Voluntary Sector: Greenpeace in Twitter drive

Environmental charities turn to Twitter and celebrities in fight on climate change.

Greenpeace is combining the use of Twitter and celebrities in a new drive to broaden its appeal and spark a mass movement against climate change.

The NGO wants the general public to identify more closely with its activists, by showing that they are 'normal people'. It hopes this will encourage more people to take part in its campaigns.

Press officer James Turner said: 'Although our activists are brave, they see themselves as normal members of the public. We want to break down barriers between what we are doing and what people at home are doing.'

Greenpeace has turned to Twitter in a bid to make its direct actions and campaigns more interactive.

During recent direct action in Italy, when head of media Ben Stewart climbed a power station to put pressure on the G8 leaders, people were able to ask Stewart questions via Twitter. The Greenpeace man responded to enquiries about how he felt physically, the logistics of how he got up there and the reasons behind his actions.

'It is the first time we have established that communication channel, and we have had very positive feedback,' said Turner. 'Twitter enables people to be activists from their office desks. They can ask campaigners questions and feel like they are taking part in a direct action.'

Greenpeace is using its Twitter account to speak directly to 10,000 online followers by sending out news that mainstream media might not report.

The organisation is also stepping up the use of celebrities in its campaigns, with Alistair McGowan, Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry all getting involved. This is a trend that is occurring across the environmental movement with, for example, Friends of the Earth using Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke.

Turner said celebrities enabled the organisation to convey its message to different audiences, and to varying sections of the media. But he added: 'It's an important new avenue that we are exploring, but it is just one tool in the box. We are not giving up on our traditional campaigning and we are not dumbing down. All the celebrities with whom we have worked are highly articulate, genuinely care and are energised by the issue.'

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