SMC Review 10/8

Nancy and Pete Frates

Nancy and Pete Frates spoke to the Social Media Council about the #IceBucketChallenge, technology and ALS.

It was a BC Social Media Council that none will soon forget. Nancy ’80, Andrew and Pete Frates ’07, spoke to our group about Team Frate Train, the #IceBucketChallenge  and living with ALS.

What was responsible for this summer’s viral sensation? Nancy explained that three key factors played a role:

1. Pete is a master communicator and relationship builder, a skill that has been honed throughout his life. Pete’s network is large, varied and geographically diverse. From elementary school to college friends, teammates and professional associates, he’s always made a point to remain connected to people through visits and phone calls. As his disease has progressed, Pete relies more now on email and social media – Facebook Messenger in particular. Nancy recalled her family’s eye-rolling episodes when Pete called someone “my buddy” or “my buddy’s buddy”. “We would always say, ‘he’s such a name-dropper,’ but after his diagnosis, all those buddies came running.”

The history of the challenge in Time, explains how Pete’s network gave the ALS awareness movement momentum. Nancy said the resulting response from Pete’s video came as a shock to almost everyone. 

“I knew it was coming,” said Pete. “I was ready for the boom.”

2. A clear call to action and a 24-hour deadline. 

The night of his diagnosis, Nancy remembered, Pete refused to be overwhelmed by negativity.

“We all sat around the table and Pete said that this is an opportunity – that is the word he used – he said that this was opportunity for us to change the world. We’re not looking back we’re looking forward.”

The Frates became focused on raising awareness and helping fund research for a cure. ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, so there is urgency to their work. The immediacy of the challenge – participants had only 24 hours to pour a bucket of ice over their head or make a $100 donation (many did both) – presented pressure to act immediately.

“My favorite video is Bill Gates,” said Nancy. “He put real effort into it. It’s also because six hours after his diagnosis, Pete said ‘I’m going to get the ALS message in front of Bill Gates.’ He did it. It’s profound.”

The Frates talked with engineers at Facebook about the magnitude of the response. The numbers are staggering – to date, 2.5 million videos uploaded, number of views in the billions. On Twitter, a successful campaign for breast cancer awareness had 142,000 posts to a hashtag in the month of June. The Ice Bucket Challenge had 142,000 tweets in one hour on a Monday afternoon in August.

The fundraising component has also been unprecedented – by some accounts the total may hit $500 million for ALS support and research worldwide by the end of the year, Nancy said.

3. Fun.

From celebrities to everyday people, the spirit of the challenge resonated around the world.

“The consistent thing in all the videos is laughter,” said Nancy. “People were having fun, laughing. And people laughed watching the videos.

“ALS is a terrible disease, it takes away so much. This gives something to families dealing with ALS: hope. You couldn’t log into social media for weeks without hearing about ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge. That is incredible for an underfunded disease that most people had ever heard about.

“It’s been a game changer.”

For more information on Pete, visit his website.

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