invisible children

The Genius of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 Campaign

By Public Relations, Social Media

Unless you were living under a rock last week you have seen the video or at least heard about the celebrity support of Kony 2012. Invisible Children (IC) is the name of the organization responsible for this film. By all accounts, IC hit a home run its campaign and social media strategy. The film which enjoyed 71 million views within 5 days on YouTube could have sat collecting dust for months without a solid campaign in place.

The co-founder, Jason Russell has been all over TV, radio, web and the social networks explaining their organization’s mission. IC wants to make Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), famous with the goal being that in fame comes awareness and ultimately, arrest.

Much has been said about the questionable expenditures of Invisible Children, their oversimplified explanation of the situation, and the colonial idea of Westerners swooping in to “save” Africa when the Ugandan military is already in pursuit of Kony, and Obama’s deployment of a mere 100 military advisors back in October. Nonetheless, we all know who Joseph Kony is now. He is, in effect, famous.

But how did this happen? How did this campaign explode as it did when thousands of organizations are marketing themselves every day with little fanfare. They’re on Facebook and Twitter. They have blogs and maybe even events as well as news releases and traditional advertising.

IC’s genius is in their strategy. This campaign was designed with laser focus, crystal clear goals and an adaptive plan to make it happen. Their plan was outlined in the video.

The number one goal was to make Kony famous.

They had two target audiences to mobilize: the young and the powerful. This young (25 and under) audience could be reached through “culturemakers” rappers, actors, personalities, etc. The powerful were Congressional members. They chose “policy makers” former presidents, senators, etc who could be influential to this group. The idea was to reach out to the influential groups and ask them to speak to the target audiences on behalf of IC through retweets, sharing of posts on multiple social media sites and publicly displaying support.

The message was simple, compelling and always accompanied by the opportunity to donate and connect and share via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Of course, all of this did not occur in a vacuum. There were interviews, events, articles, unending hype to drive more traffic to the site. And lest we forget that all this has occurred, “Cover the Night” on April 20th should remind us with a worldwide call to paper our cities with Kony 2012 posters and paraphernalia. Is it at least a coincidence that 4/20 was chosen as the date? No, their pot smoking target will be celebrating anyway. Go ahead and piggyback on the holiday. And yes, UVA, I see you’re onboard. Cheers!

Whether or not you buy into this brand of activism, there is a lesson to be learned here. It’s hard to argue with what these tactics have achieved. If you find your organization achieving less than stellar response to your online campaign, ask yourselves a few questions. Is your message clear and compelling? Have you created a solid strategy with tangible goals? How well do you know your primary, secondary and tertiary target audiences? If this raises more questions than answers, I know a great PR firm that can help.