Which PR Campaign Hooked Us in 2014?

There are many companies that are stepping up their game when it comes to reputation management and public relations. That being said, it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that really rocked our internet feeds this year.

The challenge was a viral hit – individuals would dump buckets of ice/ice water on his/her heads, post a video to social media and tag three friends. The individual would then make a donation to the ALS Association. That’s all it took.

A record-breaking $115 million in donations was recorded for the society, many made by new donors who had not previously donated to ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge also got celebrities involved – famous stars including One Direction, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kate Upton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Henry Cavill, and many others also participated.

So why was this campaign so wildly successful? It was a viral movement that involved something somewhat extreme (dumping ice over your head) and making your friends do it, too. It didn’t take promotion from the ALS Association – the campaign drove itself. It cost practically nothing to the ALS Association, and gave us all a warm feeling about doing our part for the community.

It was big, it was for a good cause and it was selfless. The Challenge was covered in the news, and was a trend among youth and teens. Combined with the fact that you could laugh at your friends and replay a video unlimited times, the Challenge brought in 500% more donations than the ALS Association has seen the previous year.

Just like any good campaign, however, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had a few critics. Some called out individuals who were posting videos but not actually donating. Others complained that the campaign encouraged us to waste water. Others were injured in the process of making their videos. However, the good significantly outweighed the bad.

Fundraisers like this are changing the way that companies do business. Following the lead of the Ice Bucket Challenge, other nonprofits tried the same model to prompte their causes. Most notably was the “Feelin’ Nuts” campaign trying to encourage men to check themselves for testicular cancer. The campaign showed photos and videos of celebrities grabbing their crotches in public, hashtagged #feelingnuts and uploaded their media to the Feelin’ Nuts official site. However, this did not take off as well as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Why was this similar campaign not as successful? For starters, it was only geared toward men. The ALS campaign included all participants, making it easy to share. Also, participants were not worried about sharing the hashtag “feelingnuts” so that their grandmothers on Facebook could see them. It excluded a large percentage of Internet users. It was clever, yes – but just having a clever slogan does not make a PR campaign.

ALS was fortunate to have the Internet on their side. With the help of humor and celebrities, the campaign raised a remarkable amount of money for the foundation. Sometimes, the best PR campaigns are the ones we don’t push – we let the consumers run with the idea.

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