For a long time, organizations have sought to capitalize on viral potential with strategic communications. Ironically, the ALS Association lucked into the most viral fundraising campaign ever with the ongoing Ice Bucket Challenge.
In case you’ve been on a deserted island for the past couple of months, let’s recap. Dumping ice water on your head started as a small-time social media challenge with the intention of encouraging people to donate to their charity of choice. However, when Jeanette Senerchia took her challenge, she selected the ALS Association for a personal reason- her husband was currently battling the disease. Rallied by her special plea, family and friends undertook the challenge and created the foundation of what would soon become a worldwide, viral phenomenon.
And it worked. As of Aug. 27, the ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27).
This unprecedented fundraising success has left many organizations wondering how and if they can craft their own challenges. Before you start a disorganized soil dumping challenge, put down the shovel and remember these important points.
The public expects copycats. Always remember that your audience is savvier than you think. As the challenge starts to wane, social media savants will be quick to find and criticize any seemingly contrived or unoriginal copycat challenges.
This was a perfect set of circumstances. Social media penetration, authentic celebrity participation, a seemingly unique concept and participants’ ability to peer pressure friends are just a few of the elements that made this challenge the perfect fundraising storm.
Opportunistic organizations aren’t appealing.Trying to capitalize on the public’s enthusiasm with your own copycat challenge may be perceived as a desperate ploy. Instead, consider tastefully plugging into the current challenge by encouraging your constituents to participate while contributing to your cause as well.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees.While it’s too early to predict replication potential, the challenge teaches us several lessons about developing shareable and exciting content. From incorporating good-natured peer pressure to using video as a storytelling medium, there are many components you should use to enhance your content creation and organizational communication initiatives.
For public relations practitioners like me, The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a fascinating case study on viral trends that we will analyze for years to come. In the meantime, ignore your inclination to haphazardly grab at a piece of the pie.