“Slacktivism” – Should you aim for a short term viral sensation or household recognition?

by Melissa Craib

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Charity PR: Should you aim for overnight fame or lasting recognition?

Charity PR pic

WE’VE all seen them, they take hold of your social media feed for a few days and then disappear into obscurity.

I’m talking about those viral campaigns for charity, the Ice Bucket Challenge, No Make-up Selfie and let’s not forget #KONY2012. Everyone jumps on board and does their part for this new trend, be it soaking yourself in freezing water or showing your naked face online, this small act hopefully along with a donation text allows us to feel good about ourselves, even I admit I have taken part in it.

However, after this small act have you became a keen supporter of the cause? Does it build a long-term relationship with the charity? In the majority of cases the answer is ‘no’.

This is referred to as “slacktivism” where an individual does something that appears to do good while achieving very little.

I’m not being cynical and I’m all for doing my part for good causes even if it is the small act of putting my change in a donation box at the shopping tills. But let’s take a look at these viral campaigns.

Jumping on the Band Wagon


Does everyone remember Joseph Kony? No, well you’re not alone. He was enemy number one in 2012 and that was all thanks to the #Kony2012 campaign.

The video quickly went viral and to do date has over 100 million views, it did achieve beneficial outcomes for Invisible Children. But interest in the campaign quickly dropped and newsfeeds slowly cleared up of any trace of #Kony2012.

I’m not just making this up, there is quantifiable evidence the spike in interest and then the sudden drop.

Kony 2012 Charity PR

Invisible Children Charity PR


You can quite clearly see the spike in searches for both #Kony2012 and Invisible Children, but the charity quickly goes back to having no searches but #Kony2012 has small peaks. Surely, it is more beneficial for the charity to remain the one people search for compared to Kony, especially when Kony features prominently in a number of Hollywood movies?

What do we gain from these short bursts of popularity? After all, we never did quite catch the notorious Joseph Kony.

Ice Bucket Challenge

In the summer of 2014 the sun was shining but everyone was positively freezing cold. Not because of the weather though, individuals were having buckets of ice water pored over them in order to achieve a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside.

I’m of course referring to the Ice Bucket Challenge, again this campaign was a social media hit and spiked the interest of many.

Ice Bucket Challenge Charity PR

Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these viral sensations and interest in Motor Neurone Disease stopped after everyone decided to stay dry.

Motor Neaurone Disease Charity PR

You can clearly see it is a cause that people will always have interest in but momentum behind the charity did disperse. Amazingly, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million in a month and thanks to these donations it led to a breakthrough in ALS research.

So these short term hits can prove to be extremely beneficial in certain cases and when you can get a campaign to achieve this sort of momentum then great. But what about aiming to achieve a lasting relationship?

Total Warrior Charity PRSee how the Holyrood PR team got down and dirty in the Tough Mudder Challenge to raise money for the SSC. A charity that helps children of all backgrounds attend a summer camp, regardless of ability to pay.

In for the Long Haul

How do you go around building the relationships that last? Those charities that you are always behind not just while it is on your newsfeed.

For a lot of people these relationships are due to a personal connection with the charity, for me that is the Meningitis Research Foundation.

But how do you go around getting these lasting supporters if they haven’t got a personal connection with a cause?

Race for Life

Well a great example is Cancer Research’s Race for Life, a yearly event with different activities ensuring those of all fitness levels can take part.

Since the inaugural event it has amassed a massive following and grows with each year. Yes, many of those donning their trainers have a personal connection with the charity but many also support the cause for a variety of different reasons.

How can you target those without a personal connection, well you create a brand and tell the stories of your charity with the help of a perfected charity PR plan from a team of experts.

Sick Kids Friends Foundation

This is exactly what we’ve been doing with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation. It is an easily recognisable charity within Edinburgh, many people will have been or will be patients at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, and for others they will have seen its stories across the media.

This is thanks to our award winning team making sure we maximise all the stories from families fundraising, events by the charity to just saying Thank You achieves the best potential reach.

Would you like to start creating long-term relationships with the help of Charity PR?

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