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The Four Secrets to the Most Viral Campaign in Modern-Day Advocacy

2013 November 7
by Dawn Arteaga

photoPorter Novelli’s Washington, D.C. office turned out in force this week to hear from Anastasia Khoo, the marketing director for Human Rights Campaign, who shared elements of their recent success inspiring action connected to marriage equality.

The campaign recently won a Mashie and was named by Facebook executives the “most viral campaign ever.” And it broke Twitter’s all-time engagement rate for a promoted tweet – the most popular tweet received 19.8 percent engagement (average engagement is around 3-5 percent).  As a result 700,000 visitors came to the HRC website in a 12 hour period along with an exponential increase in social media followers. More importantly, the campaign brought tangible results in moving marriage equality to center stage.

So, what’s the secret?

  1. Relinquish control. What did they do? They:
  2. Changed the colors in the logo (typically considered a branding no-no),
  3. Launched a campaign with a call to action that had no connection back to the organization such as “visit this URL for more” (typically considered a campaign no-no), and
  4. Embraced the community’s alterations of their logo into everything from red velvet cake to kittens.  This was not something that came easily. HRC had never touched its  logo and branding is something sacred to them (as it is to all reputable organizations.) However they believed that this was an historic moment, the campaign had the potential to have an impact and knew that they needed to let go in order for this to take off.
  5. Capitalize on key moments and conversations. The environment couldn’t have been more primed. It was a key legislative moment: marriage equality won for the first time ever on the ballots in four states in 2012. It was a key legal moment: the Supreme Court, for the first time, was taking on not one, but two key cases on marriage equality. It was a key cultural moment: Now eight in 10 Americans say they know someone who is LGBT– the issue was personal to more people than ever before. It was a key corporate moment: Major companies including Starbucks, Nike and, among others, were backing the movement.
  6. Plan, plan, plan – and then have a backup plan. The first day of the campaign, the HRC website crashed. Luckily Khoo had a backup plan:  her Web team created an alternate HRC website on Tumblr. In the end, this was a blessing in disguise. Now Khoo uses Tumblr whenever there is a major campaign to push forward as a prime platform for real-time updates.
  7. Be integrated…and nimble. “Digital is very integrated with everything we do,” Khoo said. “It’s an integrated part of our communications strategy.”

From the outset, HRC set up a communications war room for this campaign and mapped out all the platforms they wanted to use to pull it off. They checked the box on nearly all communications tactics in the roster: Op-Eds, paid promotion, outreach to key journalists, celebrity spokespeople, in-person event organization—including more than 100,000 signs, flags and banners for events, and a detailed, down-to-the-minute social media script of quality content.

At PNConnect, we couldn’t agree with Khoo’s approach more. That’s why we center our campaigns in quality content, based on insights into existing conversation. Companies with any goal can learn from Khoo’s example at HRC. Strong planning and an integrated team matched with quality content grounded in a good listening program are core to communications success.

 Find out more–and more great posts like this one–on the Porter Novelli Blog.

Can you have it all?

2012 June 22
by Dawn Arteaga

So I decided to start a new blog. I was at least partially inspired because of the thoughtful Atlantic article by Anne-Marie Slaughter “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All

But the issue isn’t a new one to me.

My family.

In fact, it is something I have been consumed with since my son, Elian, was born in December 2010. I have spent many lunch hours, coffee breaks, playdates and random encounters with fellow moms passionately sharing my frustration with juggling work and mom-hood. But more than just griping, I have been struggling for a thesis.

There is one thing that I feel positive about:

American society does not support healthy work-family balance.

But as European economies crumble around us, I have to wonder what the proper support looks like.

And I face contradictions every day.

I believe that it is impossible to reach the highest rungs of my profession while still maintaining a healthy dedication to my family. But then I see men and women I work with advancing in their careers, while still making it to ballet recitals, anniversary dinners and the gym.

I don’t totally agree with Ms. Slaughter’s article. But there are a few truths that hit home so hard to me that I felt compelled to dedicate a blog to the topic. I hope that I can use this space to explore as many angles of the issue of work-life balance as I can. I want to take a deep look at some of the women who have done this well, and some who haven’t. And I want to understand the role that men should play in this debate.

And I want to find my own work-family balance.

I want to have it all. Because don’t we all deserve it? And more importantly, don’t our kids?

#StopKony making history? Or just a lot of noise?

2012 March 9

I was honored last night to be invited to share some social media perspective on PBS’ NewsHour. You can watch my comments here.

Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign has a lot of people talking. After three days on YouTube, the video had 40 million views.  Now, a few hours later, it has 52.5 and every time I refresh the page, the number grows. It has been a worldwide trending topic on Twitter for days. At the peak on Wednesday afternoon, there were 4,000 mentions a minute on Twitter related to the campaign. I don’t know of another video that has gone so big so quickly.

