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NGOs can learn from YouTube celebrities

NGOs can learn from YouTube celebrities

This post originally appeared on Rachel Kurzyp’s blog and is reprinted here with permission.

I’m a massive fan of video. Often I think it’s an underrated or forgotten about platform in communications, especially in development. And while some NGOs do it well, most use video for the purpose of presenting marketing and advertising material. Few use it for establishing, aiding or developing their brand and online community.

While it is often easier for individuals to establish themselves on YouTube than it is for organisations, there is still a lot NGOs can learn from YouTube celebrities.

Jenna Marbles
YouTube celebrity Jenna Marbles (and her dog, Kermit)

Video is unique because it allows you to create longer content and therefore you can flesh out ideas and issues.

Also, people who are interested in watching a video – longer than 30 seconds and that isn’t about a cat – have decided to invest their time so you have their attention, unlike, say, Facebook and Twitter, where you are competing with your supporters’ friends and family.

Two YouTube celebrities that I love are Jenna Marbles and Miss Coco Peru. What makes them different, I feel, is that they are real people who look, act and sound genuine.

Video allows you get a sense of a person. It’s a chance for an organisation to establish who they are and then encourage their viewers to interact with them on a deeper level. Coco became a hit at my work after a friend who had gone through a similar quest to find Temper Tamer Tea, and found her video. We then contacted her by email. Although we didn’t expect a reply, she responded, and we chatted back and forth. Soon, she became more than just a character or celebrity to us. She became a person we could talk to and get to know. And we loved her more because of it.

Jenna, in particular, talks about everyday topics that are relatable to most people.

Sometimes she sets topics; other times, she touches on areas that she knows people want to talk about, but may not have had the chance to; or, she asks the community outright what they want to discuss. NGOs can learn from this, as they don’t always focus on two-way conversations and forget to ask their supporters what they want to know about the organisation and its work. In all cases, video lets Jenna create a space for discussion, and it’s through this two-way dialogue that her viewers realise their similarities. The space she creates isn’t some obscure world, either. Because of the nature of video, we talk with her in our everyday world; on the tram or at home, as if she were our friend. I believe this is what has helped her form her huge community of 12,790,673 YouTube followers alone. I like knowing there’s millions of other people who question, think about and laugh at the same things I do.

Finally, what I love about both Coco and Jenna is that they have a clear personality or brand.

When you watch their videos or go to their websites, you enter their world – Coco greets you with her voice while Jenna makes you “awww” out loud with pictures of her dogs, Kermit and Mr. Marbles. Both celebrities know how to use their talent and personality to their advantage, but they aren’t trying to please everybody. Because they know who they are and stick to what they know, they are quick to respond to criticism and support their views. NGOs can fall into the trap of trying to speak to everyone or trying to discuss every issue at length. If an NGO specialises in water or restoring eyesight, then it’s ok if they only talk about this, and some do this well. I wouldn’t normally engage with personalities like Coco and Jenna, but friends shared their YouTube videos with me, and now I really enjoy watching and listening to them.

NGOs should look to YouTube celebrities when trying to create genuine dialogue, spaces where two-way conversations can take place and a holistic brand. While NGOs and celebrities might start and end in different places, the tools and motives are the same – to tell stories in new and engaging ways to their community.

Who are your favourite YouTube celebrities, and what do you like about them?

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Rachel is the Communications Director at WhyDev. She is a writer and communications consultant. Rachel combines her knowledge of storytelling and technology to help individuals and organisations in the social good space build their digital story. Over the last eight years she’s worked with international and local organisations across six continents. Her writing has been printed in numerous publications including The Big Issue, Dhaka Tribune and Maya. She is also the Regional Ambassador for NetSquared, Co-founder of Nia Children’s Foundation, a speaker, trainer and mentor. Read more of Rachel’s thoughts on her website: and be sure to say hi on Twitter at: RachelKurzyp

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One thought on “NGOs can learn from YouTube celebrities

  1. yes you said it right, youtube is a good teacher

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