Three Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from the Always #LikeAGirl Campaign

By on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I was an early fan of the Always #LikeAGirl campaign – finding it bold, empowering and with a worthwhile message. So much of what passes for advertising these days is dribble that sounds and looks like it oozed out of snarky teen consciousness, but this campaign targeting young people ages 16-24 stood out from the start. Here’s a few lessons nonprofits can learn from the campaign.

Tip #1. Do your research before you start. The foundation of a good campaign is always research. Always did research on their target audience, which was defined as girls ages 16-24. What they found was that the confidence of girls plummets during puberty because of the messages they receive from society – epitomized by the view that “like a girl” is an insult used to humiliate people for being weak, emotional or not able to succeed.

Your nonprofit or association may not have the resources to do a Harris Poll survey or hire a researcher, but look for other ways to research your target audience. Government studies, published research and many sources online can provide you with basic research about your audience. You can do your own survey with a tool like SurveyMonkey or ask a university professor or graduate student to assist your research efforts for a campaign.

After you have done your research, plan your campaign with one hashtag that is easy to understand. Create the pieces you will need – such as a video, Facebook ads (they need graphics) and Twitter ads. Write your news release announcing the campaign. draft social media posts, a blog post you can use and give to others, and pitch emails that can go to influencers, bloggers, etc. You need all of your pieces in order before you start. So often I see organizations make the mistake of not doing planning before they start – then they are stuck with a lousy hashtag, a disjointed message, or they feel like they have somehow missed a window of opportunity for their message.

Your strategies need to be well-rounded. I’m sure many nonprofits would say that they don’t have the funding of a major U.S. brand that can afford to buy a Super Bowl commercial. But look at the strategies used: one well-produced video at the start on YouTube, with a 60-second version shown during the Super Bowl (not a cheap purchase), combined with paid Twitter and Facebook ads, paid reach and influencer outreach. These combined, netted tons of earned media, far more than the brand had ever seen, and more than 90 million YouTube views (making the original video the #2 viral video in the world).

This campaign started with the idea of using the ad to illustrate visually the problem – that girls in puberty hear messages that put them down. And then strove to take back that message so that #LikeAGirl would no longer be an insult but instead an expression of strength. It made us all think about our language.

Many nonprofits have the ability to create videos for YouTube, and some can do them at a broadcast quality level. While very few in the sector have the money for a Super Bowl ad, there are other ways to share a video – YouTube gives everyone a channel. Twitter and Facebook advertising does not have to be excessively expensive to be effective. Geo-fencing on Facebook means you can target your ads in a particular geographic region and Facebook gives you many choices for drilling down even further into your chosen demographic, asking if you want to focus on men or women, homeowners, or people with particular interests. Just $5/day on Facebook can do a lot for driving page likes, traffic to your website and visibility.

Outreach to influencers can be done one-on-one, by going out to the people best positioned to share your message. While many nonprofits immediately think of celebrities as key influencers (which they are), there is tremendous competition for celebrity endorsements and support within the sector. Try to think of influencers in your community. Look up who has the most followed accounts on Twitter in your community or in the topic area you work on. Reach out to these people. Look for influential bloggers who can help your cause.

Think about building a movement, not just a moment. The Always ads could have stopped just with illustrating the problem – showing the contrast between prepubescent girls and those who were older and how they view themselves. But instead, they turned the insult of “like a girl” on its head, choosing instead to re-claim the language with an empowering message.

For nonprofits seeking to build momentum, followers, donors, volunteers, and the drive to fight injustice, fix a problem or build the drive to effect change – this is the hard lesson. While many leaders in nonprofits have emotional connections to the causes they champion, how do you translate your personal emotion into something that others can relate to, embrace and support?

You have to look beyond yourself and look to the bigger picture – where does the research take you? And how could you “take back” the language, solve the problem, fight the injustice – what is one simple thing people can do? You have to find your one thing. Maybe that is just giving people hope. Maybe it is asking them to take action about one thing, that will lead to more. But it can’t be watered down or just a lot of research. You have to give people a call to action and invite them to join what you are building.


Case study on Like a Girl – from Marketing Magazine UK
Case study on Like a Girl – from D&AD
Like A Girl – Always

Talk to Us: What do you think about the Always #LikeAGirl campaign? How has your nonprofit used a campaign to raise awareness about a cause or issue? What steps did you take? What worked? What did not work? What would you do differently?

If you would like to share a nonprofit campaign with us that we will consider to feature on our blog, please email ami at

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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