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Disability is NOT inability – why Thunderclap it?

UNISDR’s Communications Unit in Geneva, a 5-person team that includes me, have been scratching its head for most of the last few months to see how we can generate interest in the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction, especially since it falls on a Sunday this year. While events celebrating IDDR are and have been taking place all over the world, we needed a way to not only highlight the IDDR survey results, but to do something for October 13th.

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In addition to having a plan to announce the preliminary findings of the survey on October 10th to the media and on the 11th in person, I came up with the idea of running a social media campaign to raise public awareness of the Day even if it is a weekend for most of the world. Inspired by the 1-billion social reach of the 2012 World Humanitarian Day (remember Beyonce on that one?), I decided to launch a similar Thunderclap campaign.

Basically the Thunderclap platform is the 21st century equivalent of pledging to support a cause. People sign up to show their support using their Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr account… but, here’s the difference. Once people sign up and the goal set by the organizers is reach, a message will be sent out through people’s account all at once to amplify the message. It’s a simple but ingenious idea that takes advantage of how increasingly we live, support, and engage in things online.

Thunderclap is the first-ever crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. It allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of your social networks. By boosting the signal at the same time, Thunderclap helps a single person create action and change like never before.

Initially, given UNISDR’s wide network of partners, I thought setting a 500 person goal for the campaign would be easy pickings – we’d reach it in no time. Everyone at work thought the same too – I mean if we could bring almost 4000 people to this year’s Global Platform for DRR, and have an email mailing list in the tens of thousands, it shouldn’t be that difficult, right? With this in mind and when the campaign was launched 3 weeks before IDDR, we all thought it’s plenty of time to reach our goal of having 500 people sign up.

Let me give you a hint, it wasn’t and it doesn’t work to just tell people to sign up – it’s like having a newsletter and thinking people will read it. What motivated people to join was to inspire them with interesting stories and information, engaging them and having a conversation, reaching out with a personal touch… all of it shows that communicating with an impact is a mix of strategic partnerships, creative channels, and innovative tools – you just need to know what you want to say. The simpler and more focused the message and strategy, the easier it is to execute! So in addition to reaching out and having the UN family support the campaign, as well as inspiring individuals and disability groups, we even have the Paralympics’ support on this one!


Anyway, we finally reached our 500 goal about a couple of days before IDDR and the message “Disability is NOT inability” went out to over 5 million people on October 13th… not too shabby.

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