Striking Out ALS, One Ice Bucket at a Time

If you have logged into Facebook over the last couple of weeks, you most likely witnessed many of your peers dousing themselves in ice water in the name of charity. At the time of writing on August 22nd, this grassroots campaign known as The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had raised $41.8 million dollars in donations for the ALS Association. As of August 26, the campaign has accumulated a whopping $88.5 million dollars total from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors.

The enormous surge in donations for what was once a largely overlooked cause is in part due to elevated exposure from celebrities, political figures and corporate executives worldwide. What is even more amazing is that the ALS Association had not planned this massive fundraising initiative. So how did the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign work and what did the ALS Association do right in order to capitalize on these past few weeks?

The story behind the Ice Bucket Challenge

The social explosion  began when former college baseball player Pete Frates, whose career in sports ended when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, posted a video to Facebook on July 31st calling on friends and public figures to take the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort raise awareness and donations toward research for the disease.  A short 3 weeks later, the ALS Association has experienced an exponential increase in donations –  $88.5 million vs $2.5 million raised during the same period last year (July 29 – August 26).

The significance of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Communicators who are unsure of how to tell their corporate social responsibility stories more effectively can learn a few lessons from the ALS Association and the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s no secret that many mistake corporate-charity partnerships as a shameless effort by for-profit businesses to generate positive publicity. What many fail to realize is illnesses that affect a smaller group of people tend to have smaller initiatives and fundraising efforts surrounding them. Therefore, the organizations dedicated to fighting these rarer illnesses have to use every opportunity they can to get the same attention that more common illnesses do.

If you haven’t already donated to #StrikeOutALS, follow the link to donate now: http://prn.to/IceBucketChallenge

Lessons for communicators

Here are the key takeaways from the Ice Bucket Challenge that communicators should make note of:

1. Use positivity to tell a powerful and emotionally compelling story

The effects of ALS are devastating and there is no known cure, but the Ice Bucket Challenge shed light on the issue by combining humor and compassion to get people to pay attention. ALS patient Anthony Carbajal recently made headlines for his Ice Bucket Challenge video, which told the emotional personal story of being diagnosed with the disease at age 26 and how its hereditary nature has affected his family for generations.

With regards to the previous lack of attention surrounding ALS, Carbajal said, “Nobody wants to see a depressing person that’s dying and has two to five years to live. They don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want their day ruined.” Carbajal sums up a heartbreaking reality for many people and organizations who are trying to raise awareness for certain causes, and illustrates why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so important.

2. Know your social audience and what platforms will work best

One of the biggest reasons why this grassroots campaign proved so successful was the social media component. Most of the videos were housed and shared on Facebook, and there are several reasons why this was the best social channel to showcase the ice bucket challenge.

  • First, Facebook’s auto-play video platform meant that users scrolling through their newsfeeds didn’t even have to hit the play button to view the Ice Bucket Challenge videos that were shared, a key feature for grabbing attentions and piquing viewer interests.
  • Secondly, even though Twitter’s Vine videos also contain an auto-play feature, Facebook videos have no time limit. Challengers were able to nominate as many people as they wanted without having to race against the clock, proving that elongated content formats are still quite relevant.
  • Finally, when nominees were tagged in the videos, it appeared on their respective profiles seeding further awareness among their network of friends and family.

However, relying on social channels to power the campaign leaves important publicity on the table.  Even though the Ice Bucket campaign developed organically on social media and amassed an astonishing amount of media attention, the ALS Association has also capitalized on the visibility generated online, using paid distribution via press releases to continue seeding awareness around the issue and supplying the media with newsworthy information and data points such as the growing number of donations the organization has received thus far.

PR Newswire’s Support of ALS

Congratulations to our client, the ALS Association, on their tremendous success these past few weeks. As this campaign has spread like wildfire, PR Newswire employees from across the country stepped up to the challenge including Ken Wincko, SVP of Marketing, who graciously accepted the nomination from our friends at CommPro.biz. We’re proud to support such a worthy cause and be part of the fight to help strike out ALS!

For more on how the ALS Association turned a grassroots effort into a fundraising machine, read “The 3 Tactical Elements That Made the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a Viral Success”: http://prn.to/1vNqNhK

Co-authored by: 

ShannonShannon Ramlochan, PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator

 

 

Danielle croppedDanielle Ferris is a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.

 

One response to “Striking Out ALS, One Ice Bucket at a Time

  1. Pingback: Content We Love: How Non-Profits Can Use Owned and Paid Media to Spread Awareness | Beyond PR

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