Ice Bucket Challenge gives charities a wake-up call

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Ice Bucket Challenge gives charities a wake-up call


Published on 13 April 2015

Charity organisations across the region should take a close look at last year’s successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when considering how to use social media effectively, according USC Public Relations academic Karen Sutherland.

Ms Sutherland said that while many charities struggle to fully exploit the potential of social media, ALS hit all the right buttons with its Ice Bucket Challenge.

“More than $100 million was raised through the challenge, where participants were encouraged to move activity between on and offline spaces,” Ms Sutherland said.

“They were nominated online, took the challenge offline while being videoed and shared the footage online while nominating someone else, which then took the challenge offline and on it went.

“This is a fantastic example of a ‘propinquital loop’ – a theory that encourages public relations professionals to approach social media not as a stand-alone communication channel but as a tool to encourage face-to-face stakeholder interaction with organisations.”

Ms Sutherland, who has worked for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and has volunteered on the Victorian council of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, is about to hand in her PhD thesis titled ‘Towards an Integrated Social Media Communications Model for the Not-For-Profit Sector – A Case Study of Youth Homelessness Charities’.

She said her research revealed that traditional thinking often held back not-for-profit organisations from effectively using social media.

“In many not-for-profit groups, social media is still not viewed as being up there with traditional media, despite the fact that traditional and social work really well when used together,” she said.

“The charities making the most of social media have a dedicated person working in the role who understands that the key to content is not simply broadcasting but giving people a genuine avenue to feel informed and involved with the charity until their next physical interaction – be that volunteering, donating or attending a function.”

— Brent Hampstead

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