unicef-soja

Raising awareness of humanitarian issues through music videos – UNICEF

UNICEF’s recent music video series designed to raise awareness of children’s rights has undoubtedly reached an audience who were possibly oblivious to some of the suffering  portrayed in these powerful films. To date the videos have been viewed by over 300,000 people and earlier this week the final video in the series was released featuring SOJA.

The production of this series over the last two years has taken an immense amount of planning. I contacted Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator at UNICEF to find out more about the creative process behind the videos.

This series of music videos must have taken a lot of planning. What were the most important factors in its success?

The most important aspect of this work is selecting the specific child rights issue – whether its access to education, ending violence or improving water and sanitation– to highlight in the music video. We do this by working closely with our colleagues in the country office to identify an issue UNICEF is advocating for locally.  For example, in the Chad RL Grime video we focused on child marriage because Chad has the third highest child marriage rate in the world, while the Ethiopia video focused on education as many children in rural Ethiopia are out of school.

You also need to ensure you identify an artist that has a significant fan base, that’s critically praised, that is smart, intelligent, passionate and understands your work. This is essential for success and for a mutually beneficial relationship.  The team the artist works with is also very important.  You need to know they’re willing to help you seed the content with different outlets.

I know that seeding is vital in these campaigns. Can you tell me a bit more about the process of seeding.

It is amazing to watch how some videos achieve traction or the snowball effect.  We always try to ensure that our media team is in sync with the artists’ publicity team and normally the publicity team is excellent at getting the core message of the video to external audiences – at least to relevant music media.  A press release at their end also helps.

Take the ODESZA video as an example. Their team posted something on their website and across social media, which resulted in an excellent article on thissongissick- (large music blog), whose Facebook Page has more than a quarter of million fans, all enthusiastic about music and great new collaborations.

On top of all this, we’re promoting videos strongly now on Facebook and YouTube, which means the number of views is split between the two platforms.  For some of our most successful videos, a lot of the views stem from the fact they are being hosted on external media outlet websites (earned media) such as Huffington Post, UpworthyAPlus , etc. which all link back to the Youtube version of the video on our UNICEF channel (and not the Facebook Page).

For instance, the average view time for the Chad Child Marriage video which featured a track by RL Grime is 2:56 seconds (76% of the video), which is tremendous and can perhaps be linked back to the fact that engaged audiences are viewing this video from a player on a website they trust, rather than stumbling upon the video from a link they clicked.

How important was the relationship with the country offices to the production?

Working closely with colleagues in our various country offices is essential to the success of these videos. It’s the country offices who have the most knowledge and understanding on the issues affecting children in their countries. They also can localize the videos so they are relevant for their audiences.

For instance, when we worked with the UNICEF office in Tanzania to create the Four Tet video on child protection issues, our colleagues in Tanzania included their local goodwill ambassador into the video as the mother character.  They also included a prominent musician from the region as the father.  Colleagues in our country offices are also very good at utilizing the video for important advocacy purposes.  For instance, after the video with Moderat in Paraguay was created, the government officially recognized UNICEF’s #ENDviolence campaign. Another example is that the First Lady of Chad showed the RL Grime child marriage video to Heads of State and their spouses at the recent AU Summit in Addis Ababa this past January to support the AU’s #ENDChildMarriage campaign.

How are production teams selected?

Aside from the Chad and Namibia videos, all other videos were shot by local production companies.  Rooftop Productions is amazing and created the RL Grime, BANKS, and ODESZA videos.

We normally go through every possible production company before deciding. It’s a balance between quality of work and who will give us the best deal. All of the artists provided free licences to use their music.

Who has the responsibility for the storyboarding?

We have a storyboard for every video created. We tend to start the process as a team and then we have a few rounds of revisions based on feedback from both communications colleagues and the different program teams that are involved. There are so many talented colleagues in UNICEF who contribute to the creative process.

How long did it take to make each of these films?

It takes approximately 3 months to create one of these videos.  Ensuring you identify the best time to launch the video is also important in reaching the most people with these important messages about children’s rights.

For instance we starting shooting the ODESZA video in late October because we wanted to launch it on World AIDS Day, December 1st.

Why did UNICEF decide to focus on making music related videos?

Music resonates globally and has helped us provoke conversations around key issues UNICEF advocates for. Music can often touch people in ways other media cannot. It makes them think about their own lives and helps them relate to others because they feel something in the music which is sometimes harder to convey to a general audience.

