Disasters are defined as events that are relatively sudden, highly disruptive, time limited and public.
Certainly, Virginia Commonwealth University’s NCAA bracket-busting wins qualify.
In the last several weeks, ‘VCU’ has been one of the top 20 Google search terms in the U.S. VCU has also been a top trend on Twitter. There are a lot of people in the country asking the question, “Who is VCU?”
Virginia Commonwealth University is located in Richmond, Virginia, and their winning streak in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has garnered the school unprecedented national attention.
Often nonprofits who are not in the business of disaster relief believe that they don’t need to have an online disaster plan. But, every nonprofit could find itself in the national spotlight for the most unexpected reason and will need to respond.
Sudden: The team didn’t even think they would make the tournament. But they made it to Final Four.
Disruptive: The campus and the entire city have seen disruptions in the form of street celebrations, national news stories, increased media presence and general euphoria.
Time limited: March Madness officially ended on April 4th. The attention on VCU started to dwindle after their loss in the Final Four.
Public: ESPN announced that of the 5.9 million tourney brackets on their site, only 2 people got the Final Four picks right. The school continues to be in the national spotlight in a way it’s never been.
So how has VCU capitalized on the emotion of this moment? Throughout the tournament, VCU has successfully used social media to connect with fans and alumni. Social media posts have included:
- Lists of “watch parties” around the country.
- T-shirt sale announcements.
- Questions about where people were watching the games – the answers spanned the globe.
- Photos of the celebration that spilled into downtown streets – posted by VCU and fans.
- Information on travel packages to the Final Four in Houston.
- An invitation for a midnight rally to greet the team and then the video from that event.
The school has kept the website updated and the social media channels interactive. They even asked for donations: First 4 to Final 4 when they made the Final Four.
Virginia Commonwealth never expected to be in this position, but they have made the most of this sudden, exciting event by interacting with fans and sharing the on-campus excitement with people across the country.
I’m proud to be a VCU graduate. I’m proud of the men’s basketball team. But I’m most proud of their social media response.