I had the privilege of hosting a panel called Sparking Social Change With Content Integration at this year’s SXSW Interactive where we discussed how causes can be integrated into TV and films. With the increasing popularity of original web programming and the reality that millennials are a growing audience for this content, we also expanded our discussion to include how to integrate your cause into popular online web shows or series. Mike McCamon and Jenn Beard from Water.org joined us in the room, and we showed the above clip from their current Strike With Me campaign featuring the organization’s co-founder Matt Damon (yes, that Matt Damon). Since today is World Water Day, we thought we would interview Mike about what he’s learning from the Strike With Me campaign. Have you pitched popular online video personalities to promote your cause before? Share your experience in the comments.
Ad Council: Tell us how the idea for Strike With Me came about:
Mike McCamon: Water.org is an innovative, data-driven organization that is continuously experimenting with new ideas to solve the water crisis. That DNA extends into our online efforts as well. Sometime ago we began to see that occasionally using humor in clever and new ways as part of an online campaign could deliver solid measurable results. Working with a group of friends in the entertainment industry the comedic narrative, “a strike,” was selected from several concepts. From there we wanted to get others involved so we reached out to the YouTube community and many generously agreed to participate in the campaign. And finally we built an microsite, http://strikewithme.org, that asked visitors to “support the strike” by donating their voice on Facebook or Twitter. By every measure, it was a total group effort.
AC: What has been the biggest challenge of the campaign so far? (and what have you learned that you would apply to future campaigns)?
MM: Time. It took a great deal of planning and a very long time to get to our “shoot” dates with all our celebrities. At times it seemed like we weren’t getting any closer to the finish line. But once everything fell into place, then we didn’t have enough time. That sense of urgency was somewhat self-imposed since we wanted to be sure to not lose any momentum throughout the campaign. In the end, no matter how you slice it, it seems like we could have used more time.
AC: What do you hope the campaign will ultimately achieve? What will make it a success?
MM: Understanding and engagement. Most everything we do online with our outreach and advocacy efforts is designed to educate people about the water crisis and how they can get involved. For instance, we take a variety of approaches with our video production to get great results from either a longer narrative with our co-founder Matt Damon doing a voice-over, to simply interviewing the driver of a water lorry in central India in a “clip of the day.” Give people interesting stories and they want more. Only rarely does Water.org directly solicit gifts in our online campaigns. It is my view that when you do a great job at building awareness, the money will come.
AC: What do you think differentiates the work Water.org does from other non-profits doing work in this area?
MM: Without question, Water.org looks at the crisis differently from others in the sector. When we see those struggling at the base of the pyramid with water security and the indignity of not having a toilet, we see them as customers of a broken system – not people looking for a handout. There will never be enough charity in the world to keep digging more holes in the ground. We need to find new solutions, ones that tap into everyone’s intrinsic power to make the world a better place. It is no coincidence we see the problem differently. It comes from having experts in nearly every field who have dedicated their entire professional lives to what they do best then applying it against the biggest problem still facing humans on earth – lack of safe water.
AC: What can readers do to participate in World Water Day?
MM: Learn whatever you can about the water crisis, and then tell ten of your friends. Visit our YouTube channel and check out the wide variety of stories we share from all over the world. If you want to participate in this year’s online World Water Day awareness campaign, visit http://waterday.org and “donate your voice” to the cause. There are thousands of causes out there and ways for you to get involved. If safe water and toilets for the developing world isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Keep looking. Find a cause that touches you heart and help make the world a better place for us all.
As Chief Community Officer of Water.org, McCamon’s role is to shorten the distance between our work in the field and stakeholders wherever they may live. These efforts include online advocacy, grassroots fundraising, digital marketing, and Technology New Ventures.
With a strong bias toward finding innovative ways to connect others, McCamon has over 20 years of experience in various executive management and marketing roles in the technology industry at Apple, Intel, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, Sprint, and Iomega both in the U.S. and Europe. He has served as an executive director and board member of trade associations in the wireless industry. McCamon is an innovator, frequent speaker, and evangelist of cause-based online community building.