Jul 31 2008
Marie Michelson engages social media users on all that’s green. Marie has been the Director of Online Communications for Greenpeace for three years. Prior to Greenpeace, she worked for the National Parks Conservation Association and the Defenders of Wildlife.
We met Marie Michelson at the 2008 Bridge Conference, where she was a panelist for the breakout session, “Web 2.0 & Social Networks: Are We There Yet?” Greenpeace was consistently cited at the conference as a leading social cause using our new two-conversational media tools. Marie shares with the us an in-depth discussion on how social media has helped Greenpeace.
BB: Tell us about your favorite Greenpeace social media initiative.
MM: Wow, that’s a tough question, cause I have a few favs. The Apple campaign certainly stands out, because we targeted a company renowned for its innovation, and channeled not only our own creative potential, but our supporters’ creative potential to really get Steve Jobs’ attention.
From the GreenMyApple web site to spoof Mac and PC ads, to emails, to comments on Apple fan sites, old-school Greenpeace actions, and MySpace bulletins, we really built a comprehensive and innovative campaign that was run entirely online. It’s the perfect example of us investing our creative energy (which was a hell of a lot of fun) and then handing over the reigns to our supporters. We had supporters creating their own GreenMyApple designs, taking action, calling Apple – you name it. The site won a Webby award, but more importantly, we won a major shift in Apple’s policies.
BB: How do you integrate with other countries’ efforts?
MM: Greenpeace is in a unique position, because we have offices in more than 40 countries worldwide, but those boundaries become blurred online. Between social networking sites, promoting stories in places like Digg, and factoring in time zone differences when promoting stories to bloggers, there’s a lot of potential for us to step on each others’ toes or duplicate efforts.
Like many organizations, we’re not perfect yet, but the goal at the end of the day is one Greenpeace. We’re working with our “webbies” around the world to coordinate our efforts better and to put databases and systems in place that will ensure that we complement rather than duplicate each others’ efforts. That means we’ll be amplifying our efforts worldwide, putting our combined muscle behind a single target. When that happens, look out, this organization is really going to be a force to be reckoned with.
BB: How have social networks and other tools benefited your activism?
MM: To me, web 2.0 isn’t just about interactivity and cool new tools: It’s about a culture shift online. Gone are the days that you put up a web page and think, “if we build it, they will come.” In this day and age, you need to engage your supporters where they are. It’s about developing your online presence – across platforms – and engaging your audience. It’s also about empowering your supporters. We’ve seen some amazing examples over the last couple of years of so-called “average” supporters doing things that large, bureaucratic organizations couldn’t have dreamed possible 5 years ago. Old-school organizations need to learn to relinquish some control and be more inclusive.
BB: What about fundraising?
MM: If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last few years it’s that integration across channels is key. The question is not really about how successful social networking sites are or aren’t going to be for fundraising – hell, people have only recently stopped asking if internet fundraising in general was worth it. I think it’s making sure that your supporters are seeing the same stories across multiple channels in a consistent voice and with the same ask.
BB: Do you see Facebook as a major tool, or just a waste of time for social cause activity?
MM: Well, I’m not sure that any one group has managed to unlock the full potential of Facebook yet, but I’d sure be happy for Greenpeace to be the first… Ask me this question again in a year or so ;-)
BB: What’s next for Greenpeace online?
MM: Greenpeace is such a creative and innovative organization – we’re never short on fantastic ideas. The online world is Greenpeace’s oyster as far as I’m concerned, and I’m as excited as you to find out which idea is going to pry that oyster open for us.
BB: And Marie Michelson?
MM: I wouldn’t be at Greenpeace if I didn’t think it was the best place in the world for me to be. I think this organization has proven that it can change the world, and it’s not afraid to do or say anything to achieve its goals. From serious issues to having a sense of humor, it’s the perfect combination of risk-taking for a cause. I can’t think of any other organization with more potential to succeed online, and I want to be a part of making that happen.