By: Kalyn Schieffer
Within the last month, chances are you have either dumped a bucket of ice water over your head or have been nominated to do so on Facebook, to raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Even though there are other charities who have used the “ice bucket challenge” to raise awareness in the past, it has made ALS a trending topic and within just a few short weeks, it has led to a record number of donations to ALS research. Despite its enormous success, many people have posed questions on just how effective a bunch of people dumping ice water on their head is for raising awareness and donations, and are also wondering what is so special about it to make this challenge spread like wildfire.
When videos started to pop up all over social media and the challenge was really starting to get some major attention and donations from celebrities and business leaders, the skeptics started to put in their two cents. I saw statuses on my newsfeed with people wondering if the challenge was doing as much good as we all thought it was, and criticizing the part of the challenge that read, “You have 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS research.” Yes there were a great number of people who just participated in the challenge and didn’t put in a donation, but as of today, August 18th, the ALS Association reports that they have received $15.6 million in donations since July 29th, when at this time last year they had only received about $1.7 million. Those numbers don’t lie. Even if you don’t donate some cash to the cause, if you accepted the nomination, went through the challenge, and finally passed it along to three other people, you are helping to spread the word about a lesser known disease that impacts around 30,000 Americans and their families.
So how did this challenge, that seemed to come out of nowhere, raise a staggering $13.3 million dollars just within these past few summer months? I came across a great article from David A. Frankel, on Inc. that explains why marketing and PR pros should take a look at this “campaign” and recognize a few key aspects that helped it take over social media:
1. Anyone Can Participate
Frankel shares how this campaign isn’t targeted at a niche audience, but at basically anyone with a video camera and a social media account of some kind. And even those who may not have one of those two things, (young children, social media avoiders etc) have someone who can post the video on their behalf and pass it along. It also isn’t costly or time consuming to participate. Just grab a bucket, bowl, and even just a few ice cubes from your freezer and you’re all set.
The basis of the challenge can basically be found within its name. You take some ice, put it in a bucket, get someone to film you, share a few words on who you nominate, dump the ice, shiver, and post! Here at the Caster office, we were able to get everyone involved and make a donation in a 15 minute gap between conference calls.
When nominated, you have a short 24 hour window to participate or donate, which tends to light a fire under people and get them actively involved. When you leave a challenge open-ended, it gives people some wiggle room to “think about it” or even avoid it, but the ice-bucket challenge moves quickly and efficiently.
4. Right place, right time
Obviously this challenge would not have fared so well in the winter months. Even though it doesn’t creep up into the 90-100 degree temperature range too often here in New England, it is still nice to cool off on a hot summer day. Normally you wouldn’t necessarily pour a bucket of ice water over your head to do so, but the challenge couldn’t have come at a better time of year. The summer is also when a lot of people take time off and the kids are out of school, so people don’t have the “I’m too busy” excuse to avoid participating.
5. Clear message
The #IceBucketChallenge has been trending on Twitter for weeks now, and many people are using that and other related hashtags in their video posts. Everyone who does the challenge ends up knowing what it is benefitting (ALS) because the focus of the challenge has been clear from the beginning. This clear and simple message has made it easy to find other people participating in the challenge through the hashtags and raised overall awareness. There are most likely a good number of people who had no idea what ALS is, or what it does to the human body, before they accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge, but went and learned more about it after participating.
Last summer I was lucky enough to intern at the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, MA and help out with one of their largest fundraising events. When I would mention to where I was working, a good amount of people would have to ask me what ALS was or what those letters stood for. That is part of why I am so glad that this challenge took off and people everywhere are talking about ALS and donating to help find a cure. After meeting several people fighting ALS and hearing their stories last summer, I am happy that they are getting the attention and support they have always deserved. So yes, there are some great lessons we can learn from the campaign itself, and there will always be critics, but I think that Mr. Pete Frates, one of the original creators of the Ice Bucket Challenge shared the best reason to buy in: ““The story right now goes: You’ve got ALS, have it for a little while, a long while, but either way, the end is always the same. ALS always wins. So in order to rewrite the end of it, we need to raise awareness, money.”
Like I mentioned above, all of us here at Caster accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge and we passed it along to some of our clients! Have you taken the challenge? Tell me what you think about this viral phenomenon either here in the comments of feel free to chat with me on Twitter @CasterKalyn or @CasterComm. To learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit the ALS Association’s website at www.alsa.org