Background

The March for Racial Justice (M4RJ) came to us with a story of love, loss, and grassroots resistance. We were convinced this was a story that would enrich the national dialogue on race relations and mobilize the masses to take action-- all they needed was the right messaging strategy. We started our work with just over a month until the march and sixteen sister marches. The M4RJ’s dedicated leaders had managed some preview coverage, but were at capacity working full time jobs in addition to planning the march. We were happy to dive in and support their efforts with a comprehensive storytelling strategy to effectively communicate their mission, spark engagement across their social media channels, and contribute to the success of their crowdfunding campaign.

The March for Racial Justice called for all hands on deck. We were excited to engage multiple departments and provide full-service support for M4RJ. With every variable of our comprehensive digital storytelling strategy — from social media to mobile to public relations — we asked ourselves: How does this help tell the story of the march?

In our exploratory conversation with the organizers, we established the importance of this story being told by black and indigenous voices leading the charge and were able to cement the march’s vision into consistent topline messaging. After an extensive surveying of the media landscape, we helped identify press targets and social media influencers who would help amplify the march and stay true to its narrative.

We worked to position the M4RJ organizers as thought leaders through a series of op-eds that shared their firsthand testimony in response to relevant headlines and offered original content to share across social media channels. With placements in VICE Impact and Essence, we were able to speak to audiences that would be receptive to march’s call to action and engage in more targeted press outreach for a week by week build-up to the big day. Using the public relations team’s rolodexes and databases — and good old fashioned cold call pitches — we coordinated with major press outlets, securing preview interviews with the Washington Post, C-SPAN, CNN, The Progressive, and Al Jazeera. Additionally, we worked closely with principals to book interviews onsite always working to ensure they felt prepared and polished.

Authentic storytelling and message development

While our work on M4RJ was rooted in digital strategy, developing messaging and tools for distributed organizing was essential in bringing the event to life. Using the original messaging and content, we developed a press kit which packaged together media logistics and materials offering context for the march’s mission and founding. We turned the national press kit into a template for sister march organizers and community partners to adapt for their local press needs. Beyond establishing a consistent narrative, it offered reporters enough content for preliminary coverage of the march and supported organizers in their local press outreach.

Leading up to the actual march, we coordinated with vendors to develop a comprehensive plan for our on-site logistical support. From registering press and accommodating their day-of needs to working with high profile guest speakers, our team became an extension of the organizers and volunteers. Our staff was briefed and trained for rapid response, provided experienced advance support throughout the set up on the National Mall, and coordinated social media coverage throughout the day. We were proud to have ten of our staff at various stations and even more joining the marchers.

Tapping into mobile organizing technology

M4RJ asked for a way to continue communicating with its audience long after the marches were over. We devised a mobile texting program to capture names, zip codes and emails for future engagement as well as garner donations to help offset the costs of the march.

We encouraged people to text the keyword JUSTICE to the shortcode, 228466, in radio and television interviews, on social media and through the speakers at the march itself.  781 people texted JUSTICE and 544 of them gave us their email – a 69.2% rate. 61.3% of the subscribers clicked on link to donate – a very high action rate!

march for racial justice

Community engagement on social media

The social media strategy for the M4RJ relied heavily on storytelling to educate its audience. Each week leading up to the march followed a theme including awareness, reflection, radical love and inspiration. The social media posts aimed at acknowledging past and present racial injustice issues from the perspective of various racial and ethnic groups.

On the day of the march, we turned over the storytelling reins to the attendees. Our team did on-site mini interviews with attendees asking one simple question: “Why are you marching?” The messages from the attendees reflected and underscored the messaging we’d been promoting in the weeks leading up to the march. With a personal face on the message, these posts garnered the most engagement.