In The News.


  • November 2, 2015

Social Media for National Movement

Social media is #Backlash Central. That can work in your favor if you prepare for both opportunities and attacks.

I recently hosted a meeting of associations engaged in Grand Challenges and we devoted a session to social media. Our speaker was Heather Holdridge, director of digital strategy for Planned Parenthood. She described how Facebook and Twitter strengthened Planned Parenthood, which has been in the political crosshairs since 2011.

According to Heather, We should all be so lucky to have moments when issues important to us come into the public consciousness. It is much easier to ride a wave than create a wave.

In Heather’s words, here is how Planned Parenthood rides the social media wave, even in turbulent waters:

1. To create a groundswell of support, till the soil.

When Congress attempted to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, we began to see Facebook posts and photos we didn’t create. One image that became iconic is three people dressed as Storm Troopers holding a sign that reads: Stand with Planned Parenthood. We realized our greatest asset was not our 700 health centers in 50 states; it was people who valued a relationship with Planned Parenthood. We let them know we appreciated their tweets and posts.

Over the past four years, we have amplified what they do on our platforms and we now boost the visibility of their photos, personal stories and messages. We established a standard hashtag, #Standwith PP. After the 2015 vote to defund us, that hashtag rocketed to the top of Twitter, surpassing even #nationalcheeseburgerday.

2. Give up ownership.

Support on social media is organic and authentic. You may create a hashtag but you don’t own it. Let people run with it. Suggest ways supporters can channel their energy and show support. There is a lot of creativity and humor out there that can serve you.

Another independent group launched the Facebook page, Humans of Planned Parenthood. It has become a very active community. We have no control over the content, but we acknowledge them.

3. Diversify to focus messaging.

We originally had a single Facebook page and one Twitter handle. We realized we need to speak with two distinct voices. Some rely on us for health-related information and we needed to reach them with an encouraging, nonjudgmental voice. Another audience cares about our survival and women’s access to healthcare. We use a sharper voice to express threats to the organization. Now we maintain more than one presence on Facebook and Twitter so we can focus our messaging and deliver it in a consistent tone.

4. Anticipate emotion and steer the energy in a productive direction.

There are times when you get bushwhacked, as we did with the leaked videos this year. But there are other moments-in-the-making that allow you to prepare. Last year, we knew the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case was coming and that the outcome would probably be bad news for access to birth control. We prepared a graphic and template that allowed us to immediately distribute an email highlighting Justice Ginsburg’s blistering dissent.

5. Remain vigilant and nimble.

This year, we were not as nimble in responding to the videos released by an anti-abortion group. We didn’t see this well-orchestrated attack coming. It took several days to respond and give our supporters an explanation. People wanted to know what to do. We weren’t ready with the answers they needed as quickly as we should have been.

However, we typically are responsive because we don’t have a rigorous approval process for social media. We work collaboratively with our Government Relations team to identify messages we can optimize for social media. You cannot afford to let a review process slow you down.

Thank you, Heather, for sharing hard-won insight into how an organization can tap into public fervor and outrage to create momentum – then let it go. #ridethatwave

Seth Kahan

About Seth Kahan

Seth Kahan is an executive business strategist.

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