The Ice Bucket Challenge Sheds Light on the Power of Social Media

Who knew we could learn so much about the power of social media and public relations by dumping buckets of water on our heads? Sometimes knowledge comes from the most unlikely places…

This challenge is controversial on many levels across many issues, but I believe there is something we can all learn from this.

One side of the argument is that California is in a drought, so the Ice Bucket Challenge is very controversial due to the gallons of water that are wasted on a daily basis.

I am by no means an environmentalist, but I have been trying to educate myself on the drought and if/how the Ice Bucket Challenge is really impacting the drought in a big way. I’d suggest reading this article on The Wire to learn about some of the raw numbers regarding the California drought vs. the Ice Bucket Challenge argument.

The other side of the argument that I’d really like to focus on, is the donating-versus-dumping-water-on-your-head argument. And this is where public relations and the power of social media come in.

Statements, both sarcastic and passionate, are flooding my news feed saying that people are dumping water on their heads so that the don’t have to donate but can still feel good about themselves, and that dumping water on your head does nothing for ALS.

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This is where I completely disagree. Dumping water on your head accomplishes leaps and bounds for ALS.

There are two parts to any public relations campaign, whether it is through social media or traditional PR:

  1. Raise awareness
  2. Create action

The Ice Bucket Challenge does both, successfully.

First off, it raises awareness for the disease. Everyone is talking about the videos and ALS, while simultaneously learning about the disease.

At the same time, it gives people the opportunity to take action and donate to the association to help find a cure.

If a charity, or any business for that matter, doesn’t raise awareness, no one will ever donate anything to that charity, ever. That being said, I firmly believe that one action is not better than the other. They both work in tandem together.

This very argument I’m making can be proven by the increase in donations that the ALS Association has seen since the start of the Ice Bucket Challenge. According to an article published on the TIME website, the ALS Association raised more than $16 million from July 29 through August 18, the same time period that the Ice Bucket Challenge has lasted for. In 2012, the association raised about $19 million total. The association has already raised over 80 percent of a previous year’s income in a period of three weeks.

According to TIME, charities can spend up to 50 percent of its income on fundraising, but the Ice Bucket Challenge proves to be hugely successful in raising awareness and donations, all at no cost to the charity due to the power of social media and the way messages spread like wildfire across all platforms. This is essentially a home run in the PR world.

Ogilvydo published a blog post illustrating why this campaign has spread like wildfire across social media platforms. The post explains that the campaign is successful due to its ease, popularity and ability to be customizable. These are all traits that people are drawn to, whether they are aware of it or not.

What do you think about the effectiveness of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Do you agree that awareness is just as important as action? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below!