As many people in the third sector have criticised it as wonder how they might emulate it. The twin foundations for the most viewed campaign video ever are the same principles any campaign’s online content should heed, but are also why most UK charities couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ‘do a Kony’.
1. Crafting your content’s message
Even without the rumoured $700,000 budget, all campaigns making video should observe the stylistic conventions that made Kony2012 so effective: an empathetic father-and-son narration, a clear call to action against a villainous antagonist, and the urgency of a deadline (remember, we still haven’t had the 20th April day of action).
However, if you want to tell the good-versus-evil story that suits this style so well, then you have to be prepared to deal with the criticisms of over-simplification and misrepresentation that have been levelled at Kony2012. A counter-point would be one of our clients Network for Africa, a charity which does unique and amazing work on the ground in Uganda with child-soldier survivors, but who would not run as political or as western-orientated a campaign. The hopeful, Ugandan voice for gradual post-conflict recovery is a message less suited to online virals.
2. Understanding your audience – and getting to them
The incredible depth of data available has led to some fascinating analysis of the video’s dissemination. Two things are clear: first, this ripple didn’t come from just being dropped into the online ocean, but was carefully seeded through strong existing networks, and the tone of the video was in fact designed with that young, campus-based, strongly Christian audience in mind. Second, the initial energy of those networks was supposed to be harnessed to put pressure on the intended targets, celebrity opinion formers and US politicians, who the campaign had identified in ‘hit-lists’ prior to launch.
Tailoring material to resonate with particular audiences and drawing up influencer targets is good practise for any content-based campaign. The vast majority of successful charity campaigns are targeted in this way, and do not aspire, or need, to ‘break out’ of those audiences and ‘go viral’. It is possible Kony2012 might not have encountered so much criticism from Ugandan audiences if it had stayed within its intended target area, and it is an interesting prospect that this is an example of a campaign’s popularity causing it to unintentionally ‘overshoot’ its objectives. All our campaigns should definitely take note of the lessons from Kony2012, but we will often find that our campaign objectives can be served without needing to replicate it.