This is a guest post from Heather Whaling (@prtini) of Geben Communication, (yes, my wife) recapping our experience with #WhyWeCelebrate this past week.

Last week, I blogged about #WhyWeCelebrate, asking you to join with us to honor the troops during the Independence Day holiday. Showing the true power of social media, you came through. In an incredibly overwhelming way. I want to share a recap of the effort in hopes that nonprofits and cause-marketers can learn from our experience. If you have specific questions about the campaign’s implementation, please email me heather [at]

An Idea is Born

My husband Mike and I were at happy hour last week, chatting about how we wanted to do something more than watch fireworks and go to BBQs to celebrate Independence Day. Family members on both sides have served in the military, so honoring the troops is important to both of us. And, that’s where #WhyWeCelebrate came from. The goal was simple:

To encourage people to remember why we celebrate and to honor the people who serve our country’s military.

Generating Support & Building Community

Because we came up with the idea on June 29, we didn’t have much time. That night, I co-moderated #pr20chat (a weekly Twitter discussion about technology’s influence on public relations). At the end of the conversation, I announced that I was working on a last-minute July 4th project and asked for volunteers to help. I posted the same message on my Facebook wall. From there, a small committee was created. They received one email, explaining the goal and outlining how they could help. Rising to the occasion, this group became the arms and legs of the effort — championing the cause and helping us to spread the word.

Campaign Tools

From Wednesday, July 1 — Friday July 3 we introduced the idea and suggested ways to get involved. Mike and I also blogged about it and shared it on Facebook. People began sharing tales of loved ones in the military, lessons from grandparents who were vets, and what freedom means to them. They were sharing stories, posting videos, writing heartwarming stories on the Facebook wall, and using the Twitter hashtag … a lot. And it grew from there:

  • The Department of Defense used the hashtag multiple times throughout the weekend.
  • The Ohio National Guard partnered with us to get a video clip of “Happy July 4th” messages from military currently stationed in Iraq.
  • The National Army Museum tweeted with the hashtag.

And that’s just what we were able to track.

Mission Accomplished

Like I said earlier, this was an idea cooked up during happy our on a random Tuesday night, so we didn’t create measurable objectives. Even if we had created objectives, this would have far exceeded them. Some stats showing the impact of #WhyWeCelebrate:

  • Approximately 330,000 impressions (this is a very rough estimate, using figures)
  • Approximately 390 tweets
  • 8 blog posts
  • 50+ Facebook posts
  • 200+ Facebook fans

Looking back, there are probably some things we would have done differently — namely, getting an earlier start. More time to plan would have enabled us to get more people involved in the planning and initial promotion, as well as partner with established military groups.

All in all, I’d call this a success. This campaign caused more than a few people to reflect and show appreciation. With that, I want to leave you with this quote, which comes from Steph Majercik‘s brother, a soldier currently stationed in Iraq:

We are over here, fighting for what we believe all people on this planet should have. Basic freedoms, fighting to stop a force that once before took these freedoms from these people.

That’s why we celebrate. To everyone who helped make this a big success, our heartfelt appreciation. Thank you.