Challenge: How do you turn a mass movement of popular support into real political pressure?
Since the Orlando shooting, gun violence prevention has been a national flashpoint. However, even in the wake of tragedy, real legislative change stalled in Congress.
Gun safety politicians have been taking extreme measures to force the issue. In early June, Senator Chris Murphy took to the Senate floor for a 36 hour filibuster. Then last week, House Democrats staged a 26-hour sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on gun legislation.
The sit-in held the attention of the nation and caught fire on social media, with over one million people watching the protesters’ Periscope stream.
But how could gun safety advocates turn a social media firestorm into real political support?
Solution: A Mobile Commons Advocacy Phone Call Campaign – With a Tweet from Kim Kardashian
Everytown for Gun Safety launched a Mobile Commons Advocacy phone call campaign to let concerned citizens call in and support their Representatives who were on the floor, and demand action from their Representatives who were not.
People could either text in a short code to launch a phone call, call the hotline directly, or call via one of the many action pages circulating on social media. Callers were reminded of key talking points, and then transferred directly to their Representative, based on their zip code.
Calls are the perfect rapid-response tool. When these shootings happen, people want something to do, they want to take action. These call-ins can be set up in just a few minutes and the opt-ins can be plastered all over the internet. – Lee Sova-Claypool, Everytown for Gun Safety
Everytown also activated their existing list — giving them an update on the sit in first thing in the morning and asking them to call in with support. They even asked DC residents to join them in person at the Capitol — amplifying the callers’ message.
“Our primary goal was to turn the outrage at yet another mass shooting into immediate action,” said Lee Sova-Claypool, Senior Digital Campaigner, Everytown for Gun Safety. “We wanted Congress to feel like this time was different, that Americans are angrier than ever about gun violence, and that they needed to act quickly. We also wanted to show those in Congress who regularly stand with us — and those who were leading the sit-in — that we were standing by them. And lastly, we wanted to bring people into our movement using the momentum that was being generated online around the protest.
Turning Social Support Into Political Pressure
The campaign gave a simple and turnkey way for Everytown to transform the massive social support into political pressure. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Amy Schumer, Aisha Tyler, Andy Richter, and Goldie Hawn picked up the call-to-action, spreading the message across the Internet.
Results: Over 188,000 Phone Calls – And A Step Forward for the Movement
The campaign generated over 188,000 phone calls to Congress, flooding the switchboards with support. Combined with phone calls immediately after the shooting, Everytown drove over 200,000 calls to Congress. While the sit-in ended with Congress adjourning for recess, the huge outpouring of phone calls was one more step forward in the slow fight towards sensible gun policy.
The campaign also brought in over one-hundred thousand new advocates into Everytown’s mobile list. That means that moving forward, the organization can activate even more concerned voices to support gun safety.
When major issues flood across social media, a phone call-in campaign can be a simple and powerful way to give people a voice and turn that outrage into action.
“Calls are the perfect rapid-response tool,” said Sova-Claypool. “When these shootings happen, people want something to do, they want to take action. These call-ins can be set up in just a few minutes and the opt-ins can be plastered all over the internet, giving people an immediate outlet for their anger. The opt-ins can also be shouted out during television appearances or offline rallies related to the tragedy and bring even more people into the movement.”