Back in June of 2008, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center was desperately in need of money. They had 40 days to pay a $46,000 termination fee with their phone carrier that supported their 1-800-SUICIDE number, the nation's most popular suicide prevention hot line. Without this money the line would go dark, leaving thousands without access to help and hope.
After several phone conversations with KBHC, we decided we would produce a video that would raise awareness of this dire situation, explain why KBHC was in debt to the phone carrier, and highlight the public need for the hot line. Fortunately, Frank Warren of the popular site PostSecret.com and former 1-800-SUICIDE crisis line counselor was interested in helping out by agreeing to be in the video and hosting it on his site.
In the course of the next three days we wrote a script and then filmed the video using green screen. After a quick edit, we had four minutes of video. At the same time DC Media Makers had scheduled a meet up. I asked Jill Foster, one of the group's coordinators, if I could screen the video for feedback. The response was critical and extremely helpful. By incorporating almost all of the suggestions offered by the group, we were able to cut the video down to almost 2 minutes, convey our message, and ask for donations in a nice succinct package.
Over the next week we distributed the video on 15 different video sharing sites and put the word out via Twitter. Frank Warren also posted the video on his site. Days later, people were re-tweeting the original tweet and several folks started blogging and embedding the video on their sites. When we saw the number of blogs that were supporting the cause, Frank Warren decided to start a Save 1-800-SUICIDE blog roll on PostSecret.com. The effect of highlighting blog posts by people who shared their own experience with suicide inspired others to embed the video and share their stories as well.
After a couple more weeks, To Write Love on Her Arms, a popular MySpace page, hosted the video, inspiring several young people to make their own videos for the Save 1-800-SUICIDE cause on YouTube. Also, the Blogher network got involved and offered KBHC free banner PSAs that were rotated across their network.
After 40 days and all was said and done, we raised $1.2 million in cash and pledged commitments, recruited more than 400 hot line volunteers, and reinvigorated the spirit of KBHC. Woot!
This example is a testament to the power and ROI that social media offers people and organizations. Despite KBHC putting out a press release at the start of this campaign, it was never picked up by traditional media.
(Watch the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Ir2_47_LI)