Colin Deval

Your next campaign should be hashtag self-edifying

By Colin Deval on May 12, 2017

Five questions to ask for your next campaign concept

If you want to skip this whole thing, just read these bullets. But, if you stick around, I’ll make it worth your while.

Key questions to ask yourself for your next campaign concept:

  • Can people feel and identify with your campaign?
  • Will it make them take personal ownership over that feeling?
  • Will they feel better about themselves if they take part?
  • Will they feel like it makes them look better in the eyes of others if they take part?
  • Is it empathetic to the needs, thoughts and feelings of the audience?

This article is about a way of thinking, not a list of best practices or tips. If you’re intrigued by concepting campaigns for 2017 and beyond that can rally and motivate your audience, using traditional and social media to take action, come think through this with me. First, I’m going to do a thing I hate doing … a writing trick that is basically a hatchet job. (Duck for cover) I’m going to give you a word and I’m going to define it.



Instructive or informative in a way that improves the mind or character.

An edifying discussion.

Let’s push that a little and apply it to the concept of self, social media and hashtags. If applied to “self,” edifying is then something that improves oneself. I have taken an action to improve myself, therefore my action is self-edifying.

As for social media, a hashtag isn’t just a label or footnote that helps index your campaign. If your campaign can be summed up in a hashtag, it should be done so others have an opportunity to see the campaign and build on it themselves, instead of through your brand (#YourBrandNameHere). This fosters a shared and self-edifying feeling that taps into and builds momentum in the targeted community (Note: REI’s newest campaign, #ForceofNature (don’t click this yet, wait until later in this article) or their brilliant and motivating #OptOutside campaign that has taken on a life of its own). In other words, “Look! We are improving/informing you of ourselves and our shared bond!” Your brand will come along for the ride, but your campaign should allow individuals to identify with and participate in a campaign that makes them feel like they are improving themselves and, in doing so, are forming a connection with your brand through your campaign.


Before we move on, I’m going to set a premise.

Would you agree social media is selfish in that individuals express themselves in a way that builds their character in front of others? If you like a certain team in sports and want people to know it, you post about the game. If a video made you laugh or otherwise moved you, and you want others to laugh or be moved, you share it. If you agree with an article, want others to read it and know how you feel, you post it with some commentary to spark discussion or “me too!” feedback. If you saw a film, love a song, went to a concert or ate at a hot new restaurant, you want people to know and you want to feel cool. Proud of an achievement at work? Proud of your children? Post it! Share it! Get those pictures out there! Now, just because I’m calling it selfish does not imply it’s wrong. It’s perfectly natural to want to share. It should be encouraged!

It’s human nature.

It’s social.

Today, we have the connected media at our fingertips to allow us to share those achievements, interests and opinions digitally. They create undeniable connections that give us power as individuals – and as stewards of brands.

Let’s be direct. Yes, social media is connective. It makes the world smaller and introduces people, places and things in new and more powerful ways. But social media is also a way of sharing of oneself to build one’s character. You craft an image and a story when you post or engage. You become known for it. And you’ll be conscious of what you share and how you share it since you have an understanding that what you share will build your personal brand (character, story) in the eyes of your friends, family, coworkers, connections and network.

If I improve myself, I want social media (my network) to know about it. If your brand gives me an opportunity to improve the image I build of myself in the eyes of others, I’m going to take it.


If you’re building a brand campaign, take note – this is your opportunity.Colin Deval, PR/Social Media Strategist


Here’s the rub.

You need to make your campaign about a thing that people feel and identify with. A thing they can do and profess in a clear statement that makes them feel better about themselves and improves their character in the eyes of others. What will they feel? Do they want others to know about that?

Start there and build your campaign concept around that. Plan around it. Is storytelling the best way to launch that campaign? Should you engage influencers or media? How can you get it in front of regular people? Should you create experiential events? How can you integrate paid media to best reach the audience? How can you use the content your audience is creating to build conversations and keep your momentum going?


Now apply your concept to that thinking.

Your target audience should feel something in a way that makes them want to participate with your campaign. Ask yourself, “Have I made something self-edifying enough for individuals to see themselves and say, “That’s me!” Will others see that and say, “YES! Me too!”

For an example, look at what REI is doing with #ForceofNature (it’s ok, you can click now).

That’s not #REIForceofNature or #REIisNature or #REIinNature (an example for that would be asking people to take pictures of their REI gear at work in the Great Outdoors). It’s #ForceofNature, as in, “I am a force of nature.” As in, “this is what I believe in.” As in, “do you believe in this too?” That campaign is strong, targeted and resonant. It is distributed through paid social placements, kinetic video on social media, rallying cries, media and influencer outreach, and a crisp call-to-action that drives a “Hell yeah!” sentiment that makes people want to share and participate because it will very clearly mark how they feel about themselves.

Let me draw another example using the fictional company from the Jetsons, Cogswell’s Cogs. Say ol’ Cogswell wanted to start a campaign to highlight his company’s community involvement. Its internal team in charge of the initiative was called Cogswell Cares and they wanted to get people outside of their organization involved in their projects, using the campaign hashtag #CogswellCares, to create a greater movement of community involvement. If that’s the case, and I’m a regular Joe outside of the Cogswell organization, I’m unlikely to use that because I am not a part of their organization. I don’t need Cogswell to care or to prove I care. Yes, Cogswell cares, but my action doesn’t make me a part of their organization and its campaign. My action doesn’t need to be verified by putting it through your business’s filter. But, if Cogswell started with the recognition that we are all cogs in the community, impacting one another and helping build our community together, then the campaign could manifest itself as #CogsWhoCare. It could tell stories of the myriad characters – the cogs – who make up our community. Then, when I take part in the campaign, I’m proving I am a cog of this community who cares in its progress and proves it through my actions. “Yes, Cogswell!” I would feel as I take part in the campaign. “I am indeed a vital cog in this community and I care about making it better too!”

Those campaigns, from REI and the fictional Cogswell’s Cogs, allow the audience to build their own character through participation in a campaign for the eyes of their networks. It takes work and guts to get there, but if you can, the rewards can be significant. In the end, you’re creating more than an impression with your campaign. In the end, you’re eliciting participation, creating experiences and driving adoption that proves your brand stands for something to someone. And rest assured, there’ll be others like them.

Will your audience see your campaign and put “I” or “I am” in front of it?

Will your audience see your next campaign and feel that self-edifying fulfillment?

With that in mind, the next time you have a campaign to concept, stop and ask yourself those five questions from the beginning of this article as you go. Not everything will be a motivating rallying cry, but your campaign can still reflect and move your audience so they see themselves in it and want to take part.

After all, we’re all a little selfish.

Colin Deval is a PR/Social Media Strategist at Core Creative.