Business PR Strategy Tips

Ice Buckets and Other Crazes: How do we make sure the message is as good as the method?

Posted by Deborah | August 22nd, 2014 | No responses

The other day I found myself listening to a group of business people discussing the potential merits of carrying out an office ‘ice bucket challenge’ in the hope of gaining some publicity.

To be fair, I was merely capturing parts of the dialogue while slurping on a coffee at a distance, so I can’t know too much about any extended altruistic reason they had behind wanting to take part.

That said, it got me thinking about whether these seemingly amazing PR stunts that associate themselves with specific charitable brands, are always spreading the ‘message’ of the cause, as much as they’re generating high-jinx participation.

And – indeed – does it matter anyway?

Of course, the ice-bucket challenge is just a few months down the line from the no make-up selfie. In a similar fashion, the idea went viral and thousands uploaded their involvement and used the likes of twitter and youtube to celebrate their active commitment.

In both cases, however, it would be interesting to know how many people even knew at the point of taking part just exactly which charity their input was contributing to, and how it was achieving that.

I bet there’s a significant number of people right now, uploading ice-bucket-challenge pictures and videos, but who don’t know that the activity is linked to campaign awareness for motor neurone disease.

Am I saying this is wrong or that it’s detrimental to the effort?
Lord – no.

The very fact that the activity is so headline-heavy means it will naturally link back to people talking about the cause and to the need for us all to fundraise and spread awareness.

But, as a PR person, it does make me think about the need for any potentially fast and far reaching viral campaign to have a very solid messaging element in place from the point of inception, and for that messaging to contain the appropriate call-to-action.

Ironically, the no make-up selfie craze wasn’t started by the cancer charity Cancer Research UK initially, so they had to jump on to it somewhat belatedly, and then to do some pretty speedy reactionary measures when a simple donation texting issue meant some donations were slipping through the net and going to UNICEF instead!

So, here’s some quick tips on ensuring the method and message are both considered from the outset:

  1. Make the message the priority. Who do you need to tell? What do you need them to know? What are you expecting them to do?
  2. Exciting participation activity is great, and can quickly escalate in the world of social media and various online channels. Can your infrastructure cope? Do you need separate measures in place?
  3. Will you communicate with the participants of your PR activity? Is this how you’ll access them to spread your message more clearly? If so, how are you going to capture them and relay that message?
  4. Is their a call to action in your undertaking? There should be. Are you making these people future fundraisers / donors?
  5. Why do it if you’re not going to analyse and evaluate? Critical from the outset is to think how you’ll assess effectiveness afterwards. Always have measurement in mind throughout the process.


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