Perhaps you’ve heard of Hélène Campbell. She’s a 20 year-young woman in need of a double-lung transplant. If you have heard of her, it’s because of social media. Rather than silently hope people are signing organ donor cards to help her and others like her, Hélène and her friends have put organ donation into the public dialog. Their efforts can be credited for helping Canada’s Trillium Foundation receiving at least 3,300 new organ donation cards and an increase in the number of people who become registered organ donors at BeADonor.ca. According to Trillium, each signed donor card can save up to eight lives. That’s 26,400 people who may benefit from Hélène’s story.
Today, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson will declare March 30, 2012 Hélène Campbell Day in a ceremony at City Hall (Hélène may join via Skype from Toronto where she is staying while waiting for the call for her surgery). There will be a procession to a rally on Parliament Hill immediately after the City Hall event.
A champion of organ donation (analysis performed using Sysomos MAP)
It began with a well constructed web site. The design, navigation and information is clean — uncluttered. The story is simply told and the goal is clear. Hélène maintains a very personal blog on the site which reduces the distance between herself and the reader.
Hélène’s website is hosted by a very capable service provider. Webadmin Taber Bucknell informed me that Squarespace (which he learned about from the TWiT network) has been outstanding in keeping up with the traffic demands imposed on the site. As near as Taber can tell, the site has never been down.
On January 16, Hélène released a video on YouTube. The video set up a campaign which would launch three days later. The goal of the campaign was to get as many people as possible to “tweet up a storm” to @JustinBieber requesting his help to raise awareness of organ donation using the hashtag #BeAnOrganDonor. Why Justin Bieber? As Hélène says in the video, “because he has a ton of followers.” It was a simple call to action from an enthusiastic and energetic young woman.
And tweet they did. In the 14 days leading up to the launch of the video, there had been only 512 tweets referencing Hélène or using #BeAnOrganDonor. Twitter activity picked up with the launch of the video, resulting in 476 relevant tweets from January 16 to 18. Then came January 19. The campaign kicked off with 15,816 tweets. An additional 2,257 tweets trickled out on the 20th.
Justin Bieber joined the conversation on Saturday, January 21. He issued four tweets that day. That set off the firestorm; 39,634 tweets and 12,378 visits to Hélène’s website (a 100-fold increase in web traffic) . A thank you video was posted to YouTube by Hélène before the day was out. In the week that followed, the Trillium Gift of Life Network reported 1,200 new registered donors at BeADonor.ca during that weekend; 20-50 is the daily norm.
Hélène had been in the news about her situation before this campaign. The Bieber-effect made her a media sensation. That also fuelled momentum online. As we’ve seen in many cases of personal, consumer and political issues, social media and traditional media have a symbiotic, sometimes co-dependent, relationship. Social media can both drive the story and become the story.
A second campaign was launched with another video on February 8. The target this time was actress and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Traffic had dropped to 826 relevant tweets in the week leading up to the launch of the campaign. There were 4,096 tweets on February 9 and 1,792 heading into the weekend. Overall, the campaign was a quieter one with 7,308 total relevant tweets up to and including February 15. That would prove to be an inaccurate measure of this particular campaign. Even the big splash on February 16 had relatively little consequence online (compared to the Bieber-effect); 2,543 tweets and roughly 3,500 website visits that day.
No, the payoff of this effort was an unexpected appearance on The Ellen Show. This of course gave Hélène some major US media exposure and led to a whole new round of Canadian media attention. Suddenly the importance of signing organ donor cards was getting major media support. As many NGOs and non-profit organizations will tell you, you can’t pay for that kind of awareness.
A third campaign targeted Canadian celebrity hockey commentator Don Cherry, himself new to Twitter. His March 24 tweet “@alungstory Helene I’m a supporter organ donation. My son Timothy had a kidney transplant when he was 13. Keep fighting for a great cause” was one of 289 that day. Hardly a drop in the bucket compared to Justin Bieber or Ellen DeGeneres. Still, a very important win for the cause. Their efforts reached an audience they hadn’t yet gone after. Though, their hope was Don Cherry would bring the subject up on CBC’s very popular hockey analysis segment, Coach’s Corner.
While some may question the choice of Cherry as a meaningful online spokesperson, it’s clear Hélène and her support team are being strategic in picking their targets. It’s clear they’re hoping to activate a variety of demographics through a variety of media. And with today’s events at City Hall and Parliament Hill, they score new victories in their campaign.
Here’s hoping Hélène’s efforts help connect her with a perfectly matched, perfectly healthy set of lungs.