I recently read Jonah Berger’s book Contagious, which examines why some ideas (and videos) go viral. His research indicates that viral phenomena share six characteristics, each of which he defines in detail. While Berger's analysis is interesting, I don’t find it practical. Viral ideas aren’t created by following checklists; they come from a place of quirkiness, inspiration and serendipity.
Berger’s approach is similar to how many agencies (and consultants) approach communications. They find examples of success, “reverse engineer” these examples, then package and sell the results as a “how-to framework” for reproducing success.
While such frameworks can be helpful, they’re typically more useful as an analysis of what worked than as a guide to creating your own success. Too often their real purpose is to convince you that “this work is too complex for you to do by yourself, and you need to hire us to avoid failing.”
Beware of those who preach complexity. Effective communication isn’t rocket science. It takes skill and effort, but odds are you have what it takes to get it done. It’s just not that complicated.