The irresistible power of storytelling for organizations

“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more

#ImagineaSchool: Documenting Syrian children’s struggle for education

Some students want better grades. Others want to make the basketball team. Over 187,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon just imagine attending school.

When it comes to powerful international development campaigns, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to lead by example. #ImagineaSchool is a multimedia campaign launched by UNICEF Lebanon, giving a rare insight into the lives of Syrian refugee children and their struggle for education. Through the campaign, we are invited to hear  and share their stories, as well as support their cause.

According to UNICEF, around half of Syrian school-aged children – over 187,000 – are out of school in Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. Instead of getting an education, thousands of Syrian children, some as young as six years old, are working in agriculture, factories, construction and on the streets. #ImagineaSchool provides an intimate look into the lives of these and other children.

What makes this campaign so powerful is its interactive documentary, which immerses viewers into the children’s daily struggles for education. The documentary invites viewers to choose from a selection of challenges that they themselves faced in school. Once these challenges are selected, text and video testimonials tell the story of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who have faced similar challenges, albeit in a much worse context. Some of them are no longer in school and others continue to struggle to stay in school.

Through powerful before and after photos, we see that that all five of the classes presented in the documentary have lost a significant amount of students. We hear about why some children don’t go to school – “I want to work to help my family. I wish I could study in the afternoon,” says one child – and what children that are in school struggle through everyday. “Here, we have a problem with the bus. It’s small so sometimes we fall out of the window,” says one student. “They always hit us at school, so what do I get out of going here?” says another.

But despite these struggles, hope remains.

“I want to learn and read more. I want to become a great journalist and report the news,” says a young boy. And in another profile, a young girl underscores the power of her education: “If something happened tomorrow in Syria, my knowledge would be a weapon.”

Drawing attention to homelessness and hunger

An award-winning campaign for Crossroads Community, a homeless shelter and food pantry in New York City, used street art to engage and mobilize people numb to the plight of the homeless and hungry.

The campaign first illustrated faces with mouths as garbage and other debris on various streets across New York City. The street art was then photographed and recorded, messages were added to them, and posts and online films were created on social media.

This content was increasingly shared across the main social media networks. In addition, the posts and films appeared on international blogs and online publications. What’s more, chalk kits were requested by local schools and businesses to create ambient street drawings. Individuals from different cities around the world including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, London, Milan and Sydney, contributed and shared street art, helping the campaign go viral.

As a result, the number of individual donations to Crossroads Community went up by 63 percent, the number of volunteer applicants by 20 percent, and the number of groceries provided to those in need by 50 percent.

As stated in the video below, the campaign “shared a simple idea to inspire people of all ages, all over, to get involved, proving that when we all come together, we can make a big difference in helping erase hunger.”


To mark its 70th anniversary, UNICEF has invited writers from all over the world to pen a short story on the theme ‘what I want for every child’. Hundreds of writers have participated in the ‘Tiny Stories’ campaign, including famous authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Paulo Coelho.

Everyone is invited to share these stories or their own on Facebook and Twitter via the #foreverychild hashtag. Visit the campaign website to learn more.

But before you go, here’s my story:

The Genie

One day, I met a genie who claimed he could give me anything I wanted for my child.

“What is it you want for your child?” the genie asked confidently? “Is it health, safety and the best education?”

“That’s good, but not quite it,” I said.

“Very well, do you also want to equip your child with the tools for wonder, adventure and possibility?” he responded.

“That’s even better, but still not it,” I said.

Growing frustrated, the genie responded: “You are very demanding! But I know what is missing from the list: eternal peace, love and hope.”

“Still better, but not enough,” I maintained.

And now the genie was distressed. “Surely these are the greatest gifts you could give to your child! What more could you want?”

And I responded: “What I want for my child is what I want for every child. Can you grant me that?”


Social media for social marketing: Can hashtags, viral content and online networks influence behaviour?

In the age of hashtags and viral videos, can social media be a powerful tool for social marketing? As a digital communications specialist I’m keen on finding examples and best practices.

First thing’s first though – it’s worthwhile to clarify the distinctions between social marketing and social media marketing, as people often confuse the two.

Social marketing, as defined by the International Social Marketing Association, “seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.” Social media marketing on the other hand utilizes social networking websites specifically as a marketing tool, to build brands, market products and services and broaden stakeholder reach. But it’s worth noting that the two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Different combinations of these approaches can be used in an organization’s marketing strategy.

Here, I’m concerned with social media as a tool supporting social marketing. With that said, I’d like to share the first of three examples that I believe exemplify this link in very creative ways.

The 2014 #LikeAGirl campaign, run by the feminine hygiene company Always, used a powerful video and social media to show that this phrase – which had become an insult – could be empowering. The campaign included elements of both social marketing and social media marketing, as described above.

Using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, people were encouraged to comment on and share the video, as well as the #LikeAGirl hashtag, together with examples of how the phrase can mean amazing things. A range of social media influencers – including celebrities and government leaders – participated. By the official end of the campaign, the #LikeAGirl video was viewed more than 90 million times, becoming the number two viral video globally. And there were 177,000 #LikeAGirl tweets in the first three months of the campaign. #LikeAGirl generated significant global awareness and changed the way people think about the phrase. Positive perceptions of the phrase increased from 19 to 76 percent among the youth surveyed. What’s more, two out of three men who participated in the campaign said they’d now think twice before using ‘like a girl’ as an insult. Read a case study on the campaign

Look out for two more social media for social marketing examples in a future post.