When trend-jacking succeeds: U.K. cancer charity educates the wrestling Twittersphere

When trend-jacking succeeds: U.K. cancer charity educates the wrestling Twittersphere

Social media’s brief history is littered with news-jacking fails. Rushing to weigh in on a trending topic -- and gain more eyeballs as a result -- brands have posted without checking the context of a hashtag, attempted to sell products during natural disasters and exploited national tragedies.

However, when a brand does its homework and smartly contributes something to a trending conversation it can be an impressive feat. When the actions helps a nonprofit broaden public understanding of an issue and, possibly, increase the compassion for those affected, it can be especially satisfying.

That’s what the British nonprofit Leukaemia Care did Tuesday to educate on how cancer affects patients. (Note: The UK spelling of the blood cancer will be used for consistency.) This was prompted by the return of professional wrestler Roman Reigns to World Wrestling Entertainment television, announcing his leukemia was in remission Monday night after four months spent recovering. As the live crowd in Atlanta welcomed Reigns’ triumphant and emotional return, many wondered on Twitter why the still physically impressive man didn’t look sick and if his cancer fight was reality or a creation of WWE’s writing team.

It should be noted that wrestling-related topics frequently trend on Twitter, and that the wrestling scuttlebutt there is often a cesspool. Further, the WWE has given fans enough reason to have a sliver of skepticism considering that serious injuries, miscarriages and even murder have been elements of past storylines.

Leukaemia Care kicked off the thread, tweeting: “Morning! In response to some of the tweets we're seeing online about @WWE and @WWERomanReigns we wanted to have a little chat about leukaemia/leukemia, relapse and perceptions of cancer. #WWE

Leukaemia Care would go on to share information on signs and symptoms, and tell real patient stories. One follow-up tweet read: “Leukaemia can make you lose weight. Leukaemia can also make you gain weight. There is no one way that leukaemia SHOULD look.” One of the charity’s trustees, Kris Griffin, blogged about his own experience with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

In an email, Nicole Scully, director of communications and fundraising, said the thread has made 3.48 million impressions and gained coverage for the organization in five national UK newspapers as well as wrestling news websites.

“I'm a huge wrestling fan myself, and it was really overwhelming to have such a positive reaction,” she wrote. “A lot of the negative tweets about the situation was born out of lack of information about leukaemia, not malice. It's given Leukaemia Care this really unusual platform to talk to an audience that normally we have little in common with, and we know that more people know about leukaemia as a result.”

Scully’s thread kept things light with liberal use of GIFs, a conversational tone and a clear grasp of wrestling. “Remember, everything in life isn't a work,” said one tweet, referencing wrestling lingo for the elements that are planned and scripted.

Scully said Leukaemia Care has used trending topics to raise awareness with mixed results in the past, and that she was mindful of showing respect to wrestling fans and not lecturing in this instance.

“You have to convey a legitimate interest in the topic itself,” she wrote. “It's a very fine line between bandwagon jumping and really inserting yourself into the conversation. It really was one of those moments when two very different parts of my life collided. It's funny, because as a small national charity it can be hard to be a part of the traditional news agenda. It was really strange to be almost leading the way on this way. Strange but brilliant. This is a space normally reserved for charities far larger than ourselves.”

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