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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS was something not as well known a few years ago. With the help of social media and an outstanding campaign, the world was taken by storm with knowledge and donations for ALS. This campaign was called the ice bucket challenge and was one of the most successful public relations campaign of the past couple years.
The ice bucket challenge was a social media movement that was participated in by the common person or even top celebrities such as Chris Pratt, Oprah, LeBron James, Ben Stiller and many more. It was in a video format posted across social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It consisted of dialogue commonly telling the viewer who nominated the person in the video and then someone dumping a bucket of ice water on the person followed by the victim nominating another three contestants. The end goal was for the person who did the challenge to donate to the cause.
Contagious by Jonah Berger describes how things “catch on.” These elements include social currency, triggers and emotion. The ice bucket challenge contained all of these elements.
To begin, there was an exchange that begins this snowball effect. In order to even be involved in this movement, you must be nominated; most of the time people were nominated by a friend, co-worker or family member. Nominated members would feel a sense of obligation to the nomination. Whether they donated to the cause or not, the contestant would still be posting to their social media promoting interest in all of their followers – people caught on.
The biggest element to this campaign was the trigger. Dumping a bucket of ice water on your head is exhilarating, it was something that a contestant knew wasn’t going to injure them or harm them in anyway. I would compare this trigger to a the feeling before someone would feel before boarding a roller coaster – nerves before the big drop, but a relief as soon as it is done; the same feeling that is usually felt before ice water is dumped onto a contestant.
Behind all of this is the emotional appeal. ALS is a highly detrimental disease, one that does not have a true cure just yet. The emotional appeal comes from the amount of lives lost from this disease and the statistics behind it all. Not only was the contestant submitting to a challenge but they were promoting a bigger cause to help others, an act of selflessness. Being charitable will make the contestant feel good about their decision to take the challenge.
All of these elements made this public relations campaign “catch.” In fact, the ALS association 2013 campaign collected about $2.8 million dollars for research. As of 2014, it had collected over $100 million dollars. In the end, it raised a whopping $220 million dollars. This money could help anywhere from 12,000-15,000 people in the US who reportedly live with ALS. With a little help of some ice water, this world will make progress with a still fairly unknown disease.
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What captures hearts and minds? The helpless dog on your T.V. from ASPCA, or maybe a Facebook post going viral for its sentimental message… the options are limitless nowadays. For Susan Boyle, it took less than 10 minutes for her to capture the hearts of millions of people. This 54-year-old woman from Blackburn, West Lothian (Scotland) went from being unemployed and living with her cat to having a net worth of over $33 million dollars – a feat of which very few popular singers do not even achieve over their whole careers. How? Her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” in the first round of the popular show “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009 had the crowd on their feet and left the judges no other option but to move her on to the next round. It did not start as smoothly as you would imagine an audition to go. Before she went on stage, her awkward personality and appearance made it hard for the judges and audience to take her seriously. She even said that she lives with her cat and has never kissed a boy. The crowd was far from accepting at first, with sarcastic whistles and snarky faces – it wasn’t looking good for this singer. Yet, as soon as she started singing – the crowd was shocked, the judges couldn’t let her stop and even let her sing the whole song. The music was triumphant and the reactions were priceless. What followed her performance is what made her career and it was solely attributed to one thing; the Internet. Within 72 hours of the performance being posted, it gathered 2.5 million views on YouTube, within a week, 66 million views – setting a new online record. Within nine days, a total of 103 million views on 20 different websites and by the end of the year, it was dubbed the most watched YouTube video of 2009, coming in at 120 million views, more than three times higher than the second most popular video in 2009. The LA Times deemed the video, “perfect for the internet,” due to the fact of the broad range of emotion packed into a short clip. Entertainment Weekly said “Boyle’s performance was a victory for talent and artistry in a culture obsessed with physical attractiveness and presentation.” It caught on so fast because of how shocking it was, and how easily society can be harsh on those who are not the most physically appealing. It proved not only the people in attendance wrong, but also the world. What can be learned here? The right environment and right person, anything is possible as soon as something goes viral. It just needs that spark, the initial shock; the Internet will latch on and take it farther than anyone can predict. No one wants to grant someone failure if they do not deserve it, and the initial reactions that most people had followed by them being proven wrong. I can see the conversations being, “Did you see that one lady from Scotland sing the other night? Gosh, was I wrong.” Her career took off after following her Internet fame; her album released in November of 2009 was the number one best-selling album on charts around the globe. It sold very fast and reached the number one position in charts all around the U.S. and U.K. She was later nominated for two Grammy’s in 2011 and 2012 for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album; a real rag’s to riches story if you ask me.
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Juggling a full-time course load while working part-time is no easy task. But having three jobs while pursuing your degree? You could say that Patrick Fernandez has A LOT on his plate. Fernandez, a junior at George Mason University, is actively involved both on and off campus, from interning at Focused Image, being the Deputy Promotions Director for WGMU while also holding position as Outreach Liaison for the PRSSA chapter at GMU. So what does this Richmond native like to do to take a breather from the chaos of life? When he’s not advocating Spotify (to the point where he runs out of mobile data – sorry mom!) Fernandez is an avid sportsman – from hitting the golf course to supporting soccer team Arsenal FC. While he has his hands full, there’s no stopping him just yet. Fernandez hopes to see himself working “at a PR firm in a decent city for six to eight years”, but is willing to work internationally if an opportunity arises. With the dedication, determination and drive Patrick possesses, we won’t be surprised if he makes it big and follows-suit his dreams.