A few months after my wife and I married, I talked to Una Mullally, one of our wedding guests, about how to engage with the majority of the electorate - straight people. At the time, Una and I were looking at what projects our organisation, Agility, could work on. Straight Up for Equality.org (working title) was born. We met with Yes Equality to tease out the idea and launched with no budget. We never raised funds or received donations. The only cost was time - which was substantial.
More than a Youth Vote
We began by simply asking people to join a conversation about equality. The student unions were doing fantastic work encouraging under 25 year olds to register. Our target audience was 25-45 year olds - specifically couples, engaged, recently married or forming families. Irish people who understood the modern meaning of marriage, family and equality in Ireland.
Thinking Beyond the Pale
In March we asked people to join us and be part of the majority standing with the minority. People registered their interest from across the country. We knew this was never going to be a urban only conversation, as our data consistently showed support from outside the Pale - Donegal members were one of the main supporting groups. With no budget, we asked members to share our launch video with friends, and within a few weeks, over 250,000 people were aware of the campaign. 10,000 people were wearing an equal sign on their social profiles and hundreds were asking how they could get involved with the campaign offline.
Creative Collaborative Community
We collaborated closely with Yes Equality, driving our members to their local canvassing groups across the country. For other members with less time, we encouraged them to talk to their friends about why they were voting yes. Irish legends Bosco and Dustin showed everyone how easy and enjoyable it was to have these conversations.
Dustin and Bosco were joined by other supporters including Brian O'Driscoll, Bressie, Kodaline, Roisin Ingle, Amy Huberman, The Script, and Richie Sadlier who were #StaightUpforEquality. This involvement helped the campaign reach more people and when Hozier recorded a video asking people to Do Something, thousands began to get more involved. People shared stories about how they want others to be as happy as they were when they got married, how they wanted their children to grow up in a world of equal opportunities, and how their faith was guiding them towards voting yes.
Every Yes Matters
As we worked closely with Yes Equality, trade unions, USI, Belong To, Amnesty International, GAZE, Faith in Marriage Equality, Vote With Us and many more, we held the sentiment high, but getting out the vote was the deciding factor. In the final weeks, we began to sense complacency amongst our members - "sure, everyone will say yes" - so our key message was about getting out the vote. We focused on the notion that some people will simply claim they were too busy to vote and worked with John Butler and David O'Doherty to produce a short video warning people not to be the guy who didn't vote.
On the day of the vote, we used all social channels and our email database to drive voting to ensure there was a high turnout. At 10pm, there was little else we could do.
A True Purpose
While I have worked on many marketing and communications campaigns, I have never politically campaigned before, but it has been an honour. When I stood counting the marks on pieces of paper that said Yes, I was overwhelmed. These were marks from every part of Ireland, from every age group, from every social background. These marks represented compassion and acceptance, love and respect. They were real marks, not social media marks. They were marks after people engaged in coversations about equality, the goal every campaigning group set out with. They were marks which have changed Ireland and will continue to change Ireland.
Ireland is Up for Equality and we will continue to work with the community of great people who have gotten involved. Thank you for your efforts and let's remember it has been the people with a true purpose which created this change.
A creative collaborative community is a powerful thing.
I'd be happy to share more detail on this project, please say firstname.lastname@example.org