This article is running as part of a series spotlighting the winners of the Inaugural “Video Marketing Excellence Awards” Presented by OpenSlate and VideoInk. The winners were selected by our panel of esteemed judges, and were announced on VideoInk.
In 2014, the news of the ebola virus rippled across the airwaves, terrifying millions of people around the world about the risks of traveling, contracting the disease, and dying. Survival didn’t appear to be an option, the main reports by national and international media were about death. The ebola virus was misunderstood, and that misunderstanding presented an opportunity to correct the message using media across platforms; to not only educate but to elevate the reality that survival was possible. And so social impact media company PCI Media Impact teamed with Seattle-based Vulcan Productions to devise a campaign that would put Africa’s most popular media to work — radio, television and social media — in concert with eachother.
The goals — to inform how to reduce transmission, to reduce fear and correct myths being perpetuated by media, to help reintegrate survivors back into their communities, and to encourage proper response to the virus so as to facilitate prevention.
Straightforward goals with what could be a pretty straightforward (and terribly boring) message. But to mix it up, and prevent listeners from tuning out, Vulcan Productions decided to focus on the survivors and “to share narratives of hope, rather than despair [about] a group of individuals who are very resilient,” said Jannat Gargi from Vulcan. #ISurvivedEbola was the outcome.
“The thought was, here are real people who have survived the virus and contracted it in different ways, some from family members or driving an ambulance or being a healthcare provider, and here are some of the things that they did to survive, get early treatment, and not spread [the virus] to family members.”
To achieve this, the campaign highlight 30 survivors from various regions in Africa. They activated social media platforms, built a mobile app for survivors and the Ebola-curious, forged partnerships with well-known groups like Africa United and UNICEF, among others, and broadcast messaging across radio shows in 12 different languages, in addition to the video series produced around the survivors.
By the numbers, the campaign permeated the airwaves with nearly as much vigor as the mainstream media coverage, having penetrated roughly 50% of the total population in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Perhaps as a testament to the scale achieved, #ISurvivedEbola reached comparable numbers on Facebook as BBC’s Ebola Community Facebook page, garnering nearly 25K fans.
Using storytelling to deliver issue-driven messages is not a novel idea, but to be able to activate a multi-media campaign that drives change in user behavior and larger cultural behaviors is more difficult to replicate time and time again.
“Depending on the circumstance, the communication tool can vary, but I think using real life stories to convey life saving messages is really important,” added Gargi when asked if there was a secret equation for making these types of social impact storytelling campaigns most effective. When working to make these campaigns as resonant as possible Gargi said “it depends on the audience. We were trying to reach the largest possible audience swiftly. We had little time to get out this messaging. The best way to reach this audience in West Africa was through broadcast and through radio. So I think it would depend on the country or countries, and how they consume information.”
*Cover Image Photo Credit: Morgana Wingard, 2014 via ISurvivedEbola on Facebook