Reflections on the KONY 2012 Campaign

Every business dreams of making that video goes “viral” on YouTube; however, some may not be ready for the fame a viral video brings. “Kony 2012” recently became the most viral video of all time according to Mashable. The video by Invisible Children reached 100 million views in just six short days beating out Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga and Rebecca Black. The 30-minute long video about child soldiers in Uganda received praise all over social media sites within the first couple days especially in the age 18 to 29-year old, but as days past, criticism and scandal followed. Public relations professionals can learn from Invisible Children on how to create a successful YouTube video and also how not to act when one becomes successful.

As a public relations student especially one interested in justice issues around the globe, Kony 2012 immediately grabbed my attention. However, I wanted to wait before giving my opinion on the issue before I researched and watched it unfold more.

My Initial Reaction

First, the video succeeded in its purpose: making the name of Joseph Kony famous. Filmmaker and founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, said in the movie that the purpose of the film is to  “make Joseph Kony famous, and not in a good way.” Invisible Children, a non-profit that seeks to bring justice to children in Africa affected by Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers, met that goal. The video had many compelling and timely elements that moved the younger generation to share the video on social media sites. For example, the video utilized the business Facebook timeline, which had been recently released, in an innovative way connecting with the here and now.

Campaign Critiques

After experiencing days of success, the non-profit became under close scrutiny from the public including how they call for military action and how they spend their financials.

The largest criticism, as cited in a Mashable article, being related to Invisible Children’s financials. According to the Visible Children, a Tumblr that has been dedicated to evaluating the campaign, only 32% of overall budget goes directly to children in Africa. After reading that only 32 percent of IC’s donations go to children in Africa.

Thirty-two percent is an unacceptable number. However, the goal of IC is not to physically meet a need like in Ozarks Food Harvest’s case, but to bring justice to a group of people, which is intangible. If all of their film costs brings justice to children in Africa, it was money well-spent.

The Aftermath

The stress of living up to an infamous video took over Jason Russell in a public way when he had a reported episode that led him to be hospitalized (Newcomb 2012). Now, the Invisible Children have announced a sequel to the video is to be released in the coming weeks (Springer 2012).’

Unfortunately, Russell’s crack under pressure became just as viral as his video to bring justice in Africa.

I loved Chris Miller’s blog post about treating each other with grace on the Internet. I do not see this incident as something that will forever taint Russell’s mission. We are all human, and it just illustrates the pressure of instant fame in our culture.

4 PR Lessons

There are many PR lessons to learn from the Kony 2012 campaign:

  1. When creating any social media campaign, prepare for success.
  2. Be ready for scrutiny at all times.
  3. Communicate immediately after a crisis and address specific concerns.
  4. Monitor all social media sites to respond to criticisms and concerns.

KONY 2012: The Sequel

About five days ago, the sequel to Kony 2012 was released. I thoroughly enjoyed the second video. Even though it has only received 1 million views in the same amount of time it took the first video to reach 100 million views, the video addresses the more complex issues and audience’s concerns about military force abroad. The video was less “moving” and more complicated, which is perhaps why is did not have the viral power of the first video.

In the end, this is a moment in history that will be in future public relations history books to study, dissect and learn from. The campaign overall was brilliant, timely and succeeded in making Joseph Kony’s name famous. Time will tell the true effects of the campaign.

What are your thoughts on KONY 2012?


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