A Case Study on the White House Death Star Petition Response
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A Case Study on the White House Death Star Petition Response

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AARP's Social Media team loved how the White House turned a petition response to a citizen request to build a "Death Star" into a funny, articulate, viral case for United States space policy. Take a ...

AARP's Social Media team loved how the White House turned a petition response to a citizen request to build a "Death Star" into a funny, articulate, viral case for United States space policy. Take a read and let me know what you think. Could you organization do this? Why not? How can you break those barriers to using humor for advocacy? Tweet me @floridagirlindc

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    A Case Study on the White House Death Star Petition Response A Case Study on the White House Death Star Petition Response Presentation Transcript

    • The White House and the Death Star
    • • In September 2011, the Obama White House launched “We the People,” a way for citizens to create and support petitions on the WhiteHouse.gov website.• To get citizens to participate, the White House promises to issue an official response to all petitions with 25,000* signatures within 30 days. *The White House has now changed the threshold to 100,000
    • WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:“Secure resources and funding, and beginconstruction of a Death Star by 2016.”The petition, launched inNovember 2012, spread on socialnetworks. No doubt, part of theappeal of signing was to see howthe White House would officiallyrespond. The petition receivedmore than 34,000 signatures.
    • White House Options• Since the petition did not represent any sensitive constituencies, the White House had two main options: – Issue a formal official response explaining why the idea is impractical – Embrace the idea’s absurdity and use the petition as an opportunity
    • Ultimately, the White House decided to do thelatter and was able to achieve more publicity andrecognition for “We the People.” The White House’sresponse:• Embraced Star Wars’ language, history and fan base in their rationale.• Highlighted the size and mission of the International Space Station.• Highlighted real-life robots exploring Mars as examples of scientific “wins.”
    • Social Media Results We the People’s Twitter base has increased drastically – to over 5,400,000 followers. Simultaneously, the increase in traffic to the We the People site has sparked interest in other petitions, causing the total number of signatures to double.
    • Specific Results On Twitter, 809 retweets and 247 favorites, and, days after the response, is still generating more than one tweet a minute. cNet: 10,000 Facebook shares, 1,000 tweets. SourceFed’s YouTube video received over 100,000 views, while additional videos are generating thousands of views.The Huffington Post: 5,500 Facebookshares, 700 tweets, and 200 emails – withnearly 2,000 comments.
    • Key TakeawaysA few key factors aided the White House’s ability toissue this response:• The issue would not upset a core constituency.• The response is attributed to a White House staffer, not the President directly.At this time, the benefits are clear. There is a riskthat in the future, “copycat” petitions may emerge;however, if targeted, this risk is mitigated and thesocial media benefits will far outweigh any futurerisk.
    • What AARP Can Learn• Flexibility and agility – the willingness to pivot – are key components of an effective social media strategy• Humor, satire, and less serious approaches often gain more traction than more traditional tactics• Doing the unexpected, but doing it smartly, can yield positive results.