We recently spoke with Clemence Lérondeau of Greenpeace France about an innovative twist on a campaign that brought several thousand French citizens together online and offline to show their support for anti-nuclear activists by integrating digital communication with physical activities.

Takeaways

  • Keep supporter momentum alive by  identifying tangible ways for people to contribute to the effort throughout the campaign.
  • Manifest online actions in the physical world or during an offline action to help display tangible results to online participants.
  • Campaign teams working together across departments to share goals and plans can open up new opportunities for connecting online and offline actions.

In December, 2011, several activists broke into two French nuclear power plants to demonstrate the shortcomings of nuclear power in France. The activists made their way into the plants, occupied them and were later arrested. Though charged with trespassing, the activists made a critical point about security issues at nuclear plants.

The activists went to court in January, 2012. Greenpeace France set up an online Twitter-like messaging system that enabled citizens to share messages of support and thanks for the activists as they headed to trial.

Supporters were directed to a web page where they could enter 150 character messages to the activists. The messages were often emotionally charged, like “Activism is not a crime” and “Freedom of speech is important” and simply “Thank you!” Individuals sent over 13,000 messages, an important and compelling show of support — but those messages existed primarily in an online database that could be viewed through a single web page.

Greenpeace France banner with messages of support

Greenpeace France banner with online messages of support for activists.

The team did not want to see these powerful citizen messages stranded online, as often happens with online petitions or “share your story” types of projects.

In advance of the public trial, online and offline teams worked together to bring supporters and their messages together for a strong physical show of support. Staff created a huge banner displaying the most common words from the online messages of support. The primary word: MERCI!

Volunteers held the banner as activists entered the court house and felt public support. Online participants were able to see their sentiments displayed in a real-life, tangible way through photos, video, blog and news coverage. This helped keep the conversation alive in multiple media outlets and, especially helpful, among citizens.

Directly connecting a citizen’s online actions to an offline event can be difficult to achieve but powerful when it happens. The team did a notable job integrating digital and offline mobilisation to keep excitement and momentum high over an extended period.

More information about the project is available (in French) on the Greenpeace France site.

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