This proposal aims to increase the number of volunteers for the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) through a series of viral videos on YouTube, advertisements on Instagram and an event to spread awareness about SOS.
The Samaritans of Singapore is the only suicide prevention centre in Singapore. It is a secular non-profit organisation which provides 24-hour confidential emotional support to people who have difficulty coping during a crisis, who are thinking of suicide or affected by suicide (Who We Are). A lot of people are aware of SOS but it is still not considered successful. There is sufficient newspaper coverage about the issue it wants to address but it does not further the organisation’s cause.
Currently, SOS has two problems – the lack of volunteers, especially for its helpline, and the lack of outreach to the youths. There have been newspaper articles on how SOS is lacking volunteers, especially for its helpline (Toh) (Siau). There are no known programmes or events stated on the SOS website that youths can help out in and even if there is, it is updated on Facebook (Tan) which does not specifically say that the youths can volunteer.
I have come up with 3 ideas on how these problems can be solved via YouTube videos, promotions on social media platforms and an event. For the YouTube videos, a series of videos will be uploaded to YouTube and publicised for it to be viral and talked about. For the advertisements on social media platforms, different designs of advertisements will be on Instagram to advertise and gather more volunteers for SOS. For the event, it will be held to spread awareness about how to get help when in need and the press will be invited to cover the event to further spread the word about the aim of the event. This proposal aims to increase the number of volunteers for the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) through a series of viral videos on YouTube, advertisements and promotions on Instagram and an event to spread awareness about SOS.
Currently, a lot of people know about the SOS – the issue they want to address and their cause. The issue that SOS wants to address is people not having someone to turn to for help, especially suicidal people. Its cause is to be an available lifeline to anyone in crisis (Who We Are). According to its statistics (Annual Report), the SOS received a total of 35,832 calls, out of which 6,250 are calls with suicide risk and 14,199 are calls with other crises. Of the 6,250 calls with suicide risk, 1,037 presented medium to high suicide risk. The SOS also provides crisis support where it receives a referral from a community partner or a concerned third party, before initiating contact with the person-at-risk and offer support. Crisis support and case follow-ups are done by professional staff via outgoing calls, emails and SMSes (Services). In 2017, the organisation has made a total of 4,229 calls, 657 emails and 4,827 SMSes. It is successful to a certain extent. According to their statistics (Statistics), the number of outgoing calls made by the organisation increased from 2012 to 2015. Although the number dropped in the period of 2015 to 2016, the number quickly rose again in the period of 2016 to 2017. The number of outgoing SMSes made has also been increasing from the years 2012 to 2017. Although the statistics for the crisis support seem to show that more and more people are aware of SOS and its cause, the number of participants for their awareness talks and outreach programmes dropped steeply in the period of 2015 to 2016 and continues to decrease. There are a number of articles that mention SOS and what they do (Wang) (Tai), so there is enough newspaper coverage about the issue. These articles usually mention the issue that the NGO wants to address. However, it is not exactly useful in furthering the organisation’s cause. Their hotline appears in a very small column on the very side of the news articles or is just one short line if even mentioned in the article.
SOS has no current ongoing campaigns. However, the Samaritans has a current campaign that has been going on since 2016. The campaign “We Listen” was launched by Samaritans in collaboration with the Network Rail started because of the high number of railway suicides. Through its striking imagery and hidden messages, this campaign aimed to raise awareness and increase understanding of Samaritans so that people see contacting them as a positive, empowering first step in seeking help and taking control of their lives. It is also a promotion of the new free to call hotline number. This campaign has been going on since 2016 and will continue for 2 years as Samaritan’s ubiquitous tagline (Samaritans). There are a few past campaigns that were conducted by SOS, including “The Hidden Pain” Campaign and the “Wear a Plaster, End the Silence.” Campaign. “The Hidden Pain” Campaign’s idea stemmed from the SOS’s Youth Outreach Project which hopes to encourage young people who have difficulties coping on their own to reach out for help and to raise awareness of the warning signs of distress which people can look out for (I’m Fine/Save Me). This campaign that was a collaboration between SOS and Publicis Singapore, featured ambigrams that were printed upside down for publishing. When first seen, the reader sees a positive phrase. However, when you turn it upside down, it is the total opposite. This symbolises the hidden feelings of the lost and the depressed (Ads). Another campaign launched by SOS in collaboration with TBWA/Singapore was the “Wear a Plaster, End the Silence.” Campaign. This campaign encourages people in supporting suicide prevention by wearing an SOS plaster on their inner wrist. The plaster is meant to be a conversation starter because the first step to preventing suicide is as simple as talking about it. Plasters are also a first-aid measure that people turn to when they get hurt, causing people to ask them what happened and how they are feeling. However, the same cannot be done for emotional pain as it is unseen. This campaign is a meaningful and interactive way to draw attention to unseen pain (World).
The problems that the NGO faces is the lack of volunteers for their helpline and the lack of outreach to the youths. There were two newspaper articles (Toh) (Siau) on how SOS needed more volunteers for their helpline as the number of volunteers is dropping and the number of incoming calls from the helpline is increasing. Sometimes, calls are left unanswered because of the lack of manpower. When volunteering for SOS, there is a requirement of being at least 23 years old (Volunteer), so there are no known programmes on their website that the youths can volunteer for. Through an email sent by the executive of Communications and Outreach of SOS (Tan), SOS organises ad hoc events that youths can actually volunteer for, such as their fundraising events. However, their updates are usually on Facebook and it does not specify who can join, so youths will automatically think it is not for them since there is the age requirement for SOS volunteers.
