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Raising the Bar; could NekNominate really be the start of improving a charity's communications?

If you’re plugged into the online world, or at least read the papers, you’ll be aware of a new online craze called NekNominate.

If you’re plugged into the online world, or at least read the papers, you’ll be aware of a new online craze called NekNominate. You’ll have heard of it most likely for one of three reasons: a) you started it, b) you’ve been NekNominated and thrown a drink down your hatch in one, or c) you read about the two people in the UK who lost their lives taking part. It’s all over social media and everyone probably knows someone who has taken part. But could this mass appeal now be an opportunity for charities?

I imagine many people take a dim view of NekNominate. The age-old “down it fresherrrr!” routine no longer appeals to most people I know in their 20s, let alone those of more advanced years. But whatever your thoughts, few can deny that it’s caught on.

For the uninitiated, NekNominate, or #neknomination, essentially involves being chosen by a ‘friend’ to down a pint of something alcoholic on video and upload it to a social media platform. You have 24 hours to do it, then you nominate two more friends to do the same. So on and so forth.

Wreckless? Maybe. Feckless? Possibly. Dangerous? Potentially, depending on how you do it, but then so is crossing the street if you do it blindfolded on rollerblades. The point is, crazes are everywhere and few spread more quickly than those online. This presents an opportunity for charities. So who is taking it?

Whenever anything captures the imagination, it’s an opportunity for raising awareness. We use celebrities to do it, so why not social media crazes? Take James Lucking and Will Wright. They flipped NekNominate on its head, urging their friends to give a pint of blood and upload that to social media. It was so successful that Give Blood had to get in touch and ask them to fine-tune their message, as they had too many people rocking up to donate their platelets without an appointment.

Brent Lindeque, a South African, is another example of finding fame for a different NekNominate. He jumped in his car and filmed himself giving a sandwich, chocolate and a Coke to a homeless man, then nominated two of his friends to do the same. He’s got 6,950 Followers on Twitter. It’s just become 6,951 Brent.

DJ Ashley Abernethie is yet another example of how even the simple things can catch on. He racked up over 50,000 Likes and 12,000 Shares on Facebook by opting to down his coffee, rather than a pint.

The point is, even things that most people at best scoff at and at worst scorn can be useful. Ideas as distasteful to many as NekNominate can raise awareness and grab attention. They can be picked up and reversed, even by something as sensible as coffee drinking. How many charities can turn down a video with 50,000 Likes and many more viewers?

Have a quick google, you’ll see people drinking out of shoes, upside down in toilet bowls (seriously) and having fireworks thrown at them. Yet for every thousand people out there absorbing alcohol in crazy ways, there are people who are passionate about charities. It's the good turns of people like James, Will, Brent and Ashley that are gaining the most publicity. So why are charities leaving the way open to Joe Soap from Manchester hose-piping a pint of tequila through granny’s tennis racket? There’s an opportunity to get involved in a positive way.

Some charities might be keeping their distance from NekNominate because of its negative image. You might think, “Well Drinkaware can hardly get involved in this!” Well, why not? I’ve had a look at Drinkaware’s response in various news stories. It’s dull quote after dull quote and to a ‘young person’, it’s mainly just patronising.

They need to be proactive and use the opportunity to flip this on its head. Where is their “NekNominate a driver” message? What about a “You have 24 hours…to drink one drink! Take your time, drink responsibly!” communication?

Other charities with a less direct link could also get involved. How about: "In the 24 hours you have to Nek your drink, 430 people die of cancer/2,880 calls are made to the animal cruelty line/300 people will sleep on the streets of London alone. Think about what’s important - Nek Donate."

Charities can’t be expected to focus on every social media fad and try to squeeze money out of them. But I do hope that charities are at least looking at these opportunities, even if they (quite rightly) cherry pick which to get involved in.

‘Crazes’, social media or otherwise, can be harnessed to do good, like the wristband craze of several years ago. I’m yet to see a charity effectively capitalise on NekNominate, one that’s being described as “taking the world by storm.”

Come on charities, it might be worth it. Stick your nek out.

Rob White

*Update - the day after I wrote this, I found out about CoppaFeel's 'ChekNominate' campaign, which launched on the same day as I published this piece (although neither happened because of the other). Good luck CoppaFeel, great to see you taking this on!

Have we taken a good shot here? Or could we beer a bit wide of the mark? Leave us a comment below.


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