Clients Creating Change: Freedom To Marry’s Michael Crawford

In this new series, we’ll be interviewing client partners who are building and mobilizing communities online that are changing the way that people engage around issues, brands, and causes. Through captivating storytelling and data-driven targeting, Freedom to Marry has built (and sustained) a movement that has helped achieve marriage equality in 37 states (and District of Columbia) and, ultimately, a potential federal Supreme Court ruling this summer. Michael Crawford, Freedom to Marry’s Director of Digital and Creative, shares the keys to their digital success.

1. It’s a huge moment for the Freedom to Marry movement with the Supreme Court taking up oral arguments on four cases in April—how are you all feeling at FTM HQ? What is the atmosphere at the office?

The Freedom to Marry staff is at a heightened state of alert as we continue our work to show the Court that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. We are taking nothing for granted. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that we are on the brink of making history and we are doing everything humanly possible to empower the Supreme Court to do the right thing.

2. How has the FTM digital strategy evolved over the last five years?

Five years ago we were just beginning to the build Freedom to Marry’s digital program. It’s been an amazing experience working with Blue State Digital to craft and implement a comprehensive strategy that incorporated advocacy, fundraising and social. In that time, our supporter base has grown to 1.3 million across platforms and our digital work has played a vital role in shaping the narrative around marriage, branding Freedom to Marry as a movement leader and telling emotionally powerful stories that drive action.

3. What key principles have driven success?

In our digital work, we have focused intently on ensuring that our strategy helped to advance the larger organization goals. In our content, we focused on telling powerful stories of couples, allies and other messengers who support the freedom to marry. By focusing on emotional and visually appealing content, we have been able to generate high levels of engagement on social media and have helped keep the focus on the people affected.

4. Is there anything you wish you had done differently or sooner?

Video has been a powerful medium for us in terms of telling stories (for example: Who We Are as Southerners: #AmericaisReady, Freedom to Serve: The Story of Monica and Naomi, and Same Skin). One thing that I would have done differently is invested more robustly in video from the beginning.

5. What advice can you give to other issue-based advocacy groups looking to build and mobilize a community of advocates?

My advice is to invest heavily in finding and telling powerful stories. Storytelling is the engine that can inspire action, generate donations and build your supporter base. Telling strong stories in compelling ways is how you build a modern movement.