Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Social Media for Social Change - Darius Goes West

Darius Goes West is a great example of social media being used for social change. The social media aspect is well integrated (and quite prominent) into the whole movement for a cure/awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Darius Goes West started as a documentary of Darius Weems going to California with his friends (and leaving home for the first time) to get Darius on MTV's Pimp My Ride and have his wheelchair customized. The film ended up creating - and still is - a lot of money and awareness for this disease.
To talk specifically about the social media aspect of this film-turned-foundation, on the website there is a blog with updates on Darius' health, upcoming events to raise more awareness/money (for example, his 21st birthday is coming up and there is a charity poker event to celebrate), and various deals (for example, educators can receive a free DVD). DGW also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. On the Facebook page, there are songs (Darius is an aspiring rapper), photos, and articles. Also while not created by or specifically for Darius Goes West, this foundation is participating as one of the "hidden treasures" in Geocaching, where people from all over the world use GPS to find "treasures" in the real world and then share them in an online community. The DGW DVD was made a "geocache" by a Georgia teacher who wants the DVD to eventually travel to the West Coast and back, like Darius did himself. All of this, of course, was posted on the DGW's blog.
All in all, this organization really knows how to use social media for social change to help appeal to a younger audience. As an organization who chooses to produce the film independently despite offers from production companies) in order to continue to give the majority of the profits to DMD research, it has really gotten creative on how to get the word out and keep the excitement up about the organization. Social media are perfect for this type of organization that is small and therefore cannot spend a lot of money to do marketing.

ch. 1 - the basics

The first chapter of our book, Strategic Communication for Nonprofits, discuss the basics of strategic communication. The part I like most about this chapter is its emphasis on the integration of good media relations and communications rather than having these communications seen as a small, separate part of the organization. One of my favorite (and for me, seems one of the most important) sections in this chapter is the "Good Communications Affect Your Whole Organization" box. It really emphasizes the idea that good media relations can make or break your organization and the impact it makes on society. Because all media are connected now, appealing to one may lead to coverage in several others.
I agree with the chapter when it states that nonprofits have a built-in advantage and often overlook their obvious assets when trying to promote their organization for whatever reason (and there are several of those as listed under "choosing your goals." These are incredibly thought-out too. I never realized the vast amount of goals different nonprofits would be trying to reach and how different the plan for each of these goals is. This, I think, is a important thing to remember. Understanding fully how to reach your goal is obviously the first step in creating a good strategic communications plan because the same plan does not fit all goals.
Good strategic communications are often showcased in a big event or a crisis well-managed but for the most part, the small daily tasks that go into strategic communications go a long way. I realized this when I had an internship with Oconee Medical Center's Foundation. While I was able to assist with its employee campaign, much of my job as an intern was spent updating and organizing donor lists and sending thank you letters to various donors. The employee campaign may have been more hands-on but the experience made me realize that being organized and up-to-date about donor relations (this thought could be extended to all types of relations) is a very important part of good strategic communications.