Money & Business

Take Your Advocacy Efforts Viral With Video

By / Jan 3, 2013 (Kony 2012/YouTube)

How associations can learn from one of the most-viewed advocacy videos of 2012.

Video has the power to reach millions—just ask the creators of Kony 2012, the short film created to promote awareness of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.

While video advocacy is no stranger to associations, associations can learn from Kony 2012 and how the video aligned with efforts it already had in place.

The video was released last March, but as of the end of 2012 it had more than 95 million views, making it the third most watched video of the year (beaten only by Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and a video of five people playing one guitar).

Despite negative backlash that the film oversimplified the situation in Uganda and the lackluster turnout for the film’s intended “Cover the Night” campaign, the video clearly brought mass awareness to a previously lesser known issue, and quickly. The New York Times reported that within four days, the video had 40 million views on YouTube and 13 million views on Vimeo.

While video advocacy is no stranger to associations, associations can learn from Kony 2012 and how the video aligned with efforts it already had in place.

Take for example the video’s success in going viral, which largely can be attributed to an already established social media following on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Many associations, like the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Social Workers, have created their own YouTube channels, and both of these associations have enlisted members to upload their own personal video testimonials to support grassroots campaigns. They show how an association can take advantage of social media followers to either distribute or participate in video campaigns.

Another of Kony 2012’s strengths is its emotional story.

“You’ve got to have an emotional appeal,” said Steve Drake, president of SCD Group, Inc., about video in an interview about a new YouTube nonprofit fundraising program. “[Video’s] got to be compelling.”

The American Library Association attempted an emotional appeal with this video that compiles news reports portraying a bleak picture of library closings across the country:

And in this video, the American Heart Association uses real people who have benefited from heart-related research and medical advancements to promote its annual Heart Walk:

Another facet of successful videos is their ability to stand out in a crowd of millions of other videos, Drake said.

Last month, the American Wind Energy Association released a new and unique video explaining the production tax credit and asking Congress to extend it. Its creative approach to explaining a somewhat complicated issue definitely caught my eye. (Hey, AWEA, some of us would like to know if that hand actually drew those doodles?)

What successful advocacy videos have you seen or produced?

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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