Oct 11 2012

How Houston ISD Is Getting the Word Out About Early Voting — Gangnam Style

By tapping into the fervor of PSY’s K-Pop hit, Houston Independent School District strikes social media gold.

It’s not every day that students, teachers, administrators and the school board get to do a jig to one of the hottest pop songs on camera, but Sarah Greer Osborne, the multimedia manager for Houston Independent School District, pulled it off when she convinced everyone in her school district to break it down “Gangnam Style” in her viral video project about early voting.

“It is the talk of Houston,” Greer Osborne says. “The first thing people say when they find out that I work for Houston ISD is, ‘Oh, have you seen that video?’”

So far, the goofy dancing and fist pumping has paid off big time: The video has racked up more than 80,000 views on YouTube.

Watch HISD shake their tail feathers in the viral video below.

Gangnam for a Good Cause

Why does HISD care about getting the word out on early voting? Because there’s $1.9 billion on the line.

The school district has a bond referendum on the ballot this year that would help overhaul many of the district’s high schools, several of which are more than 50 years old. Early voting, which starts on Oct. 22 in Houston, is particularly important because research shows that early voters tend to complete all of the ballot more often than voters who vote on election day, Greer Osborne says.

“Because we're the last [item on the ballot], it's important to us that people go to the end,” she says.

Greer Osborne got the idea to have her school district dance and lip-sync to PSY’s hit song “Gangnam Style” after watching the Saturday Night Live parody. Although the idea seemed far-fetched, she knew that if HISD was going to tap into the viral potential of such a project that they’d have to move fast.

“It was a very quick turnaround. When I first pitched it, I thought this is never gonna happen,” Greer Osborne says. “We were having a brainstorming session on a Tuesday afternoon about social media and getting the word out and creating some kind of video that'll go viral. So we literally discussed this on a Tuesday and had a principals' meeting on Wednesday afternoon, and we went out and did the shoot the next day right after the meeting.”

So how difficult was it for Greer Osborne to coordinate? Surprisingly, most of the students and faculty weren’t hard to convince. And no, no one received any intense Dancing with the Stars style choreography training either.

“Most of it was me going, ‘Ok you guys know it!’ and me in my suit, in my heels on the football field doing it,” Greer Osborne says. “They really did not need any choreography or dance lessons.”

In fact, one of the board members for the district was insistent that they do several takes to make sure they were all dancing in sync.

Given all of the success of this viral video, you might be tempted to think the HISD is running victory laps and sitting tight until the election. But the “Gangnam Style” video is just the first part of more to come in the school district’s campaign to encourage early voting, Greer Osborne says — so stay tuned.