scotty mcmillan wls

A week later, I’m still fighting back tears.

In case you missed it, last week we highlighted the social coverage of ABC’s WPVI and WLS and their coverage of the death of Scotty McMillan which involved two parents “systematically tortured” and killed their 3-year-old for not eating his breakfast.  The story struck a nerve with social fans and followers. Late last week, people in Philadelphia organized a candle-light vigil to remember the 3 year old.  WPVI promoted and joined the vigil via social with a post encouraging their fans to “LIKE and SHARE this story to spread the word about this moving tribute to a little boy and all young victims of abuse.”

Fans and friends responded with almost 136,000 engagements. And sister station WLS in Chicago jumped on board with their own post encouraging “fans (in Chicago and around the world) to join the movement of lighting candles and sharing them as a way to honor the memory of Little Scotty and to raise awareness of child abuse.”  That post generated more than 750,000 engagements, including more than 57,000 comments, some of which showed fans and viewers lighting candles with their own children.

“The story reminded me of the Ice Bucket Challenge, in a way,” said Jennifer Hoppenstedt, WLS executive producer for news and social media. “People love to get on board a cause.”

They certainly do. Here are a few examples of the comments and photos that flooded posts by WLS and WPVI:

Carrie Beth Muncy posted a photo of Scotty’s name spelled out with candles (above).

Noel Mercure posted a photo of three candles (bottom) and commented: “3 candles for each year of his life. … My heart is broken.”

This is a completely new level of engagement. It’s one thing for a fan to engage with your social content by clicking a mouse or typing a comment. That’s a relatively low level of effort. This is something new. Call it “real-life social engagement.”  The ability for social content to affect real-life physical activity. Think about this for a moment.

Hundreds of people took the time to:

  1. Read the post
  2. Carve time out of their schedule
  3. Found and lit candles
  4. Snapped a photo and uploaded them

It’s similar to the activation we saw with the the ice bucket challenge, only without the vanity.  Unlike the ice bucket challenge, people mostly removed themselves from the focus of the post.  Still, they were able to “take part”  and felt enabled to participate in healing / finding a solution.

If nothing else, it’s great example of how broadcasters can connect with their community and provide a platform for viewers to connect with a cause and try to make a difference.

“And a great example of UGC that is quickly becoming a huge part of how we cover news,” Hoppenstedt said.

And the story doesn’t end here.  Norristown, PA resident Jeff Messantonio started a tribute page for Scotty and has planned the 1st Scotty McMillan Shed Light On Child Abuse Night, which is scheduled for Nov. 27. It’s something he hopes will catch on across the nation.  It just might if enough stations and brands help promote the effort.

I hope they do.

scotty mcmillan wls
Courtesy WLS
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