This is a very short talk (3 minutes) from Alexis Ohanian (one of the people who set up Reddit) about a Greenpeace campaign aiming to stop humpback whales being hunted by Japanese fishermen.

To engage people, Greenpeace put a tracking device on a whale and gave people the opportunity to vote on a name.

The idea was picked up on Reddit and at that point Greenpeace’s control went out the window as people power took over. The whale ended up being called Mr. Splashy Pants.

As you’ll see, the campaign was a success. The Japanese didn’t hunt the whales and everyone was happy.

But it was achieved by losing control.

Modern charities are, by their very nature, largely intangible and most guard their brands very carefully. One of the most frustrating things about my job is seeing fantastic ideas rejected with little thought because they are seen by one or two people in an organisation as being “off-brand”.

But search online and you’ll find on places like Twitter and Facebook that charities have very little control about what people say about them.

Fighting against this tide seems to be taking an approach like King Canute and we all know what happened to him.

Voices within a charity and from supporters are now more important in shaping a brand than the communications department. When people talk about their experiences of organisations they are brand building as much as the next TV campaign or scripted interview.

Many of the people who support charities find control a turn off. And research and testing shows that authenticity beats strict guidelines hands down when it comes to driving engagement.

Control is usually generated by fear. If you are worried that your supporters and staff might damage your brand by what they say, what does that imply about what is actually happening inside your organisation?

There is only one way to handle the world presented by web 2.0 and that’s through concentrating on the experience that you give people. If that’s good, your brand will be in very safe hands – even if it’s not yours.