Director, Digital & Emerging Platforms, Baycrest
The astonishing story of Karen Klein – the school bus monitor who grabbed the Internet’s attention last week after shocking video was uploaded to YouTube of her being bullied by a group of kids – has struck a collective chord for good reason. The video has created a tidal wave of support and emotional outpouring for the 68-year-old widow. The story caught the attention of a Reddit user who put out a call to action, asking people to support her. The post resulted in donations exceeding $660,000 (and counting), the majority from total strangers who saw the video and were struck by Klein’s ability to continue to do her job in the face of such abuse.
In less than a week after the incident became public, Klein’s story has become more than just a narrative of goodwill triumphing over hate. It is a remarkable example of viral fundraising – that is to say, a campaign that sparks an immediate human interest and is shared and spread by individuals via social media recommendations. A random individual touched by the video made a simple request: to give the aggrieved bus monitor a vacation. He set a goal of raising $5,000, and within days raised well over one hundred times “the ask”.
There are several clear reasons for the success of the campaign. People saw an untouched video of a real-time incident and were sickened by the behaviour of the children on the bus. Bullying at any age strikes a chord because somewhere each of us has experienced disenfranchisement and hurt and it’s ugly. Finally, Klein was able to keep her cool in the face of the brutality, despite being touched inappropriately, threatened with being stabbed, and having her house ransacked, among other injuries and insults.
Klein’s story is being watched closely by fundraisers around the world and can teach us some important lessons about the value of a social media campaign in raising both awareness and funds.
- Begin with an authentic message. Klein’s story is about as real as it comes, offering a brutal glimpse into real-life school-age bullying.
- Keep “the ask” straightforward, here a vacation of a lifetime.
- Spread the word. There’s a reason they call videos viral when they spread like germs far and wide. The same is true for viral awareness-raising for any cause.
The lessons are ones we are paying close attention to at Baycrest, as we consider the best ways to raise awareness about innovations in aging and brain health, where social media is an integral part of how we get our messages across.
How a campaign goes viral is the stuff marketing dreams are made of. In this case, the story touched the hearts of millions while tapping into a dark cultural zeitgeist – bullying at any age. But in this brutal moment, Karen Klein herself offers all of us some valuable insights. Written on the side of her purse is the saying, “Live with integrity.” Despite being taunted for carrying the purse in the first place, in the video Klein reminds us to make the right choices, live with the consequences and be proud of our actions. “Be remarkable,” reads another saying on the same purse. And indeed she is, as are the lessons her story has taught us.
We are listening.
Corinne Rusch-Drutz is Director, Digital & Emerging Platforms, at the Baycrest Foundation.