How to Stage An Effective Protest

As I write this, there is a protest going on outside of our office. People are playing drums, attracting attention and marching around in circles singing the same refrain over and over. They're not protesting us – or at least, I think they aren't, but aside from a sign that says something about wages and carpenters, I'm not too sure what they ARE protesting, who they are protesting against, or what they want me to do about it. Their problem comes down to one of marketing. Whether they are right or wrong, I find it hard to imagine that their protest will amount to much. But protests like this can often work. Marketing is where it lives or dies. So in case you ever find yourself in the situation of having to stage a protest (street side or otherwise), here are a few marketing rules you might want to remember:

  1. Align your own people. Without the support of others in your situation, your protest is doomed. So the first thing you need is a real base of support within whatever group you are leading. This doesn't just mean people who are willing to "go public" and support you, but also those who will not criticize or go against you.
  2. Ask for what you want. It's easy to focus on the argument and logistics of the protest, but easy to forget that you need to ask for something concrete. And "better working conditions" isn't specific enough. Make sure you have a real and tangible thing you're asking for.
  3. Make it bad PR for someone. Embarrassment will help you when it comes to a protest. Part of the reason you are trying to get taken seriously is through the threat of bad PR. So make sure people know who you're protesting against and why they are wrong and you are right. Public support is your friend.
  4. Give people a way to support you. Assuming you have the right message for people to support, you need to also give them a way to support you. This could be signing a petition, or joining a group online. Or telling someone else about it. Protests, no matter how well organized, will be forgotten without something actionable to do.
  5. Prove your longevity. Part of the power of a protest is when your adversary knows that you are not going away tomorrow. Tying yourself to a tree to avoid it getting cut down doesn't work if you only stay an hour. So prove your longevity in the protest, and make it visible how long you've been doing it for.

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