Well we got a lesson in contrasts this weekend. On one end of the country, we have genteel George Clooney, drawing attention to the plight in Darfur as he gets arrested -- fully clothed -- while protesting outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. And on the other side of the country, Kony campaign founder and viral sensation Jason Russell goes even more viral as he strips down to nothing and goes pounding (literally) the pavement of San Diego.
But even before this weekend, Kony 2012 hit the public harder and faster than George Clooney's efforts to draw attention to the crisis in Darfur. Not that the two campaigns are in competition with each other (because they shouldn't be!), but is there something to be learned from Kony 2012?
I'm not telling George Clooney to go streaking through the streets (but if you do, please make it in Brooklyn). I'm just saying, Clooney has been working tirelessly on behalf of the crisis in Sudan for years. He's been there six times and he's got a lot of integrity behind his efforts. But how many people have watched his documentary, Darfur Now? And how many people have taken action since?
Russell's mental breakdown aside (which is troubling, but how sad is it, really, for a white American male have a mental breakdown when the story is supposed to be about powerless children in peril?), there were some savvy things Jason and his colleagues did that really helped this story get out there.
- Social media blitz. We roll our eyes at the idea of Facebook activism and clickety-click "I Fixed Africa!" but it's an undeniably effective medium.
- Super-simple story. Some say too simple -- and yeah, I agree. But you have to balance that with grabbing people's SHORT attention spans.
- Make it about one person. Jason was smart to focus on one boy's story. That story comes alive like the story of a thousand never can. There's just nothing more powerful than a personal story -- especially if that personal is a child.
Unfortunately, Jason has made one major misstep: He got in front of his story. George Clooney gets this much better.
According to Jason Russell's wife, Danica, Jason took a lot of the attacks on the Kony film personally, and that contributed to his breakdown. I hope he pulls it together. And I hope that somewhere in all the madness we all remember what this is all supposed to be about: People far away are suffering and we should give a damn about that.
Who do you think has been more effective in getting their message out overall?