UK water rescue group targets Y Generation vloggers in innovative social media campaign

This is a pretty interesting example of a nonprofit approaching vloggers to get publicity.

Here’s my stab at what the campaign plan seems to have involved:

  • a UK rescue nonprofit (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) realizes that they have low brand awareness among younger generations, and this is a concern for the long-term sustainability of the organization
  • an innovative PR type realizes that sure, they could produce a video and post it on YouTube, but really, how many people will watch their video?
  • the innovator comes up with the idea to identify a dozen top vloggers in this demographic that are active on YouTube in the UK, and to use them as leverage to reach bigger audiences
  • knowing that pitching to bloggers is about relationships, the nonprofit decides that this will be just campaign #1. Presumably the real goal (whether it be fundraising or seeking volunteers or having more ocean-adrift people knowing of the group’s existence) will be campaign #2
  • they decide to send free stuff, to build intrigue and possible loyalty
  • they plan and fund a full weekend and invite these younguns to experience some of the organization’s activities – sort of a modern-day junket
  • food, as on any junket, and adventure, and importantly, an opportunity to gather with fellow vloggers
  • opportunity to experience a simulator, don survival suits, and experience a survival situation in a wave pool, complete with darkness, lightning, stormy seas, morale-boosting singalongs and being winched up into the air and safety
  • taken out to sea to experience large and small boat-riding, and to tow an unexpected boat into shore

The only downside I see in the outcome is that the standout message I heard from this one particular vlogger and the several others I viewed was ‘fun’ rather than ‘danger’ or ‘important rescue organization’.

I wonder if this might have been helped if the weekend included an opportunity to hear from some real people who almost died and were genuinely terrified at sea, and who were enormously grateful to the organization, as a result. That might have balanced the ‘boats, lightning, storms, what fun’ tone with some graver reflection, and heightened awareness about the important work done by the group.

Perhaps a simulated rescue in the ocean would have been the important missing element that, without it, left the sea trip to stand out as just fun, fast boat rides. This part of the exercise as it was might be harder to justify as a cost to existing donors.

I’m still curious why Y Generation – young adults – were selected as the target.

The vlogger said that the group told him his generation have a bad rep, and participating and then talking about it could be a way of righting misperceptions about people their age. He received a hoodie, with a note in it asking him to challenge his viewers to be part of re-branding their generation. Perhaps the ‘help re-brand your generation’ hook aimed to get past cynicism, to get the participants on board.

But why target this generation in particular? Is it because they’re the age group most likely to be a bit reckless, have boat accidents, die of boat/drowning mortalities? Is it because social media is a cool, huge medium, and this is the largest audience for the medium so it would be the appropriate one to target?

Also, some of those they target are Generation Y, and as opposed to X’s, Y’s – those born post-1980 – seem to have a pretty good reputation – social conscience, activism and the like. Perhaps that’s the point, they wanted to target those post-apathy, who might jump onto a cause.

From a PR perspective, was the campaign a success? Maybe not hugely at this stage, in that the vlogs I saw didn’t mention what RNLI does or who they are or where the organization is going. But if the goal of campaign #1 was establishing the relationships, then the success of it can’t really be judged until the next phase of the campaign.

Meantime, I think the organization needs a new name. Nowhere on the home page, the about us page, or about six others I looked on (before trying a search function) was I able to read what the acronym stands for – not very user-friendly. If the young audience is who they’re targeting anyway, maybe the dozen bloggers can come up with a new name that would be relevant to them.

One comment

  1. Lisa,
    this is intriguing. Of course, not all non profits can go to these lengths to build relationships, but this has me thinking of ways this idea could be applied to equally deserving (but broke) organizations…hmm, including the one I belong to…
    thanks for the food for thought!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s