Monday, 15 March 2010

Social Media Envoy as New 'Online Celebrity' Endorsement

Last week the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria announced a new initiative as part of their work to increase awareness of the disease and its simple means of prevention, which demonstrates a clever way of utilising social media. The Social Media Envoy for Malaria, which has gained the support of well-known social web and broadcast media figures, has been organised as a way to broadcast the UN’s mission of eliminating deaths caused by the disease by 2015 to as wide an online audience as possible.

Those who have signed up to the envoy have made a commitment to use their social media channels to publish at least one issue-relevant message per month in promotion of the cause. Big online names such as Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Mashable’s Pete Cashmere, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post and Randi ‘Facebook’ Zuckerberg are to tweet, blog and publish other relevant online material as a means to inform their audiences on the issue and update them on any developments of the UN programme. The 25th of April, World Malaria day, see’s the start of this web campaign which will last a whole year.

On her involvement with the envoy, Huffington said: “Their plan to use social media to keep the spotlight on the goal of eradicating deaths from malaria by 2015 is smart, forward-thinking, and, given the growing reach of social platforms, very pragmatic. It’s consciousness-raising and movement building 2.0.”

Considering the global audience the envoys have access to, the potential reach of the campaign message is huge. Taking the more prominent names as an indicator of the possible audience, Arianna Huffington has just under 400,000 twitter followers aside from the Huffington Post’s readership,Randi has 150,000 facebook fans to communicate with and Biz Stone is followed by over 1 and a half million twitter users who it is hoped will be exposed to and subsequently become engaged with the malaria issue. In exploiting the potential reach and influence of these online opinion leaders the campaign is exploring a new type of ‘social web celebrity endorsement’ which I anticipate will provide the campaign with significant public reach.

Although the power of the world wide web is increasingly recognised and utilised in communication and PR campaigns I view the UN social media envoy as operating on a completely new level in comparison to other similar online campaigns (such as The Robin Hood Tax discussed below). In using these new media figureheads as spokespeople, who also have the best social media expertise alongside these huge public audiences, the campaign is operating from a particularly strong basis.

Hopefully the envoys will go beyond the minimum requirements of the commitment they made and use their 'online celebrity’ status to full potential for what is an obviously worthy cause.


  1. I read the post then watched the video which helped me to understand what the celbs were up to, although the video could do so much better without the weird emo kids.

    It’s interesting that the UN is engaging both digital media and the new digital media stars. The title 'social media envoy for malaria' just sums up how much social media has penetrated all organisations. It very clever and shows that the UN is keeping up to date with new developments. I suppose that digital PR tactics such as those shown in this example would only ever work for a not for profit organisation. Most celebs like to be seen supporting good causes and there is the added bonus that a twitter update is easy for them to do. I doubt any of them would be the McDonalds social media envoy.

  2. Yeah, the video is a bit cheesy but I think it does highlight the potential audience for the campaign.

    I think non-profits definitely have the advantage when it comes to social media outlets, which is something which is becoming more noticeable with the amount of similar campaigns springing up online. But as was mentioned in class yesterday, commercial orgs seem to be struggling to engage audiences with these tools. Really all they are doing is online advertising though right?

  3. I think celebrity endorsements are an ever present factor of modern society. They come in the simplest of formats from saying you like a CD, wear a particular type of shoe brand to the more prominent endorsement of a political figure. These have become even easier to convey from the likes of social websites and can be seen by the masses. Endorsement of a charity is simply a free(ish) way for a company to get media exposure and will allow the celeb to be seen as some sort of 'saviour'. It would seem it is a win win for both in respect of PR.

  4. Since social media is really all a big popularity contest, it's good to see it used towards a worthy cause. Non-profits often have limited budgets and resources so this is a very effective way for organisations of all sizes to broaden their reach and audiences.

  5. Especially for NGOs the social media networks provide a big opportunity to save money and to reach a wide auditorium. Combined with the integrated and realised "two-step-flow theory" by engaging the well-known public persons and the attempt to reach the most people with the "snow ball system" I think those campaigns can be really successful.