I’m sure that you, just as me, have been bombarded with tweets and emails about the video concerning Joseph Kony this week. The campaign by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children has gone viral thanks to incredibly effective social media efforts. In less than a week the documentary film has gathered more than 40 million views on youtube, and the hashtag #stopkony has been skyrocketing on twitter.
Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is ranked the world’s worst war criminal. In the 80’s he took over leadership of an existing rebel group and renamed it the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ (LRA), which is today an army known for its cruel and unethical tactics, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children and forcing children to join the army. The LRA operates in south Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
What was the trigger that made the campaign go viral?
Well to start off, the organization had a strong base of followers on their Twitter, Facebook and Youtube channel. They formed a social community after the American government turned down their lobbying efforts to take action and help the Ugandan army to capture Joseph Kony. By forming a social community and advocating on behalf of the Ugandan people, the issue that once was invisible for the policy makers in Washington suddenly became visible. Barack Obama agreed to send a small troop of soldiers to Uganda to assist in the removal and arrest of Joseph Kony. This is how Invisible Children gained a lot of followers in their social media. However, the campaign that went viral this week wasn’t about sending troops to Uganda, but rather about making Joseph Kony famous to the people. Why? In order for him to be arrested this year, the Ugandan army has to find him. To do so they need the technology and training that the US army can provide. The problem is that if the US government doesn’t believe that the people care about Kony being arrested, the mission will be cancelled and they will retreat the troops.
On the basis of this they needed to spread the word about Kony as fast as possible to as many people as possible. Just as I mentioned in my previous blog post about vlogging, organizations must adapt to the new media landscape and embrace the fact that there are new powerful stakeholders that control the social media. The film director, Jason Russell, takes on a new innovative approach in the documentary, where he not only informs the audience about Joseph Kony, but also explains the social media strategy they used to spread the word about him. An important part of the strategy was to target 20 culture makers (celebrities) and 12 policy makers and use their power to get the message across and make an impact.
On their website they’ve listed the 12 policy makers that could impact the outcome of the mission, and they’ve made it easy for the people to get their attention through grassroots lobbying.
Digital Strategist Steffen Moller writes about how to make PA practitioners more creative and content-driven, and he asks: ‘How does the PA function, which traditionally has focused on subject-matter expertise alone rather than how to communicate it effectively, suddenly become thought-provoking, amusing and emotional by embracing creative content production?’
I believe that the campaign by Jason Russell and his team is a good example of how Public Affairs can be both engaging and creative.