When you can see your product being talked about on the largest social media networks in the world, then you know something went right and you can celebrate the idea that at first was only a glimmer in an eye. It’s a complicated but enjoyable process which I love supporting and bringing to life because I myself love the videos, grew up loving music (and still do) and I’m able to bring my passion and expertise together with these sorts of campaigns.

I’ve also heard from up and coming artists that they love these kinds of collaborations as it gives them a chance to give back and be a part of something both cool and educational.  It’s a special process, for sure, and something that lights up my work.  I’m sure these videos will be watched and shared for many years to come.

 

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UNICEF, Social Media and Tom Hiddleston

I recently met with Laila Takeh who is Head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF in the UK. UNICEF is a  ‘digital first’ organisation and topped the 2012 Social Charity 100 Rankings. I have been extremely impressed in the way UNICEF has adopted digital media as a tool for advocacy, fundraising and information dissemination so was pleased that Laila agreed to a meeting.

Laila and I had a long discussion about UNICEF’s use of social media. We talked about compassion fatigue and indeed social media fatigue, and ways of iterative re-packaging strategies to overcome this. We also discussed the much debated anti ‘slacktivism’ campaign by UNICEF Sweden ‘Likes don’t save lives’, but one of the first things I wanted to know about was UNICEF’s use of celebrity, which is an area that fascinates me. UNICEF have a large number of celebrity ambassadors or “high profile supporters” including Ewan McGregor, David Beckham, Eddie Izzard, Emma Bunton, Cat Deeley, Robbie Williams and many more. They have a long history of working with celebrities, in fact their first celebrity supporter was Danny Kaye in 1954.

Just before our meeting I had been looking at UNICEF’s YouTube channel to see what videos were most popular. 12 out of the 15 most popular videos are celebrity videos. The 6th most popular video was from someone called Tom Hiddleston, who I’d never heard of even though his filmography is very impressive. If you are interested in social media and celebrity, which I am, then Tom Hiddleston is a great case study. Tom is very active on twitter and has 573,633 followers. I just had a look at Tom’s twitter feed and 5 out of his last 7 tweets mention UNICEF. Those 5 tweets have had a total of 919 retweets. Just think of the reach of those 5 messages.

tom-hiddleston-twitter

One of his tweets about the #IF campaign was retweeted 417 times and favourited 486 times. Tom’s fans are digitally engaged and on cause. According to Laila, just one of his #IF tweets generated several thousand pounds on their fundraising platform. Tom’s fans (Hiddlestoners) also raised over £30k as part of a Hiddlestoners Have Heart campaign, they even set up their own twitter account for the campaign.

Tom visited New Guinea for 5 days to write a series of blogs. It was UNICEF UK’s first ever ‘digital trip’. He traveled with two members of staff from the UK office, plus his photographer and met up with one member of staff from the country office. The digital team back in the UK regularly updated Tom on daily activity and feedback from the various social media sites. They also asked followers what they would like to see Tom do whilst he is in New Guinea.

Tom’s post are beautifully written, with emotion and great detail. They help to build a picture of the work that UNICEF carry out in New Guinea. They discuss development problems such as water, nutrition, sanitation, vaccination and education, but they also tackle more sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation. I was particularly interested in Tom’s blog on Day 3 where he discusses participatory communication after visiting a rural community radio station and meeting a ‘traditional communicator’.

Kapoor (2013) believes that celebrity humanitarianism is an ideological phenomenon which often tackles the symptoms rather than the causes. He suggests that celebrities bring their ‘star power’ to raise public awareness about development issues, but there is often a tendency to individualise and isolate problems and that broader issues of politics and cultural imperialism are often glossed over.

It is probably fair to say that Tom’s blog posts do deal with the symptoms rather than the causes, but he does touch on politics and history within education. He also talks about development projects needing to be self-educating and self-sustaining. His posts are interesting and engaging with many comments from readers. I think that the  ”Tom Hiddleston’s Guinea Field Diary’ was a roaring success and I’m sure there will be many digital trips to follow.

UNICEF have a long history of working with celebrity ambassadors. Unlike some other development/humanitarian organisations they have quickly adopted digital media strategies and learned how to engage with their supporters and their ambassadors’ supporters though social media.

Reference
Kapoor, I (2013) Celebrity Humanitarianism – The ideology of global charity

 

 

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Live Below the Line and Social Media

Yesterday I met with Stephen Brown from the Global Poverty Project who manages the Live Below the Line Challenge in the UK. Last month I wrote another blog post about the campaign as I was undertaking a trial 5 day challenge.

