On June 17, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew announced the decision to put the portrait of a woman on the $10 bill. The historic bill is slated to be in circulation by 2020, which coincides with 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. But the push to add a woman to American currency did not originate in the halls of government.  As public relations professionals, there are a few key lessons to be learned from the #Womenon20s and #TheNew10 campaigns:

  • Never doubt the influence of social media. Though many say that this is a long time coming (including nine-year-old Sofia), social media and strategic communication played a significant role in spurring the Treasury to act. Earlier this year, a social media campaign to put women on paper currency went viral. Women on 20s is a nonprofit organization that wanted to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment and took to social media to gain support. Over the course of 10 weeks, the nonprofit collected more than 600,000 votes to determine which influential woman people would like to see on the $20 bill. The campaign was able to present its petition to President Obama on May 12, and the answer to all of their work came with Lew’s June 17 announcement.
  • Effective social media campaigns rely on informed and careful planning. Before activating the public, Women on 20s strategically designed what would become a widely successful campaign. Supporters could easily add their name to the petition through the organization’s website and could spread the word through the use of the movement’s hashtags #DearMrPresident and #Womenon20s. Women on 20s offered an image, as well as videos, that followers could share on their individual social media profiles. The campaign rippled through supporters’ networks, while garnering significant media attention along the way.
  • Once a campaign is launched, it is always helpful to have a strategic communications plan in place. The Treasury also decided to tap into the social media momentum when it announced its decision to place a woman on American currency—albeit on the $10 bill instead of the $20 bill. In an effort to include the public’s input for the currency’s features and design, the Treasury launched a campaign of its own, asking citizens to cast votes using the hashtag #TheNew10. Following the criterion that the chosen woman must be deceased, individuals can now take to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their ideas.

As with all viral social media efforts, some chose to subvert the Treasury’s hashtag to draw attention to their concerns with #TheNew10 campaign.  Some lamented that a woman will appear on the $10 bill as opposed to the $20 bill, which tends to be used less frequently. Another controversy lies in the fact that the woman will still have to share the bill with current honoree Alexander Hamilton, prompting a slew of tweets and Facebook comments expressing disdain. Of course, the Treasury has well- crafted responses to these complaints. For example, the Treasury decided on redesigning the $10 bill in 2013 due to a high level of counterfeit threat, so this particular bill redesign is the most practical and timely opportunity to feature a woman on paper currency. The Treasury’s response demonstrates its readiness to answer to all sorts of feedback that its campaign may invite–a critical component of any social media campaign.