Kony 2012. As of today, more than 52 million people have viewed
the 30-minute documentary that sheds light on Joseph Kony, leader
of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) guerrilla group. The group,
which originated in Uganda, is said to have abducted more than
60,000 children - forcing the boys into fighting and mutilating
their parents and others, and turning the girls into sex
Since its debut, the film became a nearly instant viral success
leading to hundreds of thousands of #stopkony tweets, countless Facebook shares,
and seemingly endless media coverage. Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Justin
Bieber and George Clooney have further shed light on the issue
through a series of tweets and messages.
The Kony 2012 campaign serves as a reminder of just
how powerful social media can be. Within a matter of minutes,
thousands of people around the world became informed about a
then-obscure guerrilla leader, who is now deemed by many to be the
most wanted criminal in the world. The campaign even managed to
steal some thunder from Apple - touted as one of the smartest
marketers in the business world - and the launch of its new iPad.
As public relations and marketing professionals, we can draw a
few important lessons from Kony 2012.
1. Social media is highly influential.
Never underestimate the power of social media. When used
effectively, videos and other marketing materials can jump across
social media platforms - from YouTube to Twitter to Facebook, as
Kony 2012 did. To help ensure a successful social media campaign,
develop a social media plan beforehand and develop your goals,
target audience, messaging, strategies, tactics, timeline and
2. Star power. Celebrity spokespersons
can be particularly effective in campaigns by putting a face on
what can sometimes be intricate concepts to grasp. Be sure the
celebrity appeals to your target audience, feels passionate about
the issue, and has media clout. Endorsement of the Kony 2012
message by Oprah, Justin, George and others instantly elevated the
3. Clear messaging. The Kony 2012
campaign focuses on one clear message: Stop Kony. The simplicity
and deliberate nature of the documentary makes it clear to viewers
exactly what the goal is - and the simple message stays with them,
even after they are finished watching. Be sure your messaging is
crisp and clear, and reinforce throughout your communications.
4. Call to action. Life is busy with
interruptions, work and distractions. If you don't tell someone
what to do next, they may not do it. At the end of the Kony 2012
documentary, viewers are told exactly what they can do to help in
three easy steps: 1) sign the Kony 2012 pledge, 2) get the bracelet
and action kit, and 3) donate a few dollars to TRI each month.
5. Expect the unexpected. Believe it
or not, there is a downside to instant viral success as it is often
accompanied by intense criticism. Soon after its skyrocketed fame,
Kony 2012 attracted questions about the use of donations by Invisible
Children, the American charity behind the campaign. People also
questioned some facts in the documentary. It's important that you
are always prepared for public scrutiny. Be sure to have statements
prepared ahead of time and whatever you do, do not run away from
the media. As they say: "No comment is a comment."
Let's face it: Kony 2012 is awe-inspiring to say the least and
there is much to learn from its enormous success, whether or not
you agree with the critics.
Melia Swift, Account Supervisor at Solomon McCown &