GLOBE-Net, March 8, 2012 - 48 hours
ago, I was blissfully unaware of Joseph Kony. Today, I'm one
of the 43 million people who have just
discovered he's a nasty character, that we have to arrest him in
2012, and that the whole world has time to watch a 30 minute video,
if it's really really compelling.
Long story short. Social media is an incredibly potent tool for
spreading a powerful message, fast. But what did the
anti-Kony team do to turn their movement into such a
social media tsunami? And how can we harness their experience to
accelerate sustainability action?
I chatted on this topic with Josh Henretig, Director of Environmental
Sustainability at Microsoft. Henretig is in Vancouver next
week as part of the GLOBE 2012 Conference, speaking about
corporate responsibility in the digital age.
We concurred that social media is just a tool, albeit a very
powerful one. On its own, it can't create an
anti-Kony movement, or an effective corporate
social media campaign. To work properly, it needs three
The anti-Kony movement had a very clear vision of success:
arrest Joseph Kony by the end of 2012.
Henretig believes successful social media efforts in the
sustainability space need to begin with a similarly simple vision
of the goal.
He highlighted Bill McKibben's 350.org movement, which mobilized
hundreds of thousands of protesters to defeat a 'slam dunk' approval of the
Keystone XL pipeline. 350.org had a very black and white goal. Easy
to envision. Easy to measure. Easy to communicate.
Henretig said crafting Microsoft's sustainability social media
strategy began with asking how the IT giant could look credible
espousing CSR. Although the journey is far from over, the simple
goal for the first leg was embracing full transparency and
disclosure. Starting with that goal enabled Henretig's team to
craft a social media strategy that was clear and unwavering.
Raise The Bar
At one point in the much-watched anti-Kony film on Youtube, a
list of the world's most heinous villains was rolled out. Not
surprisingly, Kony topped the list. According to the narrator,
arresting Kony would send a clarion call to world leaders that
someone had upped the ante, and raised the bar of action.
Publicly raising the bar is another key learning for
successfully using social media to speed corporate
As Henretig points out, the "minimum bar of corporate csr is
rising as corporations feel the tension of their competitors doing
more than they are."
It is often debated whether csr should be communicated, or if it
should instead simply be quietly done as a matter of ethical
business. Henretig firmly believes that communicating sustainable
action is more than good advertising - it's an effective tool for
accelerating industry-wide change. Factor in the viral power of
social media, and you see how progress can speed up
Lever Your Strength
The power of the anti-Kony movement lay in founder Jason
Russell's talent as a film maker and storyteller. It was his film
that vaulted the movement from fringe to front page.
Henretig believes it is critical for any corporation to take a
similar tack: lever your strength to up your game.
Microsoft is a leader in IT. So the company is tapping its
powers to create (among other things) more intuitive technology for
energy efficiency. Not only is it ideally suited to the task, but
in doing so it will address a primary sustainability deficiency in
the IT industry - energy waste.
Speaking about that strength using social media enables viewers
easily 'get' the reason behind the chosen action. In doing so, it
reinforces the company's expertise.
Use Social Media Wisely
My conversation with Henretig had an overarching theme. Social
media is a powerful tool, but it needs to be used properly.
If there's a social media lesson sustainability champions can
take from the anti-Kony phenomenon, it's that it comes down
to simple, very human elements. A clear picture of success, the
ability to challenge those around us, and harnessing your strengths
are three such elements.
I'm attending the GLOBE 2012
Conference in Vancouver this year. If any of my readers
are attending, let me know!
Marc Stoiber is
a creative director, writer, innovator and green brand specialist.
He consults with clients across North America. He also speaks and
blogs extensively on trends that will influence the destiny of
today's brands. Marc is a frequent contributor to