It’s time to get topical - there’s already an ocean of engaging content online, so why not try swimming with the tide to amplify your message?
All charity marketers want to make online content that ’goes viral’. Even if you’re a small team with limited time and marketing brainpower, you could still make a big impact without concocting a campaign completely from scratch – by piggybacking on the Zeitgeist and riding the coat-tails of what’s already happening online.
Jumping on the latest online movements, headlines and hot topics dominating discussion can help increase your reach and give you visibility whilst aligning your cause with a debate and showing that you are at the forefront current events.
Here are some tips:
One way to kickstart your ’newsjacking’ strategy is to make a master list of all the things happening over the next 12 months that you expect people will be talking about on social media. Make a note of all of those that could be relevant to your charity, even if the connection seems a bit tenuous, as ideas may appear later down the line. This list could include:
Political and royal events such as elections and royal weddings.
Sporting, music and entertainment events, such as the Oscars or the Olympics.
Events in the charity calendar such as fundraising days, marathons or annual campaigns by other charities.
National and international awareness-raising days (a list can be found here).
TV show and film launches.
Seasonal events and festivities.
Even cosmic events – for instance, did you know that there is set to be a solar eclipse, a ’supermoon’; and that 2020 is a leap year?
Once you know what’s coming, get devising creative ways to tell your cause’s story around it, with a blog post, Tweet or other digital media – take inspiration from the many examples from brands and charitable organisations that have put out messaging aligned with a trend or news story.
Equally as important as planning ahead is the ability to move quickly, as the nature of the online world means that trends can fizzle out just as quickly as they spring up, seemingly from nowhere. Still remember #BendGate?
It’s worth always having an ear to the ground. Set up RSS feeds to keep on top of breaking news, set up alerts through Google News, and always have one eye on trending hashtags on Twitter.
In a famous example of a charity moving quickly on a trend, Cancer Research UK raised £8 million in just six days by jumping on the back of the #Nomakeupselfie hashtag, despite not starting the campaign.
And in 2014, various UK charities took inspiration from the news of a major London tube strike. Save the Children UK’s use of the familiar tube line status board to raise awareness of the situation in Syria was particularly hard-hitting. The campaign got over 1,000 retweets.
A word of warning – while jumping on the latest hashtag or online trend can be a winning strategy to draw attention to your cause, make sure it’s the right kind of attention.
A misfired attempt could come across as opportunistic, forced, offensive or just uncool and ’cringe’ (nobody likes a try-hard).
Luckily, charity marketers are often able to approach controversial and sensitive topics that commercial brands could not touch, but it’s still a good idea to sense check whether the content you are putting out is authentic to your organisation’s brand and values, and appropriate for your audience - or risk losing trust and alienating people online.