Simon Deverell, head of creative, KEO digital
I went on my first CND march in 1981, aged ninein Vancouver and was having nightmares about ‘the bomb’. My mother said, “Make yourself heard!” and so I did. We marched for miles in the rain. We held banners. Wore badges. Shouted at the top of our voices. I felt that I had a voice. That it counted.
Fast-forward to today and the campaigning landscape has changed. Digital media and social networks have irreversibly changed it. When successful it creates exponential growth in supporters, helpers and activists – not to mention, results.
The advent of ‘clicktivism’ through online campaigning groups such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz have shown how it’s done, prompting u-turns and awareness through innovative work in the social channels, gathering support and exposure.
Last November, KEOreleased a video on YouTube highlighting the madness of fish discarding. It touched a nerve. Half of all the fish caught in the North Sea is thrown back overboard – dead –and we wanted to make a change. We weren’t alone and the Fish Fight campaign began.
Since the start, KEO’s multi-platform approach to the campaign has played a significant role in its success. When Hugh’s Fish Fighthit Channel 4’s screens in January across the course of three nights, the online campaign hub at fishfight.net got to work in recruiting a loyal and powerful army of ‘Fish Fighters’, and inviting the public to pledge their support by signing-up to the online petition. It is in the area of raising support from the public that KEO has harnessed the potential of online to engage and encourage action, growing a huge social base of 250,000 followers after the show’s broadcast.
The growth and power of social media is nothing new and online campaigning groups have made effective use of these platforms to ‘spread the word’ and garner strong support. In spite of the negative press social media has received for its roll in the organisation of the recent looting, a prime example of its positive use is the Riot Clean-Up campaign, which is being organised primarily through Twitter (@Riotcleanup, #riotcleanup) and Facebook to help arrange the clean-up following the destruction caused by the riots. It reeled in a flurry of support in just a few days demonstrating the way social media can engage with not only individuals but communities.
Another example of this is Missing People’s ‘Big Tweet’ campaign in May for which they tweeted an appeal for a different missing child every 30-minutes for 24-hours, and encouraged supporters to help by retweeting the appeals. The fact that the appeals were retweeted more than 6,500 times just highlights how effective social media platforms can be in campaigning.
Some also criticise online campaigning as the ‘lazy’ option, dubbing them as ‘slacktivists’, suggesting that the ease of signing-up to a campaign means that most will never fully engage with the issues. However, Avaaz’s recent anti-Murdoch campaign suggests otherwise, claiming that their “activism played a critical role in delaying the BSkyB deal” until the furore of the hacking scandal put the final stop to it. Not only does this demonstrate that ‘clicktivists’ do play an active role in these campaigns but that they can also make a real difference. In a similar vein, on Wednesday 13 July, the Fish Fight campaign achieved a momentous victory when Maritime Minister Maria Damanaki announced her proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy before the EU Parliament.
Whether you walk in the rain or sign-up online, it’s important to stand-up for what you believe in even if you do that sitting down. Digital media has proved to play a vital role in campaigning; encouraging support via multiple platforms, reaching out to individuals who may not have got involved otherwise. Wear your badge, virtual or real. People power works and surely that’s a good thing.