As Christians, we embrace love and affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God and therefore work toward societies in which each person's value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. Following a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017 that erupted in violence including a deadly car attack, United Methodist Communications set out to respond on behalf of The United Methodist Church to the hatred and racism being expressed. Our objective was to denounce hate and racism and share a message of love that would serve to unite people rather than divide. We tailored the message to reach out to our three key audiences: Spiritual "seekers" who were not at the time a part of any church, but who may desire such a safe place during a time of fear and chaos; members who want to know how their denomination is responding; and leaders who need resources to help them minister to their congregations and communities.
We utilized a multi-pronged strategy utilizing social media, paid advertising, video, email and our website.
Social media enables us to act quickly in times of tragedy and to reach audiences well beyond our followers with prayers, messages of hope and love, news, and information about how to cope and the ways that people can get involved. We quickly shared a graphic expressing the message of "Love One Another." We followed that with additional posts using the hashtag #EmbraceLove to tie them together, including a video of children talking about love and kindness, an original feature story on ways to take a stand against racism and an article on tips to address racism. We created social media graphics for others to download from our website and encouraged people to denounce violence and racism and EMBRACE LOVE by sharing these images through their own social media. We used Facebook's feature that allows brands to create profile pictures frames to create an #EmbraceLove frame.
By day two, we had created a landing page on our website, UMC.org/EmbraceLove, that included resources, as well as articles in four languages: English, Spanish, Korean and Portuguese.
In days 3-5, we implemented an email strategy to all key audiences including special editions of e-newsletters with content targeted to three different audiences: church members, church leaders and external audiences. Videos were developed that tied both to message of this campaign, as well as to the overall United Methodist advertising campaign that continued throughout the year. We also ran full page ads in the New York Times and USA Today encouraging people to overcome evil with good and embrace love and directed them to our website to learn how to advocate for the rights of all people.
Our initial Facebook post reached 1 million people through organic reach and more than 400,000 more through paid reach, and our video featuring children reached 1.6 million. Our profile picture frame was used by more than 15,000 people. The social reach altogether was 3.6 million with more than 1 million engagements. Through our ads in USA Today and the New York Times, we reached an additional 2 million people. Over a 2 1/2 week period, we had more than 10,000 page views on our landing page and another 11,000 page views for our article on how to take a stand against racism.