be the perfect person to teach us.

Who is Hope Brookins?

Hope is a go-to personal branding and publicity strategist who helps high-achieving and highly-talented ambitious entrepreneurs finally get the attention, accolades, and adoration they deserve from the right people, prospects, and press through her signature 90-day program.

By the time she was 19, Hope had worked for Bill Clinton, 14 U.S. Congressmen and politicians at every level of state politics. Leveraging her experience in politics, Hope strategically turned to positioning entrepreneurs through branding before taking on the ultimate experience of positioning her own family.

In January 2017, her family’s story of leaving a traumatic situation to build their own 3500 square-foot home with our own hands—using YouTube videos as their guide—went viral.

Within two weeks they were featured in 65 countries in over 1,000 media outlets, including The Today Show, People, New York Times Women’s Edition, ABC News, CNN, CBS, Inside Edition, USA Today, NBC, Fox News Insider, and New York Post.

Hope’s success has enabled her to be the go-to strategist for ambitious entrepreneurs who have a personal message that they want to turn into a brand.

She knows that success, without a doubt, comes down to three things: perfected positioning, strategic storytelling, and a meticulously-crafted, media-ready message.

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Let’s Quickly Look at What Viral Means?

Taken from Google







In the early days, viral meant getting your content featured on small publications that had a lot of readers or monthly visitors to its site.

Now, we consider viral as a form of content that has reached millions of people in a short amount of time on the likes of social media.

There aren’t any official numbers that you have to hit to go viral.

There is no “viral authority” that determines whether you’ve gone viral or not.

Viral can mean different things to different people. For you going viral might mean a few thousand views for someone else it might mean a billion views.

I’m going to go ahead and say that I DO think I’ve hit numbers that nearly all industry standards would identify as viral. (And I’ll share those #’s in a minute.)

Now a quick disclaimer here (that I hope you take as a challenge): Going viral is obviously not the norm.

Even the BIG outlets that you know for viral content (like  Buzzfeed) only have a small portion of their posts go viral, and they are the experts at it.

That being said, it isn’t possible to guarantee that you’ll suddenly go viral after applying the principles from this lesson, BUT it is possible to create the potential for going viral and to improve the shareability of your content.

When I use the word shareability, I mean content that your followers, strangers, and the press are more likely to share.

It is possible to create a brand foundation that’s centred on all of the principles of a viral campaign—which is SO much bigger than one viral piece of content.

The 6 Elements to Viral Success

Make sure that you are ready to write these down as these key elements are proven to help improve your chances of viral success.

In this lesson, we’ll look at your brand and the origins of your story.

It’s one thing to have a viral blog post, but it’s even better to have a viral brand.

Once your name has gone viral that allows for your content to go viral on more than one occasion.

Invokes Emotion

Your brand has to make an emotional connection.

Viral content makes an emotional connection. Emotion is what moves people to take action. The way that you feel after you consume content that resonates with you emotionally influences your behaviour.

And, yes, there is science that backs it.

In 2010 the New York Times studied the “most emailed” articles list and found that items on the list were more often than not—emotional.


Your brand will see even more success if your message is heart-warming.

People want to feel good, hands-down. So we’re more likely to share things that are uplifting and make us feel good about ourselves and others. People want to consume definite articles with uplifting messages.

Articles that create a sense of admiration tend to be the most shared.

This shows others that we care about something other than ourselves first of all, and more importantly ties us to a bigger movement and stories that represent that change.

While there were many traumatic elements to our story, this was not our focus.


Your brand has to be shared at the right time.

Have you ever heard someone say that they were in the right place at the right time?

This doesn’t mean they got lucky and didn’t put any work into building a foundation that would allow something to happen.

They simply are acknowledging that timing is an important piece of success. And sometimes you get lucky (or unlucky) with the nature of the media environment you have to release something into.  

Leverage A Trend

Your brand has to leverage a popular trend.

By leveraging a trend means that you can ride on existing buzz that’s already created by trends.

You obviously have to pick a trend that’s relevant. If we would’ve tried to leverage zombies it would’ve fallen flat.

Hope separates trends into two separate categories – viral campaigns and popular trends.

Good Visuals

Your brand has to have supporting visuals.

Blog posts, tweets, and FB posts with images are simply more likely to be shared.

People’s attention spans are only getting shorter. It is way easier to catch someone’s attention with a visual than even the best headline ever written.

Posts that had at least one image got two times as many shares on social media than posts without images.

Shock Value

Your content has to have a certain shock factor to it. People want to be surprised by something.

In the day and age of the internet, it can start to feel like we’ve seen everything.

This means that you have to be shocking and controversial, even provocative, with your headlines or your pitch. You have to have a hook to your story that makes it seem outrageous.

Buzzfeed, for example, split tests different headlines with different audiences so they can tailor based on actual reactions. 

While you may not have this ability, you can always edit a headline or the subject line of your pitch if things aren’t being received well.


During this lesson, we have to stress that the information provided by Hope will guarantee you will go viral the next time you decide to post something.

But these insights can help your content improve its shareability and engagement.

Resources Mentioned

Hope Brookin’s Website


Thanks for listening!

Do you have a Facebook group? What’s your takeaway from this episode? Be sure to grab the cheat sheet and let us know what you think!

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