Say what you will about Invisible Children and how they manage their money (and remind me to tell you my United Way story). Dislike their KONY2012 campaign as much as you’d like. In either case, there’s no denying their outreach and education efforts are the envy of public affairs practitioners around the world. In fact, the success of the KONY2012 is probably the envy of many public affairs organizations.

One aspect of the KONY2012 campaign many people get worked up about is how it simplified a complex issue, leaving out certain facts in the process.

It’s the distilling or simplifying of any issue that helps put it on the public radar and, with any luck, the public agenda.

Consider the fact that you don’t get children interested in math by throwing calculus at them. You introduce simple addition and subtraction to build the interest and understanding. Leaving out multiplication and division isn’t lying or disguising facts. It’s part of the process of achieving understanding.

Subway maps are another great example which only occurred to me when watching a TED Talk by Aris Venetikidis earlier this week. Mr. Venetikidis shows how the genre of subway maps, with their inconsistent scale and over-simplified angles make it possible for people unfamiliar with a city to get around without knowing much about their environment.

Subway map designers know details only confuse the reader. Invisible Children knew this about introducing Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army to the public. Details would have cluttered understanding and caused people to stop watching a video designed to educate and initiate a conversation.

Pure brilliance.


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