Stonewall 40: The Power of Ideas in Social Media

Narrative is the lifeblood of social media and conversational marketing. And, the best narratives derive from a singular idea that resonates. These principles often cloud up and fall short, failing to take hold and generate enough heat to make a difference. But if you pair an idea of hot cultural currency with a matured approach to social media - you've got goose-bumps. You've got a socially mobile narrative that counts.

Like many of us, the last time I wrote fervently about a masterful social media execution was during the Obama campaign's clever, grass-roots use of digital marketing. Of course there have been others, but none as consequential and able to scintillate our inner marketers. It was months before applause for this campaign died down.

It's no coincidence that I picked today to discuss what I feel is the most impressive digitally led, integrated marketing and social media campaign out there right now. Today is key to the narrative -- it's Stonewall 40, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, a historical touchstone in the movement toward gay rights. With Stonewall 40 as punctuation, an online organizing network known as The Power today will officially launch a movement to expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.



For context: the Act already bars discrimination against race, color, religion, national origin and sex, generally across housing, employment, financial credit and public accommodations. The driving idea supported by The Power is that the Act should be expanded to deliver on its name and its original purpose. It's an idea of total inclusion and the only one that finally gets LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people -- where they need to be.

Anatomy of a Narrative

Specifically, through a digitally led cross-channel play, The Power is spearheading an online petition on This morning, the effort formally launches with an "action" in front of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. Later, petitions will be delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At the same time, the influencers within the blogosphere, and concerted messaging activity across networking forums digitally and offline, are conveying the narrative 24/7.

No matter your politics, I think you will find the details of the approach fascinating. Yes, the simple operating belief -- that a provocative narrative needs only an inclusive "idea" as its basis -- is to be applauded. And the quality of an integrated promotional approach of this scale is to be flat-out imitated.

The Background

The foundation for the effort was laid during the 2008 presidential campaigns, when Jeff Campagna, a vastly connected Democratic strategist and fundraiser, tapped his network to engender far-reaching support for Hilary Clinton's campaign. Through an integrated communications effort, he was able to galvanize legions nationwide. That base became a foundation for The Power, with a core group of 70 of the "most zealous and connected gay people in the country," according to Campagna.

His next move was to create an "action" for gay marriage equality. By sparking his network and its growing Facebook community, Campagna and his crew were able to rally 7,000 to 10,000 people to New York's City Hall. They held their mobile devices high en masse to call State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.'s office to demand that he support pro-marriage Democrat Malcolm Smith for State Senate Majority Leader rather than an anti-marriage Republican (Dean Skelos) This mobile action resulted in over 1,500 phone calls in one week to Sen. Diaz's office, effectively shutting the office down.

The Facebook community who seeded this move grew, with magazine publishers, influential bloggers and event producers all now proportionately high in the mix. With the Democrats in the White House and strong on The Hill, the timing was conducive to a more aggressive, inclusive action -- hence the petition tp expand the Civil Rights Act that comes to a head today. As Campagna notes. "Pieces of legislation are complicated to engage with." And, they are polarizing. The idea must be singular. Thus, the message of inclusion.

The Approach: Integrating Digital and Tastemakers

One focus in the campaign is the blogosphere. There were numerous bloggers with whom the group developed very active relationships. Take Pam Spaulding at, whose roster of diarists and bloggers has been instrumental to the coordinated effort. During the past few days, The Power has conducted a major press push, coursing advisories through the blogosphere. Thus, the narrative gains exponential power.

The Twitter layer  @thepoweronline is straightforward and consistent. Every single tweet links to the site and the petition, regardless of topic. As with all of us, the Power team continues to experiment with the Facebook/Twitter relationship. They realize that Facebook has limitations, given their need for deep regional targeting and data analysis.

As the integrated digital push has gotten more involved, Campagna and the crew at The Power have continued to focus on the best way to engage the public consciousness on a grand scale. Digital may lead, but it must be integrated with the enrollment of offline events professionals, tastemakers, and connectors. These are the only people who can foster living, breathing experiential promotions -- "reaching into nightlife" to drive home the imperative, Campagna notes.

So much about this engages: the history, the narrative, the building of an approach, the artful integration of channels and methodology. But, for me, it's poignant that an idea could maintain such clarity and achieve such heat at the same time. And that complex social media not only did not mess it up -- but made it mightier.

4 comments about "Stonewall 40: The Power of Ideas in Social Media".
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  1. Anthony Haney from 21, June 29, 2009 at 10:25 p.m.


    Of social media....thei is among the best I have read in a very long time....It has been sent to all of my coworkers on how to "do this right".


  2. Kendall Allen Rockwell from WIT Strategy, June 30, 2009 at 9:36 a.m.

    Thanks very much, Anthony. Another really well done element to the social effort, which I didn't take the space to get into, is their work with affiliates.

    It's nicely orchestrated cross-promotional work over the main .org site, FB, Twitter, e-blasts, getting advisories out to the blogosphere and of course the affiliate sites themselves driving the relationship. They do it each and every time, well coordinated and consistent.

  3. Anthony Haney from 21, June 30, 2009 at 1:01 p.m.


    I have to say that you're spot on....this is one of the best pieces about social media in a very long time!


  4. Steven Bustin from Reprise Media, July 2, 2009 at 6:48 a.m.

    Another superb article...thank you Kendall for your comprehensive and entertaining insight! I hope everyone reads this article multiple times as there are huge marketing implications threaded throughout the content.
    Great stuff.

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