Now compare that to when the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, stunning the world with devastating images and a rapidly increasing death toll, some of the world’s top celebrities gathered to re-make the We are the World video. After two days, that video had half a million views. Today, two years later, that video has 98 million views and is one of YouTube’s top 10 all-time viewed videos.

So now the big question: What’s the point?

We know that the biggest demographic sharing this video and talking about it is girls in the U.S. ages 13-17.

The call to action on the campaign is to “make Kony famous” so that the pressure and visibility to eventually capture him and bring him to justice this year. The campaign launched with the support of A-list celebrities like George Clooney and quickly gained new celebrity supporters like Justin Bieber when it became a trending topic worldwide on Twitter in a matter of hours. Invisible Children’s Facebook page went from ~400k fans to 2 million in 2-days’ time!

But while this campaign has already made Kony more famous than anyone ever expected it could, what can come out of it?

In Egypt and Tunisia, social media helped to bring down dictators. In Haiti, social media helped to raise millions. Can social media sweep through the jungles of Uganda to find Joseph Kony?

That is the question on everyone’s minds. And frankly the criticism of the campaign –how Invisible Children spends their money, whether capturing Kony will have any impact, whether this is the right issue to pour so much attention into–is only fanning the flames of this viral fire.

My big question in all this is: How much will Invisible Children raise through this campaign? I think that’s going to break another record. And I hope they put it to good – to healing those children whose childhood was stolen from them and from helping Uganda, the DRC and other countries torn apart by war to have a fresh start and a new beginning.

At the end of the day, isn’t there value in the simple fact that we are getting teenage girls in the U.S. to use their texting thumbs to spread awareness of an issue that couldn’t be farther from their backyard?

Watch the video and tell me what you think:


Converting the Social Media Non-Believers

2011 August 25
by Dawn Arteaga

I had the pleasure of speaking last night at an event organized by DC Web Women and I Heart Social Media DC and thought I would share my remarks with you all. I’d love to hear your feedback! Have you converted any social media non-believers? What was your strategy?

When people resist social media it is usually for 3 key reasons:

1. They are scared of what their community really has to say about them.
2. They are intimidated by new technology and feel overwhelmed.
3. They are happy with the way things are.

So when you are trying to convert the social media non believers you want to make sure your argument addresses each of those concerns.

1. I’m scared of what my community has to say.

You can’t hide from social media.

And the irony is, in many cases, the organizations that try to hide are the ones that get the biggest blowback from their community online.

We have seen many examples over the years of this issue coming to the fore in terms of customer service. Whether it is someone complaining about poor Comcast reception, the quality of their Virgin Atlantic in-flight meal, or their Dell laptop battery, The truth of the matter is, just because an organization isn’t active in social media, it doesn’t mean there isn’t already an active community on social media talking about you. All of those examples I gave were cases when someone voiced a concern in the social media space. But they are all also happy endings—each of those brands recognized the importance of engaging with those unsatisfied customers and using social media as a way to let them know they were valued.

2. New technology is intimidating/overwhelming

The best way to address this concern is to simply avoid tech speak. Don’t be like these guys.

Never start a sentence with Twitter.

Don’t talk tactics.

Excite them with possibilities. Instead say, “IMAGINE if a dozen highly influential people told all their friends about our service/product/cause and got a bunch of those people to tell all of their friends? Well I think we can make that happen!”

Rememer, there is never a one-size-fits all solution, so make sure you have the right approach.

Make sure the message is coming from the right person. You need to be a trusted advisor.

And show what it can do for their business.

And then if they are interested in the nuts and bolts you can explain that there is already an active group of people on Twitter talking about your issue/service/product and that by reaching out to those folks in an open, transparent way, you just might be able to incorporate some of your key message points in their conversations.

3. I’m happy with the way things are.

Resistance to change is a tough nut to crack. It is usually based in fear of the unknown mixed in with a little bit of conformity and unwillingness to push boundaries.

Again, your best approach here is to avoid focusing on the platform you want to join. If you think they don’t want to change in the beginning, just wait until you start peppering the conversation with talk of QR Codes, crowdsourcing, and hashtags.

Talk about the results you expect to bring because of the campaign, how social media integrates with your overall marketing strategy. And bring in solid stats on the ways your target audience is already active in social media, what they are already talking about and where.

And if that doesn’t work, show them what your competitors are already doing in the space and how it is making a difference for them.

The only thing that is certain is change.

If you want to be relevant to your stakeholders, certainly you need to be able to address changes in the marketplace — whether it is social media or earned media, everything is changing on a continuous basis. It is all about relevancy.

