Tag: viral campaigns

The battleground

Early in 2017, the Trump administration proposed the removal of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, a survey that measures how well federally-funded aging programs like Meals on Wheels are reaching older adults.

This effort would effectively erase LGBT elders from critical data collection and decision-making, and there was a limited window of time to comment before the changes were final.

For SAGE—the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults—the threat demanded an urgent response.

Joining the resistance

SAGE had always focused on both advocacy and services, but their advocacy occurred largely behind the scenes; in describing their work, SAGE talked mainly about the services they offer.

Enter Siegelvision—the iconic branding firm, and SAGE’s partner in a new rebranding effort. To Siegelvision, this moment was the perfect opportunity to showcase SAGE’s new look and messaging: the threatened erasure created the perfect storm of circumstances for SAGE to both lead a resistance movement, and redefine the organization in the process.

“We Refuse to Be Invisible,” a statement that resonated early on, became both the rallying cry for this effort and the activist voice SAGE had been looking for.

Creating a movement

SAGE’s task was to fill the commenting period with as many voices as possible demanding that the question on sexual orientation be added back to the survey. Siegelvision dove into thinking about how best to galvanize and activate allies. A high-profile Midtown billboard was floated. But would the right people see it? Would it lead to action? This limited window of opportunity was too critical to leave those questions to chance.

A call with the team at Craft & Commerce—an outcomes-focused digital agency specializing in cause campaigns—yielded a different option: Bring “We Refuse To Be Invisible” to life in the form of short, inspiring social media content, and use paid social to rapidly test, optimize, and scale an online petition call-to-action.

The #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign was born.

The effects were immediate. Within days the goal for petition signatures had been reached and then surpassed. By the end of the commenting period, 10,000 allies had signed the petition, and, for greater impact, these digital petitions were printed and delivered to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Printed signatures ready for delivery to HHS

The social media campaign dovetailed with SAGE’s offline advocacy—including op-eds, lobbying, letter-writing parties, partner mobilization, and an impactful presence at Pride marches across the country. This widespread awareness and a critical mass of action was achieved within a relatively scrappy budget, and orchestrated by an organization whose advocacy had heretofore flown under the radar.

Outcome: An unlikely victory

The public outcry of the #WeRefuseToBeInvisible campaign was swift and fervent, and pushed the Trump administration to reverse course. The question on sexual orientation would remain.

For SAGE, the fight isn’t remotely over. LGBT elders are still fighting to be seen and better understood in the context of aging, and new threats to LGBT rights continue to arise. But thanks to a clarified brand voice and a well-run resistance campaign, there now exists a broader, more aware coalition to activate when the next challenge comes along, and a road-tested set of tactics to deploy for success.

Resistance checklist:

  1. Define and streamline the message.
  2. Run a simple campaign (KISS).
  3. Marry great creative with paid digital media for big impact.
  4. Find your most engaged supporters through persona building and testing.
  5. Optimize for results (ads and landing pages).
  6. Rally support of leadership and board.
  7. Be nimble to capitalize on the moment (right time, right place = perfect storm).
  8. Integrate digital with offline (lobbying and in real life).

The more saturated society becomes with media and mobile devices, the more powerful short films can prove for nonprofits to get their stories in front of new audiences. When done right, short films are inspiring, moving, and bite-sized—they can be quickly watched and easily shared, setting off a viral groundswell in the process.

It’s therefore surprising how often nonprofits fail to capitalize on their short films from a fundraising perspective. After all, social innovators don’t just need views on a YouTube screen; they need those views to translate into support that will help them fuel their movements and change the world. It is critical that organizations integrate a fundraising perspective into the very foundation of filmmaking, thinking about stories, timing, and campaigns before the first storyboards or narrative arcs have been conceived.

Distribution is just as important as a beautiful film

Once a film is produced, organizations need to deliver it to their audiences through a sound and inspired distribution plan. Going viral and generating a fundraising breakthrough can feel like catching lightning in a bottle. Who could have predicted the sensation of “The Ice Bucket Challenge,” for instance? Or who would have guessed that “The Marathon Walker” would resonate around the world the way it did? Is it all luck?

