Get Creative With Viral, Crowdsourcing & Gamification Tactics for CSR Initiatives

Brand engagement is as critical to your company’s survival as the cost of your product or service. Gone are the days of finding a need, creating a solution and pushing it to the masses.

Today, customers expect a full experience and relationship with a brand. They expect a quality product or service, top-tier customer engagement and corporate social responsibility. In Weber Shandwick’s 2012 survey “The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust,” 87% of consumers said a strong corporate brand is “just as important as strong product brands.” Consumers are buying an experience.

In a business environment of shrinking budgets, stretched staff, limited resources and increased workload, organizations have to find creative, efficient avenues to deepen their relationship with the community and build trust in their brand.

And that’s where creative use of social media comes in. According to another Weber Shandwick survey, many companies use social media to drive CSR initiatives, and everyone is competing for a share of voice and share of conversation. But with the social media landscape evolving every day—through emerging technologies and changes to mainstream social media outlets—it’s also critical for PR pros to stay ahead of the game. They must know who is using each medium and how.

What is a brand to do? What’s effective? What’s popular? What’s hip? How can you show that your brand is socially responsible? Most of these questions can be answered by incorporating some of the following social media assets into your corporate social responsibility campaign:


Video has become a central part of our daily communication landscape—and it can truly explode when shared across social media. Everyone can name a few videos that have caught on like wildfire: someone singing karaoke, twins deeply engaged in baby talk, Ken Jeong dancing around in a white suit. Viral videos can quickly capture the attention of the entire nation, which is why they should be instrumental to your CSR campaign.

To maximize your reach, make your video easy to share by including a social sharing component. If the viewer has to copy and paste a link, you have lost the shareability—and possibly the viewer.

Make your video easy to find. Give it a relevant title when you upload it. Use keyword phrases in your metadata. Embed your video on relevant pages within your own Web site. More and more, search engines are pulling data from videos in addition to copy from Web pages. People can’t share your video if they can’t find it.

Finally, back up your video strategy with data. Research the hundreds of case studies on the Internet to create your distribution strategy. Consider teaser videos. Consider your call to action. When the campaign gets going, analyze what’s working, what’s not working and who is sharing—key components that can help you make adjustments.


For years, communicators have used galas, balls and fitness events such as Heart Walks to create awareness around CSR. Social media gives organizations new, efficient ways to engage advocates through these events.

Social events—like Facebook chats, Twitter parties, Google Hangouts and Ustream chats, to name a few—garner millions of impressions. Political campaigns, celebrities, big brands and nonprofits have all tested social events and have found them to be full of challenges and opportunities. Never before has there been such simple, two-way communication between powerful political, industry and entertainment leaders and their audiences.

Like any good event, social events begin with planning. Poll audience members about what they’d specifically like to discuss. Prepare some topics of interest to cover in case the event slows down. Draft a “run of show” calendar for the day of the event.

Put all the event information in one place to make it easy to find and understand. Include the date, time, host/sponsor/expert, hashtag (if applicable), prizes and other compelling information. Encourage your fans and followers to invite others to join the event and to share content while it’s happening.


Crowdsourcing has become increasingly popular over the past few years. A 2012 crowdsourcing study by Weber Shandwick showed 44% of executive respondents have used crowdsourcing. Of those, 95% said it was valuable to their CSR programming.

Crowdsourcing empowers your community to be involved in your CSR efforts (see sidebar for internal strategies). It gives them a voice. Who doesn’t like to be heard? Listen to your community and take action accordingly.

Set clear objectives, metrics and rules up front. Encourage participants by providing immediate feedback to your community. The famous line, “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t necessarily apply here. They may not come at all. So do what you do best—communication is imperative.


Games played through social media have become increasingly popular. Gamification uses a game to solve problems and engage audiences (e.g., Words with Friends or Farmville). While it is much more expensive than hosting a social event, a game can help you reach your target audience in a fun and interactive way.

The game should meet a need for your nonprofit partner, like raising awareness of a heart condition. Then determine the game elements. How do you play? How do you win? What’s the end result (if any)? Is it virtual or is it a tangible?

For additional incentive, offer corporate matching within the game. For instance, for each point a user earns, your organization will raise a pre-determined amount for the cause.

Obviously, you’ll need to get buy-in from your nonprofit partner. If this area is outside your expertise, you also may need to contact a reputable vendor to get you started. PRN

[Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from PR News’ CSR & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 5. To learn more about social/digital strategies and tactics, attend the PR News Taste of Tech/Social Media Summit June 21-22 in New York City.]


This article was written by Krisleigh Hoermann (, community manager for the American Heart Association’s National Center, and Bradley Miller (, marketing communications manager at the Department of Communications and Health Outreach at the American Heart Association.