As much as some of your bosses/clients/coworkers/etc may try to ignore it, social media is not going anywhere fast, and if you don’t embrace it as a new communication tool, you are likely to become obsolete. Fast.


I’d love to hear what you think.

And be sure to check out the two who joined me speaking at this event: Deborah Ager (whose presentation is here) and Brian Chambers (who said that in coming to DC from NY he felt he was descending on a “swampland.” Hmmmm.)

Win an iPod! Participate in a Focus Group!

2010 December 22
by Dawn Arteaga

I am seeking men and women ages 25-35 in Washington, D.C. who spend at least one hour per week using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to participate in hour-long focus groups. The research study is for a graduate thesis on what motivates adults to donate to charitable causes through social media.

All participants will be entered in a raffle to win a brand-new iPod Nano with video playback and 8 GB of capacity. The iPod comes with Apple earphones, USB cable and a dock adapter. Snacks and drinks will also be provided.

The focus groups will be held in the evening or on weekends at the Johns Hopkins University campus near Dupont Circle at 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW.

Contact Dawn Arteaga at if you are interested in participating. You will then receive a consent letter, and meeting and contact information.

Thanks so much for your help with this project.

Digital Communications Strategy: EnTeam Organization

2010 November 30
by Dawn Arteaga

Hope you enjoy this presentation of a digital communications strategy I did for a nonprofit organization in St. Louis, MO: EnTeam Organization.

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Why do you click “Donate Now”?

2010 October 16

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog. If you’ll allow me to make excuses, I do think I have a couple of good ones. I’ve been madly working to finish my master’s degree at Johns Hopkins in digital communication while working full time. On top of it all, I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant! I’m now in the final stages of two of these three all-consuming activities (being pregnant and completing my master’s) and I’m hoping I can get your help on the latter. (If you want to help me with my pregnancy, donations of caramel apples are warmly welcomed…that’s all I crave these days.)

Over the next several weeks I will be writing a thesis on social networking fundraising strategies. I’ll conduct several focus groups with people who are plugged into social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, I’m looking at YOU.

read more…

Great video that inspires action: How non-profits can better use this fast-growing medium

2010 August 8

Sometimes the best video comes from authentic voices, not fancy equipment.

Video is one of the fastest-growing attractions on the Web. It brings new viewers to your site and can engage potential donors in new ways. So how can non-profits make the most of this valuable medium? I was really struck by’s use of video to demand action. The example is not a new one, but it teaches some evergreen lessons to non-profits everywhere. Namely: read more…

First Grade’s Hairy Way to Soak up the Oil Spill

2010 May 7
by Dawn Arteaga

In most cases I try to keep the content on this blog pretty tightly concentrated around my observations on innovative digital media. However, in this case, I’m going to have to go off topic. I think you’ll agree it’s a worthy topic. This is an example of how grassroots movements begin at the most simple levels.

Huge caveat: This example is from my mom’s first grade class. I’m biased because I think she is a brilliant teacher. Read on and you’ll see what I mean. Everything here was completely driven by her 6 and 7 year olds. These truly are our country’s future leaders… read more…

Survival Tips: Life without an iPhone

2010 April 10
by Dawn Arteaga

“NOOOO!” I heard myself issue a blood-curdling scream as the realization sunk in: Someone had just stolen my iPhone. The young punk ripped my lifeline out of my hands and ran through the closing metro doors before I could do anything. I leaped to my feet, banging on the doors to no avail. As the train gradually eased from the station I turned to my fellow passengers in utter desperation. “I WAS JUST ROBBED! HE STOLE MY PHONE!” A few lazily looked over in my direction. One woman unsympathetically muttered, “mmm hmmm, they do that.”

Didn’t they realize that I had just lost my connection to the world? What was I supposed to do without my iPhone? I was heading to the airport. How on earth would I survive a flight? What if someone sent me an e-mail? What if I got lost? My world slowed to a halt.

Despite herculean efforts on my part…from yanking the emergency brake to stop the train (in case anyone from the DC Metro is reading this, you might want to look into those bad boys. Both of the brakes on my car were loose in their sockets)…soliciting the help of a slightly over-eager DC policeman to track down a similar-looking guy and frisk him…getting the metro police to agree to review the tapes from the station to try to match our suspect to the theft…nothing worked. To make matters worse, I nearly missed my flight.

Here I am, two weeks later, still using a $20 Nokia phone with one ring tone, no games and of course no data access. It has been an interesting process. Some would probably say that I needed the cleansing. I disagree. I’m trying to hold out until the new iPhone comes out this summer. Until then, I’ll have to resign myself to the following lessons learned: read more…

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