GiraudieNatashaDeganello.img1Sure, a little luck may have been involved, but it’s far more about distribution and relentless outreach than it is about the whims of online culture or the vagaries of the media spotlight. One of my favorite examples is READ Global and its “Meet Chuna” short film, which features the story of a Nepalese woman who, at age 47, taught herself how to read, educated her daughters, and started a women’s study group to ensure other women have a safe space to learn and dream.

The film got picked up by The Huffington Post, Upworthy, Le Globaliste, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Optimist Magazine, in addition to a host of of talk radio shows and social media and blog sites. “Meet Chuna” racked up nearly 50,000 views in three weeks as a result, increasing the total number of donors by 54% to READ Global’s year-end fundraising campaign, compared to the previous year.

One woman, One family, One village

For its end-of-year fundraising campaign, READ Global decided to build a branded marketing campaign around the idea of an “Empower campaign.” Everyone who donated would be empowering one woman, one family, or one village, depending on the size of his or her donations. READ produced three stories—two written and one film. Each of the three stories aligned with each donation level and illuminated the type of people and villages people would be helping; “Meet Chuna” was the film story for one woman.

READ posted the microdocumentary (“microdoc”) to its website in a light box on the homepage that prominently featured both the film and the larger campaign. They sent out a series of emails to the contacts in their database about the film and the larger campaign in late November, and they created print marketing collateral in the form of a tri-fold brochure that showcased all three stories.

Throughout the month of December, READ conducted a targeted PR outreach to bloggers and journalists to get the video in front of people with large audiences of their own. They targeted five different types of publications—women’s empowerment, mommy blogs, social entrepreneurship, South Asian philanthropy, and adventure travel—and created customized pitches for hundreds of contacts within each domain.

“This experience taught us the value of customized outreach and being really strategic about how we approach media outlets,” Tina Sciabica, READ Global’s executive director, told us. “We’ve done media outreach in the past but never with a compelling video like this. It makes a big difference.”

“For us, this really showed that PR is hugely important for videos,” echoed Sara Litke, READ Global’s former manager of communications and sustainability (she since has moved on to pursue a Masters in Public Policy at UC Berkeley). “We released another video on our website before Meet Chuna and only reached out to our internal email database of about 3,000 people. That video has gotten 400 views in total, and it’s been on our homepage for months now. ‘Meet Chuna’ surpassed that in half a day.”

Lessons learned

I asked Tina and Sara if they had any good tips looking back on the “Meet Chuna” success.

Tina said READ Global will always be sure to editorialize its calendar moving forward, allowing powerful content to work in tandem with important events and dates throughout the year.

Sara said that she ended up being far more brazen with reaching out to media outlets than she had ever felt comfortable being in the past.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to keep following up on many, many occasions,” she said. “We continued to get people who were interested in posting a month or two later. I followed up with some of these folks at their request six times. Obviously you have to be selective, but if anyone gave me a shred of interest regarding the initial email, then I would follow up with a personal note until something had come of it.”

She also said that one of the biggest keys to “Meet Chuna’s” success was Upworthy, for which she employed a very different pitching technique. Rather than send a generic email and follow up with a personal note, she identified two people who posted stories to Upworthy in a similar vein to the “Meet Chuna” piece, then sent them two Facebook messages and one tweet tagging them.

“Media outlets that are really high viral content producers, especially those focused on social media, have a different process for vetting content,” she said. “It was simple, but you had to do it the right way.”

Greenpeace’s Mobilisation Lab helps the organization transition into an era of people-powered campaigns. The right set of tools and an active social profile is helping Greenpeace to better support its community with campaigns that are community driven.

This case study was originally published along with a dozen others in our free e-book, Collected Voices: Data-Informed Nonprofits. You can download the e-book here.

NTEN: Tell us about how the MobLab fits into Greenpeace overall.

