Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism – Brandeis University Category: Media, Strategic Communications


Requirement: In the summer of 2013 we were contacted by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University for a quick turn project. The first nonprofit newsroom based at a university, the Schuster Institute investigates compelling social justice and human rights issues such as human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Bloomberg Businessweek had moved up its schedule to publish the Institute’s nine-month, three continent on-the-ground investigation into slavery in the supply chain of Indonesian palm oil, which they had linked to American companies and products. Palm oil is an ingredient in numerous commonly used consumer products. The Schuster Institute wanted to use Twitter to reach many audiences, especially policymakers and key thought-leaders who would be particularly interested in human rights reform in the palm oil industry. The Institute turned to us for a quick turnaround project to help them extend the impact of the Bloomberg Businessweek piece by reaching additional new media and traditional news audiences, and to promote the new deep-dive multimedia website the Institute created to supplement and support the palm oil investigation’s numerous findings, many that didn’t make it into Bloomberg Businessweek’s six-page magazine spread.


Solution: Within two days our team developed a core strategy, drafted daily tweets for the Institute’s twitter handle, and reached out via Twitter to high level influencers in various industries. Additionally, the Turner team augmented the Schuster Institute’s existing Twitter lists with the Turner’s contacts and suggestions. We tracked the #palmoil hashtag on a daily basis and provided regular updates of our online influence on the specific issue and level of engagement on Twitter. And we provided a full Twitter outreach report at the end of our project that included key performance metrics and a full list of tweets, retweets, and replies we generated.


Results: In just four days, we touched over 30 million Twitter users and generated exponentially more “clicks” on the Bloomberg Businessweek story in the ensuing week than on the day the story broke. Use of the hashtag #palmoil jumped from 210,000 impressions the day before publication to 3 million impressions the day of publication. We achieved this through our own social media networks – via Dr. Alan Rosenblatt (@DrDigipol with 40,000 Twitter followers) and Feminism 2.0 (with 15,000 Twitter followers). But our own networks were just one piece of the puzzle. We also identified and interacted with all the key Twitter influentials in related subjects – from environmentalists to human rights activists to international slavery abolitionists to national and international agencies. Many new influencers in new audiences also tweeted and re-tweeted based on Turner’s outreach.