Ice Bucket Challenge-PR Genius

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By Dan Capawana, Media Relations Specialist, R&J Public Relations

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it, you have most likely been living under a rock for the past month.  It seems like everyone and their mother (mine included) has taken the plunge.  The idea behind the Ice Bucket Challenge is to dump a bucket of ice water on your head to promote awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The challenger dares new participants to complete the task within 24 hours, or donate $100 to the ALS association.  It has gone viral on social media throughout July and August and $100 million has been donated since July 29th, compared to $2.7 million last year in the same time frame.

Why was this challenge so effective?

  1. It Happened Organically No PR firm came up with this idea, it happened organically and that is why it was so effective.  If this was someone’s contrived idea, it probably wouldn’t have taken off the way it did.
  2. The Cause. While there have been countless trends since social media has exploded, this is the first one that really mattered.  ALS is a tragic disease that not enough people knew about before this went viral.
  3. Video Format.  Dumping a bucket of ice water on your head is one thing, but filming it really brings life to the challenge.  Participants often try to think of creative ways to top the person who nominated them, giving it a competitive side as well.
  4. Social Media Tagging.  Nominating three new people to dump frigid water on their head made the campaign spread like wildfire.  These videos are appearing everywhere- on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.  By using all these channels, more and more people can be reached.
  5. The Time Frame.  Nominees have 24 hours to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, or they have to donate $100.  With each new participant nominating three people, the campaign is able to grow rapidly.  There have been some criticisms that those who agree to the challenge do so to not donate, but I would dispute those with the $100 million that’s been raised in a single month.
  6. The Participants.  There has been a ton of unsolicited celebrity endorsement for this cause.  A short list of those who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge includes Bill Gates, Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Matt Lauer; the list goes on and on.

Who would have thought that dumping ice water on your head would raise awareness for such a worthy cause?  PR Professionals can learn a lot from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and I’m sure we will see people try to come up with other social media challenges for charitable causes.  If you haven’t already, you can donate to ALS here- http://www.alsa.org/donate/.






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