Whilst in Uganda I was invited to attend a press conference at UNICEF where they launched a new social media campaign. It is part of a global campaign celebrating 25 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To mark this occasion they have launched the #Imagine programme, which is an interactive digital platform designed to connect people around the world. The idea is to record your own version of Imagine by John Lennon. The famous dance DJ, David Guetta, will then make a mix using all the voices.
They are hoping to get 1 million voices for this global sing-a-along. UNICEF have an established team of celebrity ambassadors including Katy Perry and Shakira who have already contributed their voices to the mix. UNICEF Uganda have the support of several top music artists in the country Benon Mugumbya, Lilian Mbabzi, Navio, Irenentale, Mun G, Jackie Chandiru and Peter Miles. They have recorded their own version of the song.
In Uganda, they are aiming for 100,000 voices to publicly advocate to lift 8 million Ugandan children out of poverty. Jaya Murthy, Chief of Communication for UNICEF in Uganda said “This is a new type of public advocacy initiative that aims to unite thousands of citizens around the world through the power of digital media and music. We hope it will capture the public’s imagination to imagine a better future for children where all children’s rights are realized.”
I personally think 100,000 voices is too ambitious and I asked Jaya how they will reach the more remote marginalised communities. He agreed it will be difficult but is up for the challenge and I respect that! There was a large media presence at the launch but I think it will be necessary to reach the smaller regional media companies and community radio stations as well. It will be interesting to see if the power of celebrity advocacy works in Uganda. It will certainly help with seeding the campaign: Navio alone has 37,000 followers and between them they have 90,000.
This is an innovative campaign to create a social movement and I really hope that the target is met.
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.
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.
Kapoor, I (2013) Celebrity Humanitarianism – The ideology of global charity
I have always wondered how much attention celebrity news and news sites like The VIP Roll get. But on the other hand, it isn’t always reflected on celebrity videos. I was preparing a lecture the other day on the use of social media by International NGOs. During my research I watched a lot of videos on Youtube and I noticed how few views many of the celebrity videos had received.
One good example is a group of videos called “What could you buy with 50 pence” made by ActionAid with celebrities including Gabby Logan, Katherine Kelly, Sarah Alexander, Fay Ripley and Mark Watson. Now I’m not big on celebrities and I don’t even know who 2 of these people are, however, what I noticed was how each video had received hardly any views. Mainly the early hundreds, some lower. I wondered to myself – how much does it cost to produce these videos? I don’t know the answer. I presume that the celebrities offer their services free of charge. I’m sure they do. But do they get expenses? If so, how much does it cost to get 5 “celebs” into a studio? How much did the film crew get? How much was editing etc. At the end of the day – was it worth it?
I then found a video by Robbie Williams on the UNICEF channel. I’ve heard of Robbie Williams 🙂 I was amazed that it had less than 5000 views (at the time of writing). Surely with Robbie’s fan base it would attract more views and shares than this via social media? Obviously not. Again, how much did it cost to shoot? Don’t get me wrong it may be very cheap. But what is the return on investment (ROI)? What is the main objective of the video? Robbie’s film has a clear call to action to donate money to Soccer Aid. The film is also educational. Maybe UNICEF are happy with the results? Again I don’t know the answer.
So after seeing these videos and plenty more I started to wonder – Is celebrity endorsement for International Development a good thing? I was then kindly sent a case study on UNICEF about their campaign #SahelNOW and how it was endorsed by Selena Gomez. Her video has had nearly 50,000 views. She has nearly 14 million followers on Twitter and each Tweet about the campaign was retweeted around 5,000 times. I won’t go into all the detail here but the campaign was a resounding success. If you want to see more stats there’s a great slideshare – #SahelNOW: Sound the Alarm, One Million Children at Risk.
So celebrity endorsement does work, esecially when you have an ‘A’ lister who’s dating Justin Beiber (at the time). There are plenty of other success stories about celebrity endorsement via social media. You just have to look at #Kony2012.
Anyway, today I was talking to my colleague about celebrity endorsement and he kindly guided me to some work by Dan Brockington who researches Celebrity and Development. His blog is well worth perusing. The research isn’t complete yet but there are some early findings, one of which is that celebrities are often the winners of charity advocacy. That’s a discussion for another day….
A 60 page report from Visceral Business was released earlier this summer revealing which charities in the UK are most successful in Social Media. Their 2012 Charity Social 100 Index includes many organisations which work in developing countries.
With other pieces of research into social media it is not 100% sure how they came to their conclusions, however there is a great deal of information in the report that is useful. Unsurpisingly Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the most popular social media tools used by charities. These are followed by Flickr, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter. ways to cut down business cost I was surprised that only a few organisations use Slideshare as it is a fantastic tool for sharing information.
The management of social media is still mixed with a variety of roles responsible across charities including social media managers, the digital team, marketing team and other various departments.