KONY 2012, a short documentary produced by the nonprofit Invisible Children, went viral last week, racking up millions of views on YouTube and Vimeo and clogging up social media feeds everywhere. The social media campaign called for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord responsible for kidnapping and abducting Ugandan children to turn them into child soldiers for the last three decades. Last week, the issue became a trending topic on Twitter and Google, and the video grabbed more than 55 million views on YouTube. However, it also drew sharp criticism from people, who said the nonprofit simplified an issue, supports military intervention, and misspends funds. Of course, it didn’t take long for media to catch on, turning Invisible Children’s awareness campaign into a crisis communications challenge. Ultimately, the organization has some important lessons to offer for everyone working in nonprofit PR when faced with a media storm. 1. Communicate immediately In a crisis, the longer an organization stays silent the more they are perceived to be hiding. Not long after Invisible Children’s video went viral, so did its critiques. On the same day, Jedediah Jenkins, director of idea development for Invisible Children, reached out to media to call the criticism “myopic” and said the video got young people fired up about an issue on the other side of the planet that doesn’t affect them. By Thursday, the founders of Invisible Children were talking to major TV networks and online news sources promoting the video and speaking to concerns.
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