The 2017 Salvation Army Fight for Good Tour was a 25-state, 38-day solo roadtrip that took place between Monday, Nov. 6, and Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.
Chris Strub with Commissioner David Hudson, the National Commander of the Salvation Army USA
The #FightForGoodTour began in Houston and wove north to Minnesota, east through Detroit, southwest into Little Rock, back east to Jacksonville, then wiggled back north through the Carolinas to D.C., Philly and finally, New York City. Here’s the route, which clocked in at 6,152 total miles:
These graphics, variations of which I included in all the vlogs and across my social media channels, were built by the team at The Richards Group.
The Tour was designed as an awareness-building fundraising campaign, part of the Army’s national Red Kettle Campaign. I was one of four designated National Red Kettle ambassadors, along with YouTube frisbee trick-shot artist Brodie Smith, U.S. Olympian Lolo Jones (who was helped by the Salvation Army during her childhood in Des Moines, Iowa), and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. My goal was to raise $25,000; the final total in my kettle, ending Dec. 31, was $6,152.
The Tour was a progression from my 2015 journey, ‘50 States, 100 Days,’ where I drove solo to the lower 48 states (and flew to Alaska and Hawaii) to work with nonprofit youth-related organizations around the country. During that trip, I became the first person to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states.
Chris Strub takes a group selfie at Camp Massapoag in Lowell, Mass., near the end of the ‘50 States, 100 Days’ adventure in Aug. 2015. (Photo courtesy The Lowell Sun)
The idea for the #FightForGoodTour was born in the spring of 2017, after I was contacted by Dallas-based agency The Richards Group. I sketched out a proposed route for the tour, which was modified several times by the Salvation Army before final approval.
The length of the tour corresponded loosely with the Army’s Red Kettle season, which officially kicks off on Thanksgiving Day during the Dallas Cowboys football game. However, in many states around the U.S., red kettles are unveiled in early November, which allowed us to get an earlier start.
Chris rings the red kettle bell for the first time at City Market in Indianapolis, a few days before Thanksgiving
In planning, the 25-state number was very important to me, both in its congruity to the 50-state trip and its overall simplicity and marketability. Versions of the itinerary up for approval during the summer included 25 total stops in fewer states, but I insisted on visiting 25 states.
The 38-day timeframe was determined in part by a partnership with NBCU. During the course of the trip, I’d submit four sets of video commentary, to be edited together by a team at NBCU, to be hosted on TODAY.com. This arrangement was part of a larger media partnership between NBC and The Salvation Army that also included Tony Hawk appearing on the TODAY Show live on Giving Tuesday, and Lolo Jones appearing on The Steve Harvey Show. My trip was to be completed by Dec. 14 to give the editing team at NBC the maximum opportunity to edit together my fourth and final piece.
Only one of the four official NBC vlogs appeared on their Facebook page, but it gathered 337,000 views and over 230 shares.
The stops along the journey were determined largely due to geography — I was the original author of the itinerary, and chose to travel north, then south, to minimize the possible impact of winter weather in late November and early December. But the Salvation Army had final say over the stops, which led to modifications that included a seemingly illogical jaunt from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Fla., to Greenville, S.C.
But those modifications were purposeful. The Salvation Army’s communications team, specifically David Jolley, handled hundreds of emails and phone calls to “sell” the idea of the trip and individual visits to teams in 25 cities. When the plan was presented to me by TRG, it was comprehensive and detailed — with dates and times, contact information and complete information on the nature of the activity taking place that day.
The Salvation Army’s communications leaders were absolutely stellar in their handling and execution of the #FightForGoodTour. Because I was traveling solo, I relied on them to help me create content at each stop.
In Houston, I helped kids at KIPP Peace Elementary School get fitted for new shoes, which were being provided by Zappos. Photo by Sybil Sanchez
The methodology worked extremely well from stop to stop. While I had some sophisticated camera equipment with me, like my GoPro’s and a pair of DJI Osmo gimbals, the entirety of the #FightForGoodTour was shot and edited on iPhone. The local communications lead was tasked with my phone, shooting video and photos that I would later turn around and edit myself.
In Indianapolis, I helped Major Beth Petrie, left, cook up some scrambled eggs with cheese. Photo by Samantha Hyde
This was the real key to the entire #FightForGoodTour content strategy — enlisting help locally with the camera work. Even if I had traveled with a camera crew, I think their presence would’ve detracted from the authenticity of the moments we captured. Having the Army help with photography and videography was the perfect solution.
