Public Relations Firm Blunder

PR Campaign Helps Bears Instead of Cancer Patients

They thought they were donating money to assist cancer victims, but they ended up adopting a polar bear. Ronn Torossian says this is how the strength of an idea cannot compete with poor systems or human error.

Here’s the story…

The campaign began as a social media campaign compelling women around the world to post selfies while wearing NO MAKEUP. The campaign was a smash hit, raising millions of pounds for a British cancer charity. Even international celebrities like Beyonce and Rihanna joined the #NoMakeupSelfie hashtag campaign. But, not all the money made it to the cancer charity. Some was accidentally diverted to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Apparently, the campaign came first, with selfie takers “spontaneously” donating to campaigns for cancer awareness. Eventually, the cancer charity, Cancer Research UK, set up a text number to encourage donations. According to their website, the hashtag sparked what they called an “unprecedented increase” in donations that raised more than 8 million pounds (about $13 million) in less than six days.

The charity has vowed to invest the money in clinical trials to fight cancer. Later, it came out that some people who wanted to donate to the charity ended up sending money to UNICEF instead.

Others asked about adopting a polar bear through the World Wildlife Fund. The mistake happened because all three charities allowed people to donate through the same British SMS number…but using different words. People who texted “donate,” instead of “beat” ended up sending cash to UNICEF. Others, who texted “bear,” ended up accidentally asking about adopting through WWF.

UNICEF and Cancer Research UK got together, and ended up figuring out that the mix up cost the cancer fund more than 18,000 pounds. UNICEF has agreed to transfer the funds…but if they hadn’t been found, that would have been a high price to pay for lack of clarity.

The lesson? When taking advantage of the convenience of technology, make sure your willing donors know EXACTLY what to do.