Kony 2012 Part 2—Back to Build Credibility

Invisible Children’s (IC) Kony 2012 is the poster child of nonprofit video storytelling. It got attention (50 million YouTube views in the first week of release) and generated some level of understanding of the atrocities of Joseph Kony, the Ugandan rebel leader, and his LRA army.

Although the video will be remembered forever as a way to scale awareness at the speed of light by going viral, it also highlighted the challenges of visual storytelling. Kony 2012 generated widespread skepticism for its simplification of a complex situation, the infeasibility of the proposed solution, and the sensationalism of its storytelling. That, followed by the public and extreme breakdown of Invisible Children’s co-founder Jason Russell, raised a lot of eyebrows.

Now Invisible Children is back with this Kony 2012: Part 2-Beyond Famous video.

Narrator Ben Keesey, IC’s CEO, takes a measured approach, focusing on people working on the ground in Uganda speaking to the value of the attention generated by the first video. He addresses the “no call to action” criticism by focusing supporters on IC’s April 20 Cover the Night gatherings, to be held in cities throughout the world.

Keesey is spot on in recognizing the necessity of building the organization’s credibility. But this video just doesn’t do the job for me: it’s beautifully-produced emptiness. I just don’t buy the impact in a night of protest if the groundswell of support doesn’t have a clear next step.

My critique: The Invisible Children folks are great storytellers in the tradition of Madison Avenue—Lots of style, little substance. For me, the greatest impact of their campaign is the need for audiences to vet stories for authenticity, no matter how emotionally compelling they may be.

What’s your take? Please share your response here.

P.S. Get more peer guidance on what can strengthen your organization’s marketing impact with the just-released, no-charge Getting Attention 2012 Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide.

Nancy Schwartz on April 5, 2012 in storytelling | 2 comments
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  • Jcurtis

    Our lives are so full with the task at hand
    that to hear something it needs to be glitzy, loud and simple. I am sick of the criticism of the Kony video.
    Is the video enough – no, did it start a conversation about something important
    that not enough people were talking about – yes. That is powerful and should be
    respected.  In many ways this video was
    too successful and Invisible Children was not ready for the
    lid to be ripped off their organization. 
    But, the video did its primary job which was to shed light on horrific atrocities
    that get very little press in this country.

  • Damien

    The Video as well as the response to it teaches us that the New Media (Social) is the way that ideas are now spread. It’s strange because there really isn’t a model yet that tells us how to effectively present powerful and compelling messages in this landscape. If this were the 80’s there would have been several Kony Video’s with all star casts and benefit concerts all competing for the hearts and and wallets of it’s audiences. It’s a whole new game and I think the folks at IC are trying to figure out how to play. The question may be how do organizations like IC get people to care the same way as they do. I was intrigued but my relationship with the issue is probably much different than the core audience from a demographic perspective. Tailoring the message to different groups may have been a good idea rather than laying out a one man, one plan idea for a very complex issue. Much to learn from this.

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