A number of my friends and contacts recently brought to my attention the plight of Paul Waggoner,a U.S. aid worker jailed in Haiti in what looked like an extortion attempt. Haitian jails during a cholera epidemic are the last place you want a friend to be,and Mr. Waggoner’s supporters made great efforts to ensure that U.S. officials were aware of their concerns. Happily,when I went to this morning to find the latest in the case,I learned that a Haitian judge freed Waggoner this week after 18 days in jail.
In considering how I could help my contacts in their quest to bring attention to Waggoner’s case,I thought about what I know best –media activism. From writing letters to newspapers to getting press coverage for a petition drive to creating buzz with new social media tools,media campaigns remain one of the most powerful tools in an activist’s toolkit.
In a case like Waggoner’s,where supporters can identify a local congressperson,a key State Department official or other potential decision-maker who could make a real difference,Twitter plus an activist tool called Act.ly could make a real difference. Act.ly is a simple Twitter petition tool built by Jim Gilliam,one of the world’s brightest developers in the Web 2.0 activism space. You can read a summary of how Act.ly works and highlights of its recent successes here.
So,here’s my advice for running a successful Act.ly campaign:
Familiarize yourself with the style and language used in Act.ly campaigns that have 50 or more supporters and learn from them;
Define your campaign in several words,which will be the tweet that drives your petition. Craft a short,pithy summary with more details that people will see if they visit the Act.ly campaign page from the petition link;
Identify a clear target for your campaign. Act.ly is fueled by Twitter,so this should be a person or entity that your research has shown is active on Twitter,and also is not so deluged with @ replies that they are going to ignore the Twitter aspect of the campaign. If your sole target is an elected official on Twitter but clearly unresponsive,don’t despair –we’ll get them through the next point;
On Twitter,key members of the campaign must follow and list (preferably with a list name that includes a tagline or key goal from the campaign) all local and relevant national print,TV and radio reporters who are active on Twitter and whose coverage of your campaign could help influence a favorable decision by the target;
Successful campaigns need multiple strategic plans,but for this media push,the tactic is both the Act.ly petition and about the Act.ly petition. Because social media activism is still fairly new,and because news reporters are always looking for angles,there is great promise for campaigns that clearly define their goals and target key decision-makers. While one part of this tactic is to get signups for the Twitter petition,another is to be sure that your local press and the decision-maker know about this social media pressure;
Write letters to newspapers,call in to radio shows,blog,Facebook and otherwise integrate the goals of the Act.ly petition into other media and social network channels,preserving the uniqueness of the tactic;
Leverage the celebrity of prominent Twitter members who sign on to your petition;
Ensure that your campaign has a clear spokesperson or group of speakers who can respond quickly and knowledgeably to media requests. Be sure each spokesperson understands the integrated media tactics;the principle spokesperson should likely be the one who launches the Act.ly petition from their own Twitter account.
I’m sure that you have other ideas,or perhaps you’ve run a successfully Act.ly campaign and would like to share your experience with others. Please leave your thoughts and links to any posts on this subjects in the comments.
Flickr photo by *~Dawn~*