SOS! Charity campaign lacks social media edge by @dmhwhite

With more than 162,000 charities in the UK alone, competing for our attention and support, it can be difficult for them to stand out and generate media cut through.

I can just imagine the types of discussions charities have in their team meetings. From ‘thinking outside the box’ to ‘going against the grain’, it’s hard to think of something that’s not been done before. But, last week SOS Children’s Villages launched an awareness campaign which risked making a fool of its audience. And it worked. The charity’s Norwegian division recruited a young boy, Johanne, to sit at a cold bus stop in Oslo with no coat waiting to see if anyone would offer him theirs – to highlight the harsh conditions faced by thousands of Syrian children.

The good news is that lots of passers by did give up their coat and the charity was able to capture this on camera. Just three passers by opted to keep their coats on – which is quite amazing because I’m not sure that even I’d want to part with my Parka. It’s cold out there!

So, once SOS had the evidence, what did it do with the content?

The story has already been covered by The Metro, The Daily Mail and The Independent, helping the video to generate over 10.3m views in just four days. But, here are three things SOS should do to make its campaign even better.

Get a personality

It earned global recognition thanks to its fresh campaign approach, but that’s no excuse for spamming every journalist across the world with the same tweet – begging them to look at the video. There’s a lot to be said for scheduling tweets – take a look at its self obsessed Twitter feed – as well as personalising the content to meet journalists’ needs. It makes me think that the digital team wasn’t expecting this initiative to go viral (never underestimate the power of social media) and didn’t have the expertise to effectively leverage its success online.

I suggest they switch the computer off until they’ve learnt to use: Bitly (long URLs don’t impress anyone), hashtags and their imagination to come up with a varied selection of tweets to promote the campaign.

It’s in the detail

You don’t have to be a genius to know that the situation in Syria is bad, but I’d like to have seen SOS create a shareable infographic alongside the video, to put the work it does into perspective.

10m viewers is a fantastic achievement for any brand, but many could leave YouTube assuming that as a Syrian campaign, made by a Norwegian company, that it’s not theirs to solve.

Behind the scenes

To sustain campaign momentum, I’d also be inclined to follow up with a second clip outlining the making of the campaign. This would provide another opportunity for SOS to thank people for helping it raise more than £2m for the cause to date, and encourage others to get involved.

That said, it’s an incredibly successful initiative that ticks all the boxes. It just goes to show that sometimes appealing to people’s human nature is the best method.

Now the question is will a UK charity be brave enough to replicate this idea? And, more to the point, would Londoners respond in the right way?


Donna White is a PR officer at The Prince’s Trust and runs a PR blog called Prime Time (PR In My Eyes). She also tweets from @dmhwhite.