Live Below the Line has been running in the UK now for 4 years. Last year they raised £500,000 for several charities, the year before it was £188,000. I’ve been fascinated with this campaign ever since I first heard about it a few months ago as I think it’s an excellent way to combine fundraising with awareness raising. I asked if I could meet up with Stephen to discuss two areas that interest me the most: social media and celebrity advocacy.

Below the Line have two main aims for this years campaign: participation in the challenge and raising brand awareness. For deepening engagement and brand awareness they target the national media, and to encourage participation they target the local/regional media. Nationally they are very interested in publications such as Heat Magazine and the Daily Mail as they hope to change mainstream perceptions on aid. I asked Stephen if he feels that celebrities are important for non-profit organisations to deliver their message. He believes that in order to get coverage from the mainstream media it is essential to have celebrity support otherwise they simply aren’t interested. For example, they managed to get coverage by the Daily Star this year as they had a small quote from Gordon Ramsey who had made a recipe for their website. They also had potential coverage by Channel 5, Sky TV and Sky News – that was until they realised that they had no ‘A’ list celebs taking the challenge. I’ve worked with, and in, the media for a long time, but I didn’t quite realise how shallow they can be. Below the Line have tried to get celebrity supporters but they insist that they must take the challenge. It is important to them that the celebrity has integrity and cares deeply about the cause. This makes their agents/publicists nervous who are often risk adverse when it comes to their clients ‘public brand’. Securing a top celebrity is a key milestone for next year.

So what about social media. Last year 11% of their participants signed up for the campaign via social media. A lot lower than I thought. However this year that number is already up to 18% and they have employed a paid intern specifically to manage their Facebook and Twitter channels. On Twitter they engage with their audience, retweet stories, hold competitions etc. They also actively contact celebrities and politicians on Twitter to see if they can raise awareness. Melanie C tweeted about the campaign on their launch date and she has 373,392 followers.

melanie-c

This year they’ve produced a Facebook App which has recipes from celebrity chefs and also allows you to upload and share your own recipes. Participation is not great at the moment but there’s still time. They also have a video due for release the week in April from the makers of the #danceponydance viral.

I’m surprised that the Below the Line campaign hasn’t spread more on social networks. It’s a quirky challenge and I thought it would attract a young demographic who would then share the challenge with their friends.

 

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How Charity:Water use Social Media

I was perusing Twitter the other day and came across a presentation by Paull Young (@paullyoung) who is Director of Digital Engagement at Charity:Water and was inspired by his talk.

Charity:Water are a relatively new charity which started in 2006. I’ve seen a couple of their videos before but not really heard much more about them. Within the presentation Paull explains about their marketing strategy and how they raise 75% through their digital channels and social media. They were the first charity to have 1 million followers on Twitter and now have nearly 1.4 million followers. They have 248,000 likes on their Facebook page. Compare this to WaterAid in the US which has 28,000 likes. Charity:Water were also one of the first three brands on Instgram and have over 80,000 followers. They attribute their success on Instagram to the quality of their photography. Smiling faces and clean water images share! In fact through their marketing communications their emphasis on strong design and image is evident – their annual report is stunning. The only other charity annual report I have seen that is so design-led is by Invisible Children. Is it a coincidence that two charities who are incredibly successful at social media marketing apprecaite and understand the value of good design? Charity:Water also have a very clean website with simple and effective information architecture. The photography is beautiful and portrays a powerful message.

An innovative addition to their digital comms is a microsite ‘My Charity Water’. Every single dollar that is donated by the general public goes to providing clean water for those in need and every dollar is tracked via GPS and photos so that individual donors can track the impact that they have made. One of the ways people can fundraise is to give up their birthdays and ask their friends and family to donate to Charity:Water instead. They have had over 15,000 people give up their birthdays including several celebrities such as Justin Beiber and Will and Jada Smith.

As a parent of two young girls it is the emotional story of a nine year old from Washington State called Rachel Beckwith that moved me. Rachel gave up her birthday as a nine year old so that she could help provide clean water for people in Africa. She raised $220 and vowed to raise more on her 10th birthday. Rachel was tragically killed in a car accident before her 10th birthday. As a memorial her parents asked people to donate to her campaign and literally thousands did, raising $1.2 million.

Charity:Water truly understand the power of digital and social media. I look forward to seeing future innovations.

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