The Local Campaign
Many groups had been advocating for marriage equality for years, but now, faced with a referendum, a shift in focus was needed. Yes Equality strategists believed that the people of Mayo knew how to run the best campaign in Mayo, not from the headquarters in Dublin. They set out to build a grassroots network across the country in just a matter of months.
Local Yes Equality groups began emerging across the country, and in many cases social media provided the platform for these groups to form and organise. These sub-groups often began as Facebook Pages, started by active supporters. A grassroots network of over 60 Yes Equality sub-groups developed during the campaign, with most being active on social media throughout.
Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were instrumental in providing the tools required to guide supporters and activists towards action and to facilitate local campaigns. Twitter was used to recruit new volunteers, WhatsApp groups were created to keep members updated on canvassing activity, and Facebook helped in promoting fundraising efforts around the country.
— Yes Equality Cork (@YesEqualityCork) May 14, 2015
While the campaign nerve centre was in Dublin, and a central team provided strategic leadership and oversight, Yes Equality was keen from the outset not to seek or maintain control. Instead it focussed on building capacity and resourcing groups and individuals to run their own campaign. That said, it was paramount that the Yes Equality content and messaging be consistent, compelling and relevant across all platforms and sub-groups. Sub-group coordinators signed a protocol document agreeing to what was expected when using the Yes Equality name and brand.
The central team provided resources, branding, content and social media guidelines. Groups also received daily emails with suggested tweets, key messaging and media alerts. Ongoing communication was maintained through a centrally operated closed Facebook group, providing a forum to keep the Yes Equality HQ team abreast of any issues or developments. The dialogue between the networked community on social media was crucial to ensure that all communications were in line with core messaging and that the positive tone that had been established was maintained.
Yes Equality had a strict policy of not engaging with trolls or opposing campaigners on social media. The personal nature of the debate frustrated many people – especially when tweets from those opposed to the referendum were deliberately provocative. But it was essential for Yes Equality that they encourage their own activists towards positive messaging.