On Thursday, 10 January at around 23:00 Nomuzi 'Nomoozlie' Mabena shocked the country with what was deemed to be a car crash during an InstaLive video. Most South Africans who had an early night were unable to catch it as it happened, but by 4am the next day, social media timelines were filled with concerns from users asking if Mabena is safe.

Later that morning, Twitter CSI had already figured out that the crash was fake and many people on Twitter insinuated that it was an awareness campaign about the dangers of texting and driving.

VW and Mabena revealed that the car crash was actually an awareness campaign about driving while under the influence of alcohol, but was Instagram the way to go for drinking while driving awareness campaign? Was it worth all the effort and sacrifices? 

With reference to the campaign above, here are four factors that should be considered when planning a PR campaign online:

1. Communication tool

It is really important to consider what information your campaign is sharing with the public and also to ensure that it comes out in the right manner. For instance, the VW campaign was an awareness campaign about drinking and driving, and yet it was executed in a manner that convinced the public that it was a campaign making awareness about the dangers of using a phone while driving.

Although this is a brilliant concept, the communication platform used in this instance (Instagram) has created a whole new message all together and the original idea has been lost.

Communication tools are extremely helpful in ensuring that your message reaches its destination unchanged, so choosing a proper communications tool is vital.

2. Engagement

It's important to be there to communicate and answer any questions or just to clarify any misconceptions around your campaign to ensure that it is interpreted the way you want it to.

This did not happen with the '#VWDriveDry' campaign. A social media campaign launched just an hour before midnight surely should have had a plan of how to keep the conversations alive during the course of the night.

However, by 4am on Friday, 11 January, this was news headlines and already had a hashtag — #NomuziAccident — but no one was there to drive the conversations around the campaign towards achieving its objective.

In fact, the silence resulted in a number of speculations by social media users some claiming that the influencer is an 'attention seeker'. Within a short space of time, another hashtag — #RoastNomuzi — was formed by social media users with the intentions of shaming the influencer.

Do not leave your campaign unattended to or leave room for assumptions, because people have their own way of interpreting situations, and these self-interpretations could backfire on your campaign. Quick response is vital especially when running social media campaign where everything is instant.

Video sourced from Volkswagen South Africa (YouTube)

3. Strategy

Your communication strategy is everything your PR Campaign needs to stand out. Once you master that, you are able to ignite a spark in the mind of the individual following your campaign.

The '#VWDriveDry' campaign definitely did its job and made the South African community aware of the dangers of drinking and driving as well as the dangers of handling a mobile device while behind the wheel. The strategy was brilliant and the campaign itself was trending for almost an entire day.

4. Credible influencer relationships

Could it be that the audience responded the way they did to this campaign because they do not love and respect Mabena as a brand? What could have happened had the campaign used somebody like Cassper Nyovest, who is loved by everyone?

Most agencies do not consider the fact that they influencer they choose to partner with can have a negative impact on their campaigns by just being there. It is very important to consider how credible your influencer is; they may be popular and increase your campaign’s reach, but the aim is to drive a positive commentary towards your campaign and this should also not affect their reputation negatively. It should be a win on both sides.

You can follow Wynand Madidimalo Monyeseala on Twitter.