July 24th, 2012
Guest article! The latest from our old friend Beth Becker.
How a Twitter Rapid Response Campaign Helped Susan Sarandon ‘Get’ Paid Sick Days
By Beth Becker
A coalition of diverse organizations in New York City has banded together to escalate the conversation regarding paid sick days for workers, with an emphasis on getting the NY City Council to pass legislation mandating paid sick days. So far, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not called for a vote on this issue. But now, it just may happen — after the coaltion (with a little help from their friends) gave us an impromptu course in how to run online rapid response.
Last Wednesday morning, the coalition announced that they were teaming with Gloria Steinem to ramp up the pressure in this campaign. Speaker Quinn must have realized she needed a powerhouse of her own. So on Thursday, Susan Sarandon (aka, a celebrity activist who often ends up on the progressive side of things) tweeted this:
Shortly thereafter, the coalition sprang into action. Using other online tools such as email and Facebook and even offline tools like phone calls and text messages, they urged supporters to ask Susan to use her relationship with NYC Council Speaker (and expected candidate for NYC Mayor in 2013) Christine Quinn to allow the council to vote on paid sick days legislation.
What followed? A firestorm of over 100 tweets within a few hours:
Then, a day after her initial tweet, Susan posted the following:
Followed an hour later by this:
Online pressure-campaign success!
- There is no such thing as too rapid in rapid response. Within a few hours of the initial tweet going out, the pressure via Twitter was rising fast. In the 24-hour news cycle that is social media, if the coalition had waited a couple of days, they’d have missed their stride and might not have gotten what they wanted. Additionally, if they’d waited even just 12 hours to do anything they’d have gotten swallowed up by the tragedy in Aurora and missed their chance.
- Be strategic in your choice of platforms. It may seem obvious, but the coalition stuck to Twitter for this campaign. They *could* have asked their supporters to also make comments on her facebook page or to go out and blog about this, instead they chose to focus on the platform used for the original statement and concentrated all of their efforts on that. Spreading yourself out too thin is just setting yourself up for failure.
- With a little help from their friends. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out to friends and allies behind the scenes to encourage their support in such an effort. Members of the coalition sent emails to various listservs, and as people from those efforts joined the campaign, others in the Twitterverse took notice and joined in the fun [Ed. note: yet another example of the power of behind-the-scenes organizing to create public action].
- Provide sample text but also encourage people to use their own words to convey the message. People are busy and often will participate in an action like this one when you make it as easy on them as possible. Others prefer to take the time to put their own spin on it, but let them make that choice. It’s also a good idea to seed the effort by posting from some sort of “master account” and then including a link so that people can just click-and-retweet or click-and-share if that’s all they have time to do.
- Most importantly, when you succeed, acknowledge that success publicly. After the tweet announcing that she would in fact encourage Speaker Quinn to support paid sick days legislation, the coalition publicly thanked Sarandon and encouraged friends and allies to do the same.
- Don’t forget the intangibles and optics. Even if the coalition hadn’t won, don’t think for a minute that Speaker Quinn and her staff wouldn’t have taken notice of the fact that it was able to mobilize supporters in this effort quickly. (The press definitely noticed as well, as witnessed by some early press hits). If Speaker Quinn is smart, not only will she bring the legislation to a vote, she’ll make friends with a coalition that just might be helpful to her in the future as a result of this action.
Thanks Beth! Great lessons for all of us in this business – cpd