KONY 2012 is a viral social networking campaign targeted at creating awareness about Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord whom since 1987, has allegedly abducted more than 30,000 children in Central Africa and forced them to be child soldiers in his Lord’s Resistance Army, and ultimately bringing him to justice. As I write this, it is currently the #1 trending topic on Twitter. While I personally believe in their mission and have already voted with my wallet, the purpose of this post is to analyze Invisible Children’s strategy and tactics, break down how they were effective, and share ideas for how their strategies and tactics can be effective in your firm’s communications.
Step 1: Make preparations so that it is easy for the audience to act
Invisible Children prepared their website with forms and contact information so that once you decide to take action, you can easily find and contact your Senator or Congressman, and at minimum appear informed. They also have ‘kits’ available for purchase that include all of the essential tools that you’ll need for their big grass-roots campaign on the night of April 20th, 2012, where supporters will meet to blanket the streets with posters and stickers to reach those whom aren’t plugged in to social media. Where they may have fell down a bit is that the traffic to their website is currently causing it to crash.
Key learning: If you are going to ask an audience to take an action, think through all of the logistics of that action and put processes and collateral in place so that you remove all barriers and make it easy for the audience to act.
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Step 2: Target influential audiences whom have reach
In addition to recruiting a following of citizen soldiers, Invisible Children went about targeting celebrities whom could amplify their message and politicians whom could actually act on it. Now we all don’t have causes as emotionally intense as crimes against humanity, and we likely won’t have access to George Clooney, but with social media intelligence and monitoring tools, you can track your largest advocates, as well as publications and authors whom have the most credibility, reach, and influence. By engaging in dialog with advocates whom are already open to your message and whom have credibility and reach, you can help your message spread to those whom are predisposed to being receptive to it, and are most likely to act. The goal here isn’t to change someone’s mind, as it is highly unlikely that you will change the mind of someone with whom you have no relationship or trust. The goal is to engage with those whom think like you and will act, thereby influencing their friends and networks where they do have relationships, trust, and influence.
Key learning: Identify and engage communications channels that are open to your message, influential, credible, and that have reach.
Step 3: Put the audience in state, and then move them to action
Invisible Children does an amazing job of putting you into state. Wisely, they don’t ask you to take action until the end of an intense 30 minute message. They didn’t start with the conflict in Uganda, instead they started with a common thread that we can all relate to; family and friends, and the desire to connect with people. The Director, Jason Russell, puts us into state showing emotionally intense imagery and situations like a child being rescued in Haiti, a deaf person hearing their own voice for the first time, and an adorable toddler giving a motivational speech, all of which create raw emotion. He then shows a baby being born into our world and talks about how every single person enters the world this way; you don’t chose where or when you are born, something to which we can all relate. Jason then makes it very personal by introducing the baby as his son, going on to share videos of his son’s childhood. He delivers his message as a father, not as an activist. He introduces his friend Jacob from Uganda, progresses you through his story of death, loss, and conflict. Jason further ingrains his message by taking you through the exercise of trying to explain to his toddler that there are bad people in the world forcing good people to do bad things, his son’s innocence effectively distilling the director’s message: Where you were born shouldn’t decide if you live.
I’m not going to break down the entire 30 minute film, though it continues to impress me with its clear and concise messages that led me down a pathway to action. I am going to talk to understanding your audiences’ current emotional state, and then crafting a response that will enhance that state to the point where those the audiences will take action. Politicians have been doing this for years. Again, most causes or messages aren’t as emotionally intense as crimes against humanity (or politics), and while Invisible Children obviously understood the emotional drivers that they needed to engage, you most likely won’t have that clear of a target. Luckily, identifying the top emotional drivers of conversations and the emotional state present in a community has become much easier with the emergence of social intelligence and media monitoring tools. Utilizing these tools, you can see the top emotional drivers that are present at a community or conversation level.
For example, a firm that manufactures baby products and furniture is monitoring various communities of mothers. One community of mothers is discussing cribs, and which are the safest and most convenient. The social intelligence tool shows you that the emotional drivers present in the conversation are Uncertainty, Trustworthiness and Vulnerability. Using this information you can see that an effective communication strategy to reach mothers interested in buying a crib will touch upon the safety history of your brand, the peace of mind that buying your brand will give the mother, and the confidence they’ll have knowing that they’ve done the best they can to keep their baby safe.
Key learning: People act on emotion not logic, so you must align with their emotion, put them into an emotional state, and then ask for action.
By the time I’ve finished writing this, Kony 2012 is likely to have spread to traditional media outlets. There is no doubt that this was a well crafted and effective campaign, and thus worthy of thoughtful analysis and reflection.