Unless they follow the expensive option of hiring celebrities as brand ambassadors, NGOs in India often find it hard to gain media mileage for the causes they support. Simply put, under the glare of intense competition for media space, column inches devoted to a cause – no matter how noble – are likely to lose out to more glamorous or “news-worthy” stories.
While the Being Human charity will always get great media coverage, entirely because of Salman Khan’s star power and not based on the actual issues the organization champions, other NGOs often find it difficult to showcase themselves adequately. Yet, it is still possible for NGOs and Foundations to attract attention to themselves without breaking the bank – this is best achieved by finding creative ways to showcase their cause.
This is precisely why NGOs can learn from the Yamuna Cyclothon. Swechha – the NGO behind the cyclothon – has not only created an event that highlights its primary cause and connects with the city’s residents, but also one that will undoubtedly get great press attention.
1) Issue visibility – The first thing that the Cyclothon does well is to put the “issue” front and center. The event is meant to highlight the sad state of the Yamuna River, which they describe as Delhi’s lifeline. By having cyclists literally travel along it, the event will draw immediate focus to the pollution plaguing the river and may also encourage more people to volunteer for the cause.
2) Great Photo Ops – What’s the next best thing to having Salman Khan flexing his muscles near your NGO’s logo? Get 1000 cyclists to wear jerseys mentioning the cause and ride their bikes along the Yamuna. The juxtaposition of the organized cyclists and the river’s pitiable state will undoubtedly attract the media, creating lasting, creative images which will find their way into prominent publications, increasing visibility.
3) Not Isolating the Event – Instead of merely having the Cyclothon, the event’s organizers have been careful to build a series of events around the Cyclothon to attract and sustain interest. These range from flash mobs and smart mobs to presentations at schools and universities across the city – raising the profile and scope of the event. None of these “sub-events” would have been too difficult to organize, yet they lend tremendous credence by converting the image of the Cyclothon from an isolated event to a movement. You see, people merely attend events; but they want to become a part of a movement.
Other NGOs looking to highlight their cause should undoubtedly take a look at how the Yamuna Cyclothon has been organized and learn some PR lessons for championing their own causes.
What: Yamuna Cyclothon
Where: St. Stephen’s College, University Enclave
When: January 22, 2012
More information: www.swechha.in