The USA for UNHCR became a popular organisation last year when they launched a global Twitter Campaign, referred to as The Blue Key Campaign. This was the first U.S based initiative to encourage citizens to speak out for refugees. The campaign aimed to provide a broadened base of support for the leading organization safeguarding the rights and well-being of displaced people around the world. We decided to chat with two people that led this campaign to it’s success. Lauren Meling – Manager and head of Digital Media Marketing at USA for UNHCR, and Shonali Burke – Vice President of Digital Media & Marketing, MSL Washington DC.
Last year you hosted a very successful Twitter Campaign – The Blue Key Campaign. Explain the strategy and aim of this campaign.
Lauren: Our aim was to raise awareness for refugees among US residents and encourage them to show their support with a Blue Key pin or pendant. Right now, more than 42.5 million refugees are displaced by war, violence or persecution, and in the USA many people aren’t aware of the extent of the crisis, nor do they realize the heart-wrenching dilemma refugees must face in order to protect their own safety and the safety of their families. We launched the Blue Key campaign to give these refugees a voice. By ordering a Blue Key, Americans would symbolize unlocking the door to a better future – a future where a refugee would have a safe home to return to each night.
There was a strong social element to the Blue Key by its very nature –when you wear one, people frequently ask, ‘What is this key, and why are you wearing it?’ So we wanted to take that interaction online, enlisting the support of our “Blue Key champions” to spread the word. The champions were well-connected in the social media-sphere, but also cause-oriented, compassionate people who became online – and on occasion, offline – activists. Their help was crucial for our outreach.
The point of the Blue Key campaign, and bringing on a range of people to be champions, is that we believe many voices are stronger than one; and that even one person, who willingly spreads the word and energizes his or her networks to join the campaign, can make a difference. By connecting the champions in a private Facebook group, we were able to brainstorm online – in fact, one idea that came from our champions was the “Tweetathon” where we did a Twitter telethon several times throughout the year, each champion taking an hour or two dedicated to talking about the cause on Twitter. Together, the Blue Key champions tweeted non-stop about refugees and the Blue Key for 12 hours each day, for 4 different days throughout 2011. These were by far the most impactful efforts – both in terms of creating online conversations about refugees as well as the number of Blue Keys ordered from our website.
Shonali: It’s important to note that we didn’t set out to do a “Twitter campaign” for the Blue Key, or only use Twitter to conduct the campaign. We knew that the people we needed to reach use multiple online platforms and social networks, so it was important for us to have a diverse strategy that used multiple platforms and ways of communicating with our target audiences. However, I think we did a couple of smart things.
Firstly, we set up our tracking parameters at the start of the campaign and kept an eye on them throughout. Throughout last year, we watched traffic and engagement patterns, which showed us what was working well, like Twitter, and what didn’t work as well as we expected it to. So that’s something I strongly recommend.
Secondly, we gave our Blue Key champions a lot of the control for the conversations. In fact, I’d say they pretty much drove it. We tried to do as much as we could to make them comfortable, so that they could run with ideas that they came up with, such as the tweetathons. So our job was to help from an organizational point of view and make it easy for them to tell the organization’s and refugees’ stories.
I truly think this is why the campaign worked so well. The champions were invested, there was regular communication between them and us, and it really felt like a community-driven effort. Part of letting the champions run with the campaign was watching & learning where they felt most comfortable, and Twitter was one such forum. That’s partially why the tweetathons worked so well, I believe.
Thanks for sharing your successful experience with us, Lauren and Shonali. We look forward to seeing more great work for USA for UNHCR in the future! Follow them on Twitter here. TO find out more about the campaign, click here.