September 22, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Are some topics too serious for Facebook memes?

Are some topics too serious for Facebook memes?

I’ve argued in the past that a harmless Facebook exercise in awareness isn’t a bad thing, and that people should try and maintain perspective when it comes to social media awareness campaigns. There’s nothing wrong with using social media connections to raise issues or attempt to draw focus to a topic that is important.

I also noted that these “awareness” campaigns could get old fast.

But the most recent one that came to my attention just kind of made my stomach twist a little. People are changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters to “raise awareness for child abuse.” Something about this just doesn’t sit right with me, and I’m wondering what exactly it is. Is it the use of cartoon characters in profile pictures? Maybe. Cartoons evoke light-heartedness and fun. Child abuse does not.

But more to the point, what exactly does this DO for child abuse awareness? Is there anyone out there who doesn’t recognize that this is a problem? It’s the DO that is of interest to me. This, in my opinion, was what Malcolm Gladwell was getting at in his New Yorker piece. This is a weak-tie example. Is this causing people to dig deep in their wallets and donate money for this issue as a result of this campaign–real money–$100 and up? Is anyone donating their free time to volunteer to help out? Once again, it’s the “skin in the game” that makes a difference. “Awareness” isn’t enough. It makes people feel like they are doing something, when really they aren’t doing much at all.

I’ve been struggling to figure out why this set off a nerve for me whereas the breast cancer/bra color thing did not. I’ve come to the conclusion that it probably goes back to time I spent as a legislative aide to a state senator. I sat through a day of hearings at the Division of Family Services as part of a learning process, to see how they handled family cases so that I would know how to navigate when cases from the district came my way.  One case was a 16 year old girl who was petitioning to be an emancipated minor after experiencing years of abuse in the home. The next was a removal hearing for a 3 year old. And on and on it went. It was a grueling day, and I was only there for one day. Imagine for a minute doing this work on a daily basis. I returned to my job as a legislative aide with a whole new perspective, and it affected how I managed cases that came across my desk (which were thankfully rare).

Go read this post (and a thank you to Media Bullseye columnist Wayne Kurtzman for pointing it out). Then come back here and tell me what you think: are some topics just not appropriate for memes on Facebook?

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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