Michael Silberman (MS) and Wendee Parker (WP): We exist to help the global Greenpeace organization transition to a new era of people-powered campaigning shifting from Greenpeace-centric to supporter-centric campaigns. We’re working with staff in nearly 50 countries to design campaigns that enable the full power and potential of over 25 million supporters and activists to help us build stronger campaigns that win bigger. Our team has an independent budget to focus 100% on building capacity, challenging norms, sharing knowledge, and introducing new practices and tactics.

NTEN: Who are the Arctic 30, and how and why did MobLab get involved?

MS / WP: In September 2013, Russian security agents illegally boarded the Arctic Sunrise in international waters, seizing the ship and detaining all those on board at gunpoint. The ship was towed to Murmansk, and all those on board were locked up in cold, filthy cells, some of them in solitary confinement. They were charged with piracy and then hooliganism, crimes that carried lengthy prison sentences, because they dared to peacefully take action against destructive Arctic oil drilling and the onslaught of climate change, protesting at state-owned Gazprom’s Arctic drill platform in the Barents Sea. After 71 days in detention, the last of the Arctic 30 have been granted bail release, but severe piracy charges are still pending.

Some tools the MobLab provided to supporters of the Arctic 30

We got involved because there was a critical need to ensure that we were doing everything possible as an organization to help free these activists and leverage the global media spotlight to grow the campaign to save the Arctic. We added capacity to test new messages and tactics, and enable a global strategy brainstorm across offices and teams. Understanding how to effectively spread the messages by mobilizing new and existing supporters who connect with this cause through digital channels: thats what its all about.

NTEN: This has been a highly charged international incident. How have you baked principles of measurement and transparency into the campaign?

MS: We had to determine what could and should be measured. This campaign has been an opportunity to think about some of our limitations to measurement and tracking, and to have everyone really consider whats working and whats not.

WP: An informal group from several offices assembled for a week to take a look at our tools and platforms. It illuminated something many of us already knew: that consistency within digital engagement data was lacking. Trying to develop, implement, and execute a standard way to collect, track, and report on those digital efforts is an enormous challenge. The meetings gave us a good sense of our “universe” both the great effort our colleagues were already making in these areas, as well as opportunities to improve towards a complete, holistic point of view.

NTEN: Aside from this campaign, are there other wins you can pinpoint in these areas?

MS: There are over 100 active Greenpeace social accounts online. Were now seeing organizers include data analysis in their campaign planning. We at MobLab are still pushing, but it wouldnt get completely lost if we werent. Im also heartened by the fact that theres a lot of independent testing happening. People are using Optimize.ly for A/B testing, for example, and then reporting the results to everyone else.

WP: The focus and culture has definitely shifted, but the job is not done. Success would be having digital analysis (starting at defining digital analytic goals, implementing digital tracking and analytic tools for ongoing reporting, testing and optimization, ending with a complete campaign wrap up analysis) fully adopted as part of the overall campaign planning process.

NTEN: You mentioned Optimize.ly. Are there other tools that stand out as particularly helpful (or that you wish were more helpful)?

MS: We have issues with our bulk email tool, which doesnt make A/B testing as easy as it could be. On the upside, were making good progress with Google Analytics and Optimize.ly. On social analytics, were using Radian6, Topsy Pro, and Facebook insights.

WP: Greenpeace’s situation is so complex. In every office you may find a different setup for supporter data, a different set of digital engagement tools, etc. Even within offices, data can be fragmented among departments. I’m not sure theres a “one size fits all” solution, but as we work towards a common framework and toolset, it lessens the challenges towards complete supporter data integration a place where all departments view the same data and can have shared goals and metrics.

NTEN: Where would you like to see your campaign leaders a year from today with regard to systems and culture?

MS: We always want to see the four essentials of a people-powered campaign. The end is not putting data at the center of our campaigns; the end is more engagement-oriented organizing. We put people at the center of our campaigns, but data is an enabling tool. If we can use data to more effectively move people along and support our journey more deeply, thats a success point.