It was May 15th, 2008, the very day that Amnesty International was calling for all bloggers everywhere to simultaneously cover a human rights issue to educate the masses. No time to participate myself, Twitter was a helpful fall back. Dozens of others tweeted and blogged about human rights on May 15th, demonstrating their support of the initiative.
We’ve seen campaigns like this before, and sadly, watched them fall silent shortly after the main event. The unsustained momentum leaves behind a disenchanting question: What was the point of all that?
- Exhibit A – October 15, 2007. More than 20,600 blogs covered environmental topics as part of Blog Action Day. Twenty. Thousand. Blogs! 19 of which were on Technorati’s Top 100. Mainstream media picked up the story. It was a tremendous accomplishment, getting so many people – “influencers” – to talk about the same thing at the same time.
After contributing a postto Blog Action Day last October, I found myself defending the campaign to my boss (who at that time was Alison Byrne Fields). Alison argued that it was a waste of time.
In effect, she forewarned, “People are already aware of problems associated with climate change, so unless the point is action, then I’m not interested in this load of crap. If bloggers want to save Earth they should stop flying.” “But education is key,” I maintained. “This blogger campaign is meant to educate.”But we’re almost in the bottom half of 2008, and there is no sign of Blog Action Day Part II. What was the purpose of all that hype?
- Exhibit B – One week ago: May 10, 2008. Pangea Day. Backed by Chris Andersen and the TED Conference, Pangea Day rallied filmmakers to participate in a 4-hour global screening that took place at more than 1,000 locations simultaneously. A “synchronized film festival to . . . foster understanding and peace.” 2,500 films were submitted; 12 were chosen for the screening. A quick Google Blog search produces nearly 8,000 blog posts on the event.
Newsweek’s Brian Bailkerhoned in on the weak spot of this type of campaign: ” . . . the type of person who would tune in to watch the Pangea Day pageantry is probably the least likely to be going around killing anyone in their spare time.” Oh. Right. What happens now that Pangea Day is over?
The Value is Self-Education.
The true impact of these campaigns is self-serving. All participants (hopefully) learn something about the issues they cover. In the end, that adds up to more potential for commitment. Awareness is the first step, whether you’re trying to spring someone from prison, get Gary Vaynerchuck’s book ranked #1 on Amazon.com or help an independent musician top iTunes charts.
But We can do More than Bum Rush the Charts.
Why corral bloggers (or filmmakers) if there’s no follow through? After you cross “raise awareness” off the list, shouldn’t you move on to the next step? The goal is action, advocacy, conversion. Especially when nonprofits are seeing a rise in demand, but decline in resources.
Richard Becker of Copywrite, Ink. helped coordinate Bloggers Unite for Human Rights. He wants to ensure that the campaign “is not just a flash in the pan.” Richard says, “It’s something we could all think about more often.” We need to move beyond thinking.
Who doesn’t want Amnesty International to successfully thwart the inhumanity in China, Darfur and Guantanamo Bay? When is the next Bloggers Unite event? What is needed to make an even bigger impact? Please hurry and tell us what our step is: update the homepage, send emails. A campaign for time, money, in-kind donations? Let’s give the revolution feet before inertia sets in, again.