If the issue is left as it is, the lack of volunteers for their helplines and the lack of outreach to the youths could lead to people not getting help when they need it the most, leading to suicide rates increasing. When calls are left unanswered, those who are in need of help will start to feel like no one wants to help them and feel worst. As a result, they may do the opposite of what the organisation is trying to prevent – committing suicide. The media campaign will be able to get the attention of the public, causing them to volunteer and help. Statistics show that there is an increase in the number of youths between the ages of 10-19 committing suicide from the year 2014 to 2015. It reached an all-time high in the year 2015 with 27 teens committing suicide. Although the number has dropped in the period of 2015 to 2016, the number still stays above 20 (Au-Yong) (Teen). If the lack of outreach to the youths persists, youths may be unaware of SOS and seek help in time or of how to spot a person who is at risk of committing suicide and help them. Youths who are interested in volunteering to help may also be unaware of how they can help, other than spreading awareness.
The first campaign idea is to use a series of viral videos that will be uploaded to YouTube. YouTube has a total number of 1,500 million users (Most famous) and gets over 30 million visitors per day. Almost 5 billion videos are watched every day and the number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month is 3.25 billion (Donchev). Similar to the “You Are Not Alone” Campaign done by Alberta’s Teamsters Union (McEwan), SOS can upload a series of videos that grab the viewers’ attention and gets their emotions. For example, a video can be on how a man lost his job and is affected badly, showing signs of depression. While finding a new job online, he comes across an ad by SOS promoting their helpline for someone who needs help when in crisis. He then dials the number and waits but the call is left unanswered because all the volunteers available are already on the line with another caller. He then hangs up and starts to feel worst, eventually committing suicide. The video will then end with SOS prompting people to volunteer to prevent the same thing from happening. Through this, the emotions of the public will be impacted in a way that they will volunteer to help.
The second campaign idea is to advertise and promote SOS, gathering more volunteers to help out. Instagram has a total number of 700 million as of September 2017 (Most famous). Instagram is most popular amongst teens and young Millennials. On a global scale, 41% of users are 24 years or younger (Number). This means that we will be able to reach out to a lot of the youths. We can appeal to them with interesting photos that are aesthetically pleasing, with the intention of asking them to volunteer for the ad hoc events that the organisation hosts.
The third campaign idea is to hold an event that spreads awareness about the ways to get help when in need, be it for suicidal issues or any other crisis. People who have lost their loved one(s) to suicide or have attempted to commit suicide will share their experiences and how SOS helped them. There will also be awareness talks and promotions about their events that need volunteers. There will be coverage of the event on news platforms such as The Straits Times and TODAY. The article will then mention the different ways to contact SOS to apply for volunteering. The Straits Times and TODAY are the top two most-read news daily in Singapore as of 2016 according to statistics released by Singapore Media Index. The Straits Times has a total of 1.23 million readers and has a reach of 29% while TODAY has a total of 548,000 readers (TODAY’s). Through coverage on these news platforms, youths and young Millennials alike will both be inspired to help because of the experiences and stories shared. This will then aid in the increase in the number of volunteers helping for both the helpline and the ad hoc events held.
The campaign idea I have chosen is the one that makes use of videos on YouTube and to use as advertisements on YouTube. Since over a billion people use YouTube, this means it will have a wide outreach and the chances of it going viral will be higher. Once it goes viral, the video will then be accessible for everyone to watch since it is on YouTube and is easily accessed in Singapore. YouTube can also be navigated in 76 different languages and subtitles in different languages are available (Donchev) so the video is even more easily accessible. Thus, making more people volunteer to help in their events.
The campaign idea that makes use of Instagram to advertise and promote is not the best. There are not as many users as compared to YouTube. Instagram posts are also pricey. According to Keith Baumwald, “With highly targeted ads, you could be paying over $5 per CPM” (cost per thousand impressions) on Instagram (Lacy). SOS’ operating expenses totalled up to $1.9 million. This is a $48,000 increase in operating cost as compared to the previous year, and the main contributor to this increase is manpower cost (Annual Report). With the increase in manpower which is what we are aiming for through this media campaign, SOS should not spend more money on advertising on Instagram. Moreover, SOS is a non-profit organisation so their funds come from either NCSS (National Council of Social Services) or from donations by the public. With lack of funds, SOS may be unable to operate or carry on with their programmes so this idea is not the best.
The campaign idea that is an event is not ideal. Not everyone who was affected by the suicide of their loved one(s) or attempted to commit suicide sought help from SOS to be where they are today, so there may not be a lot of speakers sharing their stories. Also, not everyone is comfortable with sharing their experiences so it may be difficult to gather speakers. If the awareness talks and promotions for their events are not interesting enough, the attendees will most likely leave the event after the speakers finish their sharing. The outreach would then not be far enough. It will be compensated by the news coverage but without being there physically, most readers of the news coverage may not feel that there’s a need to volunteer and help SOS. Thus, it is not the best.
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