Snagging a quick selfie at the Canathon in Atlanta on Dec. 1, 2017
The #FightForGoodTour was dramatically different than most other nonprofit influencer marketing because the focus was so consistently on the local message. I was able to undertake a broad variety of experiences that each had a hyper-local feel.
For example, in Jacksonville, I participated in a taekwondo class that is provided free to the community through a partnership with The Salvation Army. The class participants were all good sports about my presence — as I obviously had no idea what I was doing.
In Jacksonville, we used Facebook Live to broadcast interactively from the Salvation Army/YESHA Ministries partnership on a Monday evening. Video shot by Kelly Belich
The activities in each city were unique to that local community, and many of them were special opportunities that we were able to schedule into the framework of the tour. For example, I was able to interview Grammy nominated recording artist KEM before his performance at the city’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in Detroit.
A selfie after a great interview with KEM in Detroit. KEM credits The Salvation Army with helping him through addiction and possibly saving his life
The trip included quite a few other special opportunities, including serving Thanksgiving dinner in Louisville, helping with the Prison Toys program in Milwaukee and attending a Christmas party in Delaware.
It wouldn’t have been a trip without getting a picture taken with Santa Claus in Delaware. (Photo by Carl Colantuono)
The content plan going in was multifaceted. As the ‘captain’ of the Tour, it was largely my decision how to handle my content creation on the road, and I decided to take a distinctly different approach than ‘50 States, 100 Days.’
Specifically, I thought it best to create edited vlogs at each stop. This required a lot more back-end editing at night, but the results were a more polished and contemplative final video in each state. With this in mind, I had the Salvation Army shooting horizontal video 90% of the time.
The Vlog from Greenville, S.C., where I did some community outreach with Jim Abbott, was the longest of the trip — 17 minutes, 6 seconds.
During the course of the tour:
The vlog series was viewed a total of 14,200 times, between Facebook and YouTube.
My Instagram Stories received 24,276 impressions, while my Instagram grid received 39,605 impressions.
I lost count of my Snapchat views, and official data was not available, but based on my average views, I’d estimate about 25,000 impressions.
On Twitter, between Nov. 5 and Dec. 15, my 1,676 Tweets had a total of 885,245 impressions; 16,378 engagements; 1,566 retweets and 615 replies. Stretched to Dec. 31, the official end of the Red Kettle season, the total Tweet impressions for @ChrisStrub exceeded 1 million.
I also created several Periscope videos and Facebook Live videos on both my personal channels and the Chris Strub - #TeamStrub pages that garnered a few thousand more cumulative views.
And in addition to these figures, I also created content on behalf of The Salvation Army, including four Instagram Story takeovers and the Facebook Live from Jacksonville. And the TODAY.com paid appearance on their Facebook page gained 337,000+ views, 2,300+ reactions and 235+ shares. See the whole series here .
In terms of donations, we raised $6,152 , which was the more than Lolo Jones ($3,445), Tony Hawk ($1,350) or Brodie Smith ($2,900) collected in their individual kettles.
I had my picture taken thousands of times during the trip, but this had to be the coolest one, in New York on Day 38. (Photo by Stephen Ditmer)
Logistically, I had no official brand sponsorships beyond the Salvation Army. The social media team at Chili’s was gracious to offer me $300 in gift cards for use during the tour, which helped me get past halfway. In terms of lodging, I was provided a hotel room for two nights in Houston by the owners of Hotel Ylem; one night in Oklahoma City by the team at VisitOKC; one night at Hotel Louisville by the team at Visit Louisville; and one night at the Dylan Hotel on the last night of the tour in New York City by The Salvation Army. I also spent two nights in Salvation Army shelters — one in OKC, one in Alabama. Other than those nights, I used Hotels.com to book day by day. I had no fuel sponsor and I paid out of pocket for my membership at Planet Fitness, which I frequented along the way. I drove my aging 2007 Honda Accord, which I call the “Honda Hotel,” but I have no affiliation or connection with Honda.
Chris stands with his trusty “Honda Hotel” outside of The Salvation Army in Baltimore.
The #FightForGoodTour is a gutsy, big-picture swing at compassionate content marketing, made possible by the trust of a stellar group at The Richards Group, the steady leadership of Dave Jolley and his communications team at The Salvation Army, and the enthusiastic efforts of the Army locations in all 25 states I visited. While it’s to be determined if there will be a second such #FightForGoodTour, I’d be overjoyed to work with The Salvation Army again.
Chris Strub is the first person to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states, and author of ‘50 States, 100 Days: The Book.’ He’s the creator of the course ‘Live-streaming for Nonprofits’ and the CEO of I Am Here, LLC. Want to work with Chris or have him speak at your event? Email chrisstrub (at) gmail (dot) com.