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People power and the internet

It’s a known fact that each ton of newsprint requires the cutting down of 12 mature trees.

I found it rather ironic then that most newspapers were supporting the recent campaign to Save Our Forests. The real winner, however, in the successful fight against the Government’s proposed forestry sell-off was ‘people power’ and the internet.

After social media’s role in the toppling of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt, the humiliation of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman proved a walk in the park – or even the woods. No sooner had she floated her plans to privatise England’s public forests than a campaign group, 38 Degrees, launched an online petition to mobilise support against the policy.

Campaign members funded a YouGov poll that showed 84 per cent of the public was opposed to the proposals. Facebook and Twitter were used to spread the word. Soon, over half a million people signed the 38 Degrees petition, 100,000 had written to their MP and celebrities were firing off letters to The Telegraph.

From Tahrir Square to the Forest of Dean, 2011 has seen protests stirred up and galvanised by new technology. Political debates are now taking place online as well as in the Commons. Lobbyists beware: it isn’t about the long lunch, it’s about tapping into the long tail of conversations on social media.

This article first appeared in the SoapBox section of PR Week magazine http://bit.ly/flkOSh

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