>The best viral campaign ever?

Just over a month ago something swept across the Internet; firstly through social media and then through news organisations. Kony 2012 was possibly the best viral campaign to date and one that has touched millions of people since.

The video has been watched by nearly 90 million people, shared by millions and has had one goal; to make Joseph Kony famous. It did just that. Since its release ‘Invisible Children’, the group behind the campaign, have released a follow up video showing the progress they have made. They aimed to fight criticisms against the project and lay out four clear steps they want to complete, some of which are already happening.

Those four steps are: Civilian protection, peaceful surrender, rehabilitation & reconstruction and to arrest the top LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) leaders. Thanks to the campaign, these are all achievable goals that can be reached by the end of 2012, simply through Kony being famous.

But this campaign was not without its difficulties. Within a few days of it spreading without control, news organisations and social media were rife with complaints from a range of sources. ‘Invisible Children’ was an organisation that had spent far too much money on producing films, supporting pro-war activism, seeing middle class white kids jump on a bandwagon and of being pure PR. Co-founder Jason Russell also had an apparent mental breakdown and was found naked roaming the streets, later being arrested.

So are the critics right? No. Invisible Children do not claim to be an organisation that will feed the hungry, build wells or vaccinate children. Set up by film makers, Invisible Children is about spreading messages, something they do extremely well, and in some ways that is more important.

Not too long ago there was a column in ‘The Times’ suggesting that rather than cut the BBC’s world budget, it should be taken from our aid budget. This is because physical aid can be stolen, diverted or generally misused. In contrast, the BBC World service provides something that dictators and soldiers cannot touch: information and ideas.

That’s what Kony 2012 is. More people than ever are now aware of Joseph Kony and as the campaign picked up momentum, more politicians began to listen. We can be criticised for jumping on the bandwagon, but the initial spreading of that information is needed and was initiated by the people. The mainstream media in this country would never have covered the issue, Kony 2012 changed that.

More than that, people actually took physical action on 20th April. In Bristol alone, Invisible Children’s event ‘Cover The Night’ saw a group of people take to the city, spreading the message even further. People on our very doorstep were trying to make a difference, something that not campaigns can claim to have inspired.

When it comes to public relations, what charity doesn’t use it to the extreme? You think those Oxfam adverts on the TV aren’t full of PR? You think the chuggers on the street aren’t given a bunch of PR techniques they have to learn? So yes, Kony 2012 uses PR but it used it in such a way and so effectively that you have to give it credit.

Joseph Kony is now famous. Regular people are taking action in the street and politicians have stepped up their game, all because of what one Internet video did. Information and awareness are key, so spread the message and make a difference. As the video says: ‘we now hold the power’.

Liam Corcoran