We’ve all seen the posts: “Change your profile picture in support of [insert disease here] awareness month” or “Share this if you love someone with [insert disease here].” It’s a nice way for a community to rally around a cause, but nearly impossible to track from a results standpoint. With awareness months being a key programming element for most healthcare public relations professionals, how, when everyone wants as many eyes on a program as possible, can we make sure it also obtains measurable results and value?

In 2011, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund of Canada released a PSA that very quickly went viral and raised the bar for disease awareness programs. Its premise, “Dear 16-year-old-me” sought to educate on the incidence, prevalence and signs of melanoma. While the video is lengthy, the audience was clear, as was the call to action: “check yourself; it takes 10 minutes” and “share this link.” The video has received more than 7 million views on YouTube alone.

More recently, Facebook has been inundated with videos of people participating in the #ALSIceBucketChallenge to raise awareness for ALS. The idea behind the challenge is simple – record yourself dumping a bucket of ice on your head and either post to social media or donate to ALS research, then nominate others to do the same. However, initially the messages within the videos were muddled. Some pointed out that people have heard all about the challenge but know very little about the disease or where to go to donate. As a result, the money raised in the first week was, while significant, not as high as it could have been given the uptake. As critics became more vocal, the message did something no one could have predicted: it evolved. People started dousing themselves AND donating. Now, ALS organizations are reporting upwards of $13 million in donations since the challenge started. Because of this evolution, the campaign can be considered an enormous success.

Following a few simple steps when developing awareness programming will help make sure your message is clear, effective and successful:

  1. Identify the goals of the program: raising awareness, raising money, etc.
  2. Define clear metrics: amount of money raised, message uptake, website visits, shares, etc.
  3. Develop a promotion strategy that uses multiple mediums and touch points: promoted tweets, media outreach, advocacy communications and internal communications can drum up support quickly
  4. Create compelling, relatable content that resonates with your target audience
  5. Keep it simple: from the hashtag to the call to action to the task you are asking your audience to complete, simplicity ensures participation and uptake

While there is no formula to a video “going viral”, it is clear that authentic stories with a powerful message are what tend to win the hearts of our audiences.


One Comment:

  1. […] Ice Bucket Challenge took social media by storm two years ago? My colleague Alison wrote about it here. The internet was filled with videos of people dumping buckets of ice on their heads to help raise […]

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