March of Dimes eyes YouTube in new effort

WHITE PLAINS, NY: In its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing premature birth and infant mortality, the March of Dimes is looking at YouTube.

WHITE PLAINS, NY: In its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing premature birth and infant mortality, the March of Dimes is looking at YouTube.

Last week, the White Plains, NY-based nonprofit launched "Every Baby Has a Story," a contest search for a user-generated video PSA with a grand prize of $5,000 and placement on TV stations across the country.

The 60-second videos will be displayed and voted on via the March of Dimes' YouTube community page through November.

"We're always trying to figure out the best way to communicate the seriousness of premature birth, and how common an experience it is," explained Patty Goldman, the March of Dimes' VP of e-Business. "We thought it might be better for people who have experienced it [themselves] to explain it for us."

To promote the effort, which was handled entirely in-house, March of Dimes is reaching out to "friends" on social networking sites, film students, and affected families, many of whom "already have videos up there and are engaged on some level," she said.

The nonprofit is also spreading its message through YouTube itself, promoting the contest in a posted video featuring campaign spokesperson (and Dancing With the Stars host) Tom Bergeron.

According to Goldman, the March of Dimes has always relied on personal stories as "really the crux of how we get our mission across." Last year's campaign, for example, asked families to submit baby photos to Flickr, and the nonprofit has long turned to "ambassador families" to share their experiences.

But the "Every Baby Has a Story" video contest marks "the first time we've asked people [to share] in such a specific context," she said.

Still, the effort came without hesitation for the March of Dimes.

"There's an enormous amount of precedent out there" in terms of user-generated content, Goldman noted, both around baby-and-infant issues and as a vehicle for marketers.

She added that the "Every Baby" PSA contest is a precursor to the nonprofit's larger annual campaign, which will correspond with Prematurity Awareness Month in November.

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