KONY 2012: A Sensational Social Media Masterpiece

DISCLAIMER: I will not comment on the politics of Invisible Children or the KONY 2012 campaign, but simply share my thoughts on its PR efforts and initiatives.

March 7, 2012. A friend and I just finished class, headed over to Trabant, grabbed a bite to eat and got a seat. As per habit, I read through some of the new emails that I received while in class, but then immediately opened Facebook to see what my friends and peers were talking about. I saw a few updates from friends, but nothing too exciting. Sounded like a pretty normal day from the social networks.

But then I noticed a video that seemed to be blowing up. It was called “KONY 2012.” I had absolutely no idea what this mysterious video was about, nor did I know anything about KONY 2012.

After watching later, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself because my inner PR geek was exploding. Here are some of my thoughts that raced through my mind after I discovered KONY 2012:

1. The power of social media, especially Facebook, is revolutionizing the way that we communicate. Jason Russell, the director, states that “Right now, there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago.” This is an incredible statistic, and must be recognized by PR professionals in organizations that have not evolved into the social media age. Invisible Children understands the extreme power that Facebook can have in getting the word out there. They understand that Facebook is an essential platform because of the sheer amount of people that use it. The video was released on March 5, and by March 7, it already had over one million views. The interesting and important feature of social media for PR pros to understand is the fact that if videos or posts are compelling enough, they will be shared over and over again. For example, a friend of mine posted the video to her followers, some of which (including me) posted it to their friends. From there, my friends may have found it interesting as well, and shared it on their profile. This creates a “circling” effect, where the video circles around the entire network from person to person, to the point where it’s posted so many times that so many different groups of “friends” have the chance to watch and broadcast the message.  Because this video became viral so quickly, it also gained word-of-mouth views and news coverage. I told many of my fellow classmates via face-to-face communication about the video because I thought it was important and compelling.

2. Invisible Children understands how to reach a variety of audiences simply through its social media presence. Firstly and obviously, it reaches the audiences represented on social media, which is heavily populated by 18 to 24 year olds. Because the KONY 2012 video is so viral, it’s been picked up by many of the nation’s largest media organizations. This has the potential of reaching audiences that receive their news through television and the Internet, particularly politicians and an older demographic. The main goal of KONY 2012 is to raise awareness about Joseph Kony’s crimes in Africa to the government, and in doing so, convince them to support U.S. military aid to stop him. They have already targeted many politicians, but may reach other local government officials through the media. This could mean even more support for U.S. military aid from local government officials. The older demographic is not as represented on Facebook like younger people are. However, the news coverage of the film has the potential to reach this older demographic through TV. On April 20, supporters of Invisible Children will coat major cities in the U.S. with KONY 2012 flyers. This has the potential to reach many different people because of the diverse nature of cities. I’m not sure if Invisible Children planned this out, but it is an incredibly effective and unique PR campaign to reach its target audience: everyone. Invisible Children is also offering bracelets and t-shirts with their brand displayed. These are unique, but excellent ways to get the message out there. Think of it: if you’re wearing a KONY 2012 bracelet, you have the chance to discuss the campaign on a face-to-face basis with someone who’s not sure who Kony is and wants to find out more.

Overall, the KONY 2012 campaign shines as a PR initiative. I admire the fact that Invisible Children has put so much effort into research and creating a campaign. Because of their precision and planning, they have successfully spread awareness about Joseph Kony and have created a clear call to action. Will this call to action hold up until April 20, when flyers will be posted in every major city in the U.S. overnight? Who knows. For PR professionals, this is an excellent case that shows knowledge of audience, the nature of communication, and planning.

KONY 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Photo Credit: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/conserving-freedom/2012/mar/7/kony-2012-bringing-joseph-kony-justice/

Written by Bobby Schrader.

Bobby Schrader is a junior mass communication major with minors in advertising and journalism. He is the PR Officer for the Xi Mu Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at the University of Delaware, the Music Director of the MelUDees Coed A cappella group, a PR Writing Fellow, and a Blue Hen Ambassador. Email: rtschrader@gmail.com, Twitter: @BSchrader412

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