KONY 2012: Good or bad PR?

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The first time I heard about Kony was in early March when everybody on Facebook was sharing and commenting about it. I was not interested in watching it because I assumed it was something about a new technology or those kinds of stupid videos with unpleasant scenes that I prefer not to watch. So after constantly seeing people sharing and sharing, and witnessing them having those types of intellectual conversations about the issue, I started to feel stupid and decided to finally watch the video.

Since it was 30 minutes long, I figured it had something important to tell. I was moved by the message and how they directed the video. I remember watching the little kid from Uganda telling his story and how he felt about life, I cried. I understood that the video was produced by a campaign called 'Invisible children' and it was a strategy to help spread the objective of the campaign, which was to raise awareness of the existence of Joseph KONY, the leader of LRA. The reason they wanted to make Kony famous was because of the illegal activities by the LRA, abduction and using children as soldier.

After all the emotional scenes from the video, I started wondering why the video was only produced now. They said that the fighting has been going on for over 9 years but I just didn’t understand why they had to wait that long before producing the video. I Googled it and I found out they had done other videos based on reporting the situation in Uganda with the aim of exposing Kony. They simply tell us that “time has come and that time is now”, they don’t explain clearly why they decided to take action this year, and 20 celebrities and 12 politicians are not enough reason. It doesn’t make any sense. So why now?

A lot of criticism about the campaign started emerging, saying that it was misleading and to earn money, claiming that the LRA is not doing those kinds of activities anymore and the country’s situation is better and that the intentions were not pure as it seems, claiming that only a minor percentage is going to help the children. Some people originally from Uganda and who are aware of the present situation there even said that the campaign is not telling all the truth about the Kony situation.

Some stated it was focusing a lot on Kony and not on children. And that information about the dictator and the LRA forces was wrong, that they have moved to another area and are not considered a threat to Uganda anymore. Others said that raising awareness is not enough; other measures should be taken into consideration.

There were different types of critics, from financial and moral, to even geographical, saying that they did not show Uganda correctly on the map.

Is the campaign a bad example of PR? Since it has been criticized a lot and people wonder about its transparency, should we rely on that campaign? Any information before published should be checked, to see if the background of the story is accurate, and in this case, it seems as that the campaign did not do their homework.

They were using an image of someone who does not even know the existence of this video and might not be as cruel as he has been profiled.

Another example of bad PR in this campaign is the fact that a few weeks after the video was released, the creator Jason Russell was found in an embarrassing situation (he got caught masturbating in public).

In January,  I watched a movie called the Machine gun preacher, which allowed me to have a better picture of  what is happening on the other side of the world. It was heartbreaking to see people living in those situations and how hard life was for those kids. When I watched 'STOP Kony' video, I linked to it, and I was relieved that they are doing something to stop this tragedy. However, after hearing a lot of news accusing the campaign of manipulating this story, I started wondering.

On the other hand, I believe this is A perfect example of the sharpness of PR - using his son was very touching and the best strategy he could ever use; even though they could focus more on the story, 30 minutes relying on a lot of persuasive quotes and creative video effects was crucial to have a major impact. Public Relations is definitely about that,  the video is already long and if it had too much informative stuff on it, people would not watch it and would never consider helping. And despite the criticism, they have done a good job. Even though they say that a minor percentage is going directly to the kids, it is still going. It is a very generous move and a clever way to seek justice.

I have no idea if this campaign is real as it seems or fake as the critics are portraying it. I just think that they are helping in a way, and that’s enough. if they are taking advantage of the situation, they are still doing a good job by helping and providing better conditions to those kids who are suffering or had suffered a lot.

This campaign and its strategy of using the video just proved once again how good PR can control the world and how social media is helping either creating a decent image of organizations or in spreading a buzz. I feel like there is no such a thing as bad PR, only the nonexistence of it.


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Lunga Izata

April 2012

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