Breaking The Silence; Again

How this week’s March of the Living was Different

“I swore never to be silent… silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” – said Elie Wiesel in several variations over the years. Naturally, and thanks to his ongoing work with the organization, ‘March of the Living International’ (the umbrella entity) has Dr. Wiesel’s values rooted in the very foundations it operates on.

So when March of the Living reached its 25th anniversary milestone this year, it was natural to reassess how “silence” can be broken, and communications methods more aligned with concurrent trends.

My team and I have had the privilege and honor in planning, implementing, and evaluating the organization’s first steps in social media management on a large scale. Upon the completion of this vital task, I’ve decided to share some of the elements that were put into play in this campaign, hoping to shed light on how organizations can take the early adaptation steps.

The Challenge:

  1. To date, over 180,000 students have participated in the March of the Living program from all around the world. Other than among the average 9,000 students per year and post-event media coverage, the two-week events in Poland and Israel have had no engagement with the demographic.
  2. In the past few years, use of social media channels has been practiced independently by multiple youth groups or individuals, sporadically, and with no “umbrella” streamlining of information, material or guidance.

The solution:

Many of those who face the same challenge take the natural route of establishing the bare infrastructure over Facebook, twitter, Google+ and other platforms. And let go. It’s clearly not enough to place a blank ‘bulletin board’ out there and expect the world to start posting their content on it.

I come across the same scenario every single time: Major organizations or even well established companies that shift their communications over to social networks – find themselves in the very same position they were when they just founded their company, having to re-gain a mass audience that will reflect their “real-world” circle of fans/customers/supporters.

We too, needed a devoted partner.

The Strategy:

The extra boost, or “anchor” to our activity was found right over here. The Times of Israel  is, in my professional view – spearheading the trends in Israel’s digital news media, and doing it well. They’ve agreed to collaborate, applying a combination of strategies that included close coordination of content, exclusive or first-access to information that we communicate on behalf of the organization, extensive, timely, and creative use of our material, an open platform for students to share blog posts, and cross-linking between our various social networks.

In order to create the “umbrella” we were seeking, an effective “hash tag” was required. Now here is the basic view when it comes to hash tags:

–          Remember: you’re expecting users to include your hash tags in their tweets. Don’t create long hash tags which will prevent them from including their message by taking all that space…

–          Be clever, but not too witty to the extent no one understands the correlation to your event. Acronyms are nice, as long as there is that correlation. “#IWPATMOS” is almost unreadable. (Stands for” International Workshop on Power and Timing Modeling, Optimization and Simulation” in case you wondered).

–          Keep it simple. Especially in the first year.

And that’s why we went with #MOTL2013 (‘March of the living 2013’).

Between April 3rd and 9th, March of the Living took to the Social Media world using the hash tag #MOTL2013 to share information, content, pictures, links and student expressions of their emotions on Holocaust Memorial Day. Nearly one thousand photos were posted on instagram – linked together through the hash tag.

From a situation where thousands of students share material independently and through a wild spread of random networks and channels, we ultimately funneled an entire constant stream of content under one roof.

Next year’s challenge? Well… it’s only ironic that the thousands of youngsters who go to Poland find it extremely difficult or impossible to find some WiFi. The upside is – this allows them to reflect on the site visits, survivor and witness testimonies, and an undivided attention to the material they’re exposed to.

The sharing will come later, as they return to their origin countries. All in the name of breaking the silence.

Here is what it looked like. The Results:

Tweets and Reach over March of the Living day
Tweets and Reach over March of the Living day

Tweets from all over the world by individuals or organizations of any scale of followership have communicated the material and content we’ve disseminated across the few days in Poland. At peaks, tweets by ‘influencers’ have resulted in massive ‘reach rates’ (the # of unique individuals who received timeline deliveries of #MOTL2013 messages) In fact – the total reach was nearly a quarter of a million potential recipients, and a staggering 960,000 “Timeline Deliveries” (representing the total possible number of times someone could have viewed a particular message).

Total reach
Total reach

Major Twitter Activity Spots:

twitter map
Major twitter activity

Since the hash tag #MOTL2013 was the most popular in messages pertaining to the March, the participants and others used it extensively. But additional hash tags were in use, communicating some of the most trending notions that day. Here are some of them:

post 4

And finally… “Did the Times of Israel partnership work out?” you might ask. Be the judge of that yourself:

Most popular and most active
Most popular and most active
About the Author
Nati Katz is a global PR executive specializing in corporate, technology and digital communications. He's consulted a large variety of organizations, companies, and individuals worldwide, with their endeavors in proactive reputation management, market positioning, or online presence; Nati holds an M.S in Public Relations and an M.A in International Affairs – both from Syracuse University; He is a graduate of IDC Hertzlia and has served as a freelance journalist in various publications.