By Andrea “Nickey” Buzek
“Guys, I’ve never been on an airplane before,” I said to Adriana and Mark, the “A” and “M” to Team AMN.
Their eyebrows raised and I got the usual: “What?” “Really?” and “That’s crazy,” although, I don’t think they understood what I meant. Finally, I stopped the conversation and grabbed both of their arms. “GUYS! I’ve never been on a plane. Our client is in LA. What if we fly to him to give our final evaluation?” I said. Much like everyone else, they were interested, but doubtful that it was attainable.
I was fully aware that a trip like this would take hundreds of dollars. I also knew that Innovative PR didn’t have the funds to send three students on a trip to Los Angeles. I am a first-generation college student, working my way through college, so I really knew that I couldn’t pay for it. It was time to take my education from the classroom to the real world.
On Oct. 17, the social media campaign “Help Get Team AMN to LA!” was created with the objective of raising $800 through donations only by Nov. 9 to fund my portion of the trip. The $800 included travel expenses, food, lodging and emergency funds, with any funding beyond trip expenses to be used to help Innovative Public Relations fund its graduate position.
GoFundMe, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WordPress were the outlets used to start crowdsourcing. Over a four week period, I posted updates about how Team AMN was preparing for our trip. It included summaries of our workweek, pictures of projects and spotlights of the team members. Facebook posts received the most attention, naturally.
Grandmothers love sharing their babies, but grandma wasn’t the only one to share the updates. Family, friends, colleagues, UCM faculty members and random people I had never met before would actually share my posts. Instagram was the second most successful outlet with a record of 77 likes for one image. Twitter and WordPress were used periodically, but there was a lack of engagement on those platforms.
The first donation came on Oct. 17, and other donations flooded in soon after. Word-of-mouth started to take over. I had people coming up to me on campus asking how the fundraising was going, asking how they could help and even handing me money from their own pocket. The amount of support the campaign received was incredible, but what would public relations work be without a crisis.
On Oct. 25, Team AMN was notified that no university-related coursework for credit was allowed to be presented on this trip due to liability issues. This was a major problem considering Help Get Team AMN to LA! was built around us doing our evaluation in LA. I channeled my inner crisis communication training and decided to notify every person, who had donated, of the change. I also made updates detailing the shift in plans to get the word out to those who hadn’t donated. The campaign was repositioned to an educational trip rather than a business one. I communicated that Team AMN would still be touring all public relations agencies mentioned and that we still needed help funding. Honesty, as usual, was the best policy. Though, I gave donors an opportunity to be refunded, every one of them told me to keep the money and to make the most of the trip.
Looking back over this campaign, it was a huge success. My goal was to raise $800 by Nov. 9, but I walked onto the plane that day with $996.99. Not only did my community help me to achieve what I set out to accomplish, but they continued to give after the goal was met. Help Get Team AMN to LA! was able to donate $434.49 back into IPR, making a difference for the graduate position. The campaign caught the attention of alumni, faculty members and colleagues. It also helped me to understand what it really takes to implement a social media campaign, as well the benefits a PR practitioner could receive from one. The lessons I learned on Team AMN’s business trip will never be forgotten, but this pre-trip lesson was definitely one for the books.
If you would like to take a look into the tactics used for Help Get Team AMN to LA!, check out www.gofundme.com/our-first-la-business-trip. Improvement is the key to success, so if you would like to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this campaign, please leave a comment or direct message us via our social media outlets.