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

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.

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