The Story So Far | Invisible Children
Kony 2012 will be remembered in history as one of the most powerful viral videos to the hit the web. Although it attracted supporters and detractors in equal measure, there is no denying it was a most powerful piece of emotional storytelling. I am sure that Invisible Children, the charity behind this powerful film, have learnt some incredible lessons as a result of the video's success and many other organisations have learnt some too.
The Story Begins
Invisible Children is a charity formed by three friends Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole. They had travelled to East Africa in 2003 with the intention of filming about the war in Darfur, Sudan but after a shooting incident in Northern Uganda decided to shift their focus their instead. The incident awakened them to the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, and their use of child soldiers in the civil unrest that was happening in Uganda. On returning to the US they created a film called the Invisible Children: The Rough Cut which highlighted the issues of child soldiering in Uganda. The die had been cast and the charity was formed, to highlight what the three saw as a key issue that the world had to know about. Events were created, the video was shared and promoted in high schools and colleges across the US and Europe, the band Fall Out Boy created a seminal video on the issue and the charity became one of the primary lobbying groups for the "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act" signed by Barack Obama in 2010. The most powerful event in their story thus far came about with the release of their video Kony 2012.
The Story is the Mission
Within my circle of friends and acquaintances I have had a mixed response around the Invisible Children. I would be brave enough to say that they can be largely classified in its rawest sense around racial lines. Many of my black friends believe that Invisible Children have great intentions but bad execution. For example they claim that they have oversimplified the issue and have, in many ways, sidestepped the human rights abuses that the Ugandan government and Sudanese People's Liberation army, partners with Invisible Children in catching Kony, have been accused of. Many of my white friends point to the work they have done on the ground in raising the issue, their work on the Schools to Schools programme and their advocacy campaigns in bringing the message to not just young people top get involved but also government.
This dividing of opinion reminds me of how important it is for organizations to be sure of their story. No matter how much you belt out a mission statement or company report it is your fans, and detractors, which will shape the story of your business and how it stands or falls in the face of the public. Kony 2012 received 88 million views on youtube. Kony 2012 What's Next the follow up video received 2 million. I would bet my house on it, that the difference between the two was the way the story was told. The former being a lot more slick and tapping into emotions a heck of a lot more too.
As with all organisational storytelling, success is all about buy in. To coin a phrase, Facts tell but stories sell. Your staff, your suppliers, your customers all have to buy into the vision. Invisible Children have done this really well in many ways because they have bought into the hearts and minds of young people (and celebrities). The importance of the buy in from young people is that they are a social media savvy generation who will spread a good word as soon as they can. Like it or hate it, Kony 2012 was a stroke of genius in organisational visual storytelling. I would caution businesses who would want to jump on the band wagon and try and copy them though. I don't honestly believe they thought it was going to go as viral as it did. They went in heart and soul with something they believed in and had enough faith that the story would be shared. A simple but profound lesson there for us all.