This is a guest post by Julian Bond, social media/marketing manager at the Detroit Medical Center.
In the age of constant viral marketing and short attention spans, it’s often difficult for an organization to get its message out, especially though a social media medium such as YouTube. But as we found with our “Walk for Love” video series at the Detroit Medical Center (DMC), with a nice story, a touch of social media and some good support, an organization can bring its messaging to life.
A nice story
A few months ago, my colleague Dan Fuoco (who helped co-produce “Walk for Love”) and I learned about the story of Jennifer Darmon. Jennifer, who is 28 and from Windsor, Ontario, was paralyzed in a car accident more than two years ago and decided to do her physical therapy at our DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM)’s Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery.
In late 2010, Jen was talking to one of the directors over at RIM and mentioned she was planning on getting married in April 2011. In addition to her hard physical therapy work so she could get stronger and be more independent, Jen also set a goal to walk down the aisle for her wedding without the use of her wheelchair.
The RIM director told us about Jen’s story, and we decided to start a video series on our YouTube page entitled “Walk for Love” that would follow her progress in achieving her goal. We simply wanted to let the world know about Jen and her inspiring journey, and we hoped we would just get a “few” views for our videos.
A touch of social media
When we released the first “Walk for Love” video, we initially contacted a Windsor newspaper to see if the editor wanted to pick up the story for a local feature. A week later, people started to notice our YouTube video from the Windsor paper’s article and our shares on our DMC social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
A week later, Carolyn Clifford from WXYZ-TV came to do a feature on Jen and her upcoming wedding. During this time, the views on the videos and our #WalkforLove Twitter hashtag were growing every day.
Two weeks later, positive word about Jen’s story had spread so fast that national news outlets like CBS News’ The Early Show and ABC’s World News Tonight came down to the DMC to do feature stories. Only a few days later, we were sending out live tweets during Jen’s wedding.
Without any press releases and simply armed with telling a story through a portable FlipCam, we saw that the compelling story of Jen’s journey took on a life of its own and grew almost overnight with the help of social media.
Some good ol’ support
Overall, the story of Jennifer’s very emotional walk down the aisle wouldn’t have been as widely featured as it was without the support from the viewers who helped spread the word. The “Walk for Love” YouTube videos have grown to more than 45,000 views and still counting because of viewers wanting to follow Jen and her story from beginning to end. We cannot count how many positive comments we’ve received from viewers who have cried, laughed and been inspired by the videos. We even had a few people who were also paralyzed like Jen who wanted to start their physical therapy at our Rehab Institute due to seeing the great work our therapists were doing with Jen.
I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that one of my job duties would have included attending a wedding in Canada. I’m very appreciate of the opportunity and invite from Jennifer and the great team at DMC to cover such a great story, and I’m glad so many people both locally and nationally got to experience it.
What experiences do you have related to a compelling story taking on a life of its own thanks to social media?
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this post are Julian’s alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Detroit Medical Center.
About Julian Bond
Julian Bond is the social media/marketing manager for the Detroit Medical Center, where he helps lead social media efforts and outreach in metro Detroit, Michigan. These efforts include helping develop the DMC blog, DMC social media home site and maintaining the individual Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr sites for the DMC. Offline, Julian enjoys hanging out around metro Detroit, being a big pop culture fan and enjoying a good slice of pizza. Connect with Julian on Twitter at @Julian_Bond.