The popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS research provides some helpful guidance when it comes to public relations and earned media.
As you probably know, the Challenge is for someone to be videotaped getting doused with a bucket of ice water to generate awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and to raise funds to help find a cure. It's been a dominant theme on conventional and social media in recent weeks, helping to raise more than $40 million.
Why has it worked so well?
1. Video. It's hard to miss all of the videos showing people dumping buckets of ice water on themselves. They're short, entertaining videos that people enjoy watching. Some are cleverly produced, but even the homemade versions work.
Take away: If you're not using video to tell your story, you're missing out. Everything from a how-to video to a tour of your showroom floor can help you communicate your message.
Videos need not be expensive or professionally produced to be effective. Even if you do spend a little on production values, it can be worth much more to you in return.
2. Social. Because these videos are fun to share, people can easily send links and post videos to their favorite sites. They can send Tweets and embed the videos, helping them to go viral.
Take away: Any earned media campaign has to include social media to support and expand the potential reach of your message. Don't just issue a press release. Tweet it, turn it into a blog post and create a Facebook post.
Social media is a free megaphone.
3. Cause. The story is a good one. Who doesn't want to see more people raising money to help fight Lou Gehrig's disease? If the Ice Bucket Challenge had been merely about people acting goofy on video, it would not have been nearly as successful.
Take away: To gain traction with the media your message must, ultimately, be newsworthy. You need a good news "hook" or "peg" to gain the interest of reporters. They must become convinced of your story's news value and its potential impact on their audience.
It's always good to learn from what works. Keep these three lessons in mind for your next earned media campaign.
Mack Communications | Twitter: @mack_comm