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Newsletter #857: The “8 Ways to Make a Charity Promotion Worth Talking About” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Most businesses do some sort of charitable partnership, which is great. But, unfortunately, most aren’t worth talking about and don’t get the recognition they deserve.

The brilliant team at Threadless, however, has everyone excited about their Good Shirts program to help UNICEF deliver some much-needed aid to kids in Africa.

A few ideas you should borrow from this project:

1. Make it outrageous
2. Make it easy to participate
3. Make it interesting for big talkers
4. Make it naturally viral
5. Make it match your core business
6. Make it fun
7. Make it forwardable
8. Make it 100%
9. Check it out: See the designs and get involved

1. Make it outrageous

Every word of mouth initiative takes something unexpected, outrageous, or unbelievable to inspire conversations. For this campaign, one of the shirts for sale costs $300,000. Buying it means UNICEF can make a cargo flight of goods to those in need. It may just be the world’s most expensive T-shirt, and it’s a fantastic reason to tell a friend.

Threadless and UNICEF designs

2. Make it easy to participate

For $18.57 you can buy a shirt that gets mosquito nets for those who need it. That’s an affordable, easy way for a lot of Threadless fans to get involved. There’s no team to organize, no fundraising campaign to lead — just a simple purchase that’s easy to do and easy to talk about.

3. Make it interesting for big talkers

As important as it is to make your charitable project accessible for all your fans, getting just a few big influencers involved can dramatically increase the buzz. That’s what their $300,000 and $75,000 shirts are all about. As soon as a celebrity buys one, they’re going to get a ton of press (they sold a $300,000 shirt!) and every fan that bought one of the other, cheaper designs gets to tell friends they’re also involved in the campaign.

4. Make it naturally viral

These shirts are goofy. They’re drawings of whatever your donation is supporting — a worm represents deworming tablets, there’s a water bucket for a family water kit, and a milk carton for therapeutic milk. Strangers are going to ask about them, and people familiar with the project are going to immediately recognize them. The shirts themselves are naturally viral, and they’re going to lead to a whole bunch of conversations about Threadless and this great cause.

5. Make it match your core business

Threadless is selling shirts for charity — and everyone knows them for selling great shirts. Too many businesses attempt a complex cross-promotion (you know, the law firm doing some walk for something, etc.). But if you can tie your charitable campaign to what your business does, a) it’ll be better for the charity (because you’re good at it and know what you’re doing), and b) it’ll be good for business, because more people will learn what you’re great at.

6. Make it fun

Charitable causes face a common word of mouth challenge: People don’t like to talk about difficult topics. The issue Threadless is helping to address isn’t a light one — it’s about kids facing starvation and disease in one of the world’s most desperate regions — but the simple, light-hearted shirts give talkers an easy way to show their support without having to go into the details of the issues.

7. Make it forwardable

Like every great word of mouth project, everything about this campaign is easy to share. Each page is ready to share on Facebook and Twitter, they’ve got embeddable videos you can use, and the whole thing kicked off with a great email that survived lots of forwarding (trust us, we tested it as we all passed it around the office and to our friends). You can do all the other ideas in this newsletter perfectly, but if it isn’t easy to share, your word of mouth quickly dies.

8. Make it 100%

All of the proceeds from the sale of shirts are going to support this cause. If you’re going to partner with a charity for a promotion, you should also go all the way. You’re doing all this work to rally fans around a cause you believe in, and you’re going to risk breaking their trust with some policy about covering your costs? Whenever you’re asking your talkers to give 100%, you have to lead by example.

9. Check it out: See the designs and get involved

Learn more about this amazing cause, see all 12 designs, and find out how you can get involved.

Check it out: Threadless

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  1. 14 November – charities and Google+, changes in campaigning and social media fatigue | Good Comms News - November 14, 2011

    […] 8 ways to make a charity promotion worth talking about Andy Sernovitz […]

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