5 Lessons for PR and Social Media Pros from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Melbourne Attempts World Record Ice Bucket Challenge

By: Val Galassini

Well, the verdict is in: Challenging the social media world to dump a bucket of ice water on their head to raise awareness for ALS will in fact become a viral phenomenon. Over the past three weeks, everyone from 50 Cent to George W. Bush has participated in the #ALSicebucketchallenge. While some people found it to be an annoyance cluttering their newsfeed and others thought it an inconvenience to get their hair wet, the success is indisputable. Since the beginning of August, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been an instant hit and encouraged donations to skyrocket 20 times higher than last year’s contributions to ALS research, now totaling $41.8 million, according to The ALS Association.

So, the moral of the story, how did this simple idea lead become an international conversation on ALS? Also what are the key takeaways for PR pros looking to replicate that success for future campaigns? We put together our 5 key learnings/tips for PR pros on how to ensure your social media campaign is a success.

  • Shock value: If your goal is to clog up everyone’s newsfeed, make the contest something surprising and worth watching. It doesn’t matter how many people I’ve seen get drenched in ice water, everyone finds a different way to spin it, and it’s entertaining each time.
  • Simplicity: We hear more about societies’ ever shrinking attention span every day. Many people even say social media is partially to blame. If you want to use social media as a medium to share your message you need to keep it simple.
  • Social: Remember that social media is meant for social interactions, so a good campaign connects friends and family. The Ice Bucket Challenge did this perfectly through the nomination set up. For example, I was nominated by my sister and passed it along to my cousin in California, my friend in New York City and one of my roommates. Just like that, the challenge connected me to four important people in my life, near and far. Not to mention the potential for celebrities to be nominate and become a part of the campaign without breaking your budget.
  • Sincerity:  Connect the campaign to a bigger message and give people an outlet to express their personal story. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was for a good cause and even though the idea may have seemed silly at the time, it lead to some moving videos that helped raise awareness and money for the cause.
  • Status: If we learned anything from Samsung’s appearance at the Oscars, it was that celebrities sell. Having Hollywood’s finest pose for a selfie in attempts to become the “most tweeted picture in history” allowed Samsung to gain the perfectly subtle publicity they were hoping for. The Ice Bucket Challenge’s nomination feature allowed for anyone to call-out their favorite start in hopes they would get involved. Most celebrities took it upon themselves to nominate other celebs, prompting Ice Bucket Challenge videos featuring everyone from Guardians of the Galaxy Star Chris Pratt to Kermit the Frog.