If you haven’t already watched the Kony 2012 video, then you have missed out: not only is this an extremely powerful and moving piece of film-making, but it is also the world’s most viral video – according to Mashable – with nearly 100 million views over its first six days.
While the video has certainly raised awareness of Joseph Kony as a war criminal, its success has also drawn the spotlight onto charity Invisible Children and the simplification of its key message to something that is easily shared and easily supported (see The Huffington Post and My Heart’s In Accra for some details about those criticisms).
So what about the rest of us in the voluntary sector? Well, creating a video to showcase the work of our organisations, or the lives of our service-users, is an option that is much more available to us now than it was even a few years ago. Although the type of high-quality filming, editing and graphics that we see in the Kony 2012 film are probably beyond the reach of most charitable organisations, if we can put together even a simple video we now have the power to share it with the world via our websites, Vimeo and, of course, YouTube (and YouTube will let you stream from an event, too.)
So what can we learn from the Kony 2012 film that we can apply to our own, much smaller projects? These are just my thoughts, use the comments below to add your take.
1. Branding. Nobody watching Kony 2012 would be in any doubt about the name of that campaign, what its marketing materials look like, and what is the name of the charity behind it.
If you’re producing a video then ensuring that your organisation’s branding and contact details are on it, including a website where interested people can get more information, is key to making that video actually help you in your campaign.
2. Emotion. Kony 2012 very frankly uses emotion to connect us with its message and stir us to do something about it. We see very upsetting scenes, and also see people reacting to these scenes and to their own situations in very emotional ways. As social creatures, this is going to make a big impression on us.
Tugging on the heart strings is something that many charitable campaigns will do in one form or another; after all, aren’t we all trying to make the world a better place? But it’s a bit of a dangerous game, I think, as it doesn’t take much to tip over from ‘heart warming’ to ‘sob story’ and all the negative connotations that suggests.
The Kony 2012 video also apparently makes use of some tried and tested principles for story telling, as delineated by Professor Marshall Ganz: check out this Frogloop article for more details.
For some excellent examples of the power of getting people to tell their own stories directly, and record them in a way that preserves their dignity as human beings, check out the following:
- Oxfam’s YouTube channel
- Helen & Douglas House’s ‘Live Deep’ films
- Finland’s campaign to raise awareness of persecution of Dalits in Nepal (this wasn’t done via video, to be fair, but via FB profiles but it’s still a great example and you can see the excellent summary video, here).
3. Calls to action.. Kony 2012 peppers its video with very clear information about how the watcher can help: by sticking up posters, by donating money and by the simple act of sharing the video (hence the 100m views). At the end of the film we also see 3 actions that we can take if we want to help in supporting the victims of Joseph Kony.
I rather suspect that most of the videos that charities launch will fall into the category of awareness raising: of a campaign, of a medical condition or of a situation that needs addressing. The message of Kony 2012 is that, whatever your reason for posting a video, give people a very clear idea of what you want them to do now… even if that’s just spreading the word about the video. Make it easy to act by including your website address or the hashtag you want folks to use, so people can make that move while your message is fresh in their minds.
4. Use your existing networks. The Kony 2012 video features lots of footage of (mainly young) supporters around the world getting onto the streets to campaign, or speaking to their elected representatives, or just pasting up posters. It’s an effective tool for making the viewer feel that they too can be part of this movement, and that many others like them are taking up the challenge.
What’s also interesting is that these stirring scenes clearly indicate that Invisible Children is using some of its existing networks of supporters to spread the word about its campaign. Take another look at the Huffington Post article: you’ll see an analysis that much of the early spread of the viral video came from populations in the US which were already closely associated with the work of this charity.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, far from it: what I am saying is that we musn’t neglect our existing base of supporters, colleagues, service-users, Twitter followers and Facebook fans when we’re looking to spread our message more widely. See these people as your mavens, who can take your message out into their networks for you.
If all that has whetted your appetite for video, then check out this older post with some practical tips and examples. What are YOU doing?