The Art of Spotting Drake

Bring Drake to Drake wasn't just a PR campaign gone great, it was a model for how public relations and digital marketing professionals should treat grassroot movements.

Photo via The Chronicle of Higher Education's article,  "How One University Enticed a World-Famous Rapper to Stop by Campus at 2 a.m."

Photo via The Chronicle of Higher Education's article, "How One University Enticed a World-Famous Rapper to Stop by Campus at 2 a.m."

I have this weird thing about calling out to people in public.

The reaction is rooted in a fear that the other person won't hear me, but that results in me compromising on a weird half-whisper, half-shout that is begging to be ignored. I'm setting myself up for failure from the beginning.

In the same way, it can be extremely easy to set yourself up for failure when working in public relations and digital marketing. The fear of being washed out in the sea of noise that is the Internet can push you to ignore brilliant ideas that are deemed "not feasable for a brand our size".

So when students began using the hashtag #BringDraketoDrake after he skipped his scheduled visit to the university, the school was faced with a decision: Do we run with this or not?

Photo via @drakeuniversity.

Photo via @drakeuniversity.

Being from a small, private university that isn't necessarily a nationwide household name, I can imagine some of the concerns that the Drake University PR students and faculty must have had when considering this idea. But thankfully, that didn't stop them.

Instead they went out on a limb to execute a risky campaign to bring the rapper to campus.

Students used the hashtag #BringDrakeToDrake to share photoshopped images of Drake on campus. The school released a public statement asking him to visit while dropping references to his lyrics throughout. Even the president of the University jumped in on the campaign.

Photo via @champagnepapi.

Photo via @champagnepapi.

And in the end, it worked! After his concert in Des Moine, Iowa, Drake stopped by campus and posted about his late night visit on his Instagram.

This is an incredible victory story and proof that anyone - no matter their size or influence - can get the attention of millions. But that story has been told. I want to focus on the other group of people at play in this story.


See, don't get me wrong - What the PR students of Drake University did was not easy by any means. But when it comes to opportunities for this campaign to be ignored, Drake's PR team had many more reasons to do just that.

As digital marketers and public relations professionals, we are bound to encounter a grassroots movement that relates to the brands we represent. And it's our job as the gatekeepers to know which movements are worth spreading and encouraging, and which ones are better left ignored.

It would have been easy for Drake's PR team to see these posts and write them off since they weren't coming from a huge UCLA or NYU-type school. But instead, they saw the possibility to showcase Drake's fun personality while encouraging the attention and adoration of 3,000+ students who were deeply dedicated to this campaign.


This is where the idea of "spotting" comes into play. In Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about the "Art of Spotting" in their chapter on stories. 

"How many great ideas have been extinguished because someone in the middle - a link between the source of the idea and its eventual outlet - dropped the ball?" (Made to Stick, p. 224)

Spotting can be hard to do because we're taking a risk when we put it into practice. We're taking something that was not created and is not maintained by us, and placing our stamp of approval on it. There are major problems that could arise from behavior like this, yet, as we see from this campaign, the results can be tremendous.