The Occupy Wall Street movement is less than two months old, and yet it feels like the story has been around for decades. I’m not convinced it’s a result of the Occupiers’ public relations prowess. It’s probably more of a function of the archetypal roots of the story – media have been covering protests ever since the dawn of newsprint. And think about the ingredients that comprise this protest story. There’s emotion, civil disobedience, and plenty of cause, especially with a staggering unemployment rate and an allegedly clear and present culprit: Wall Street.
But the future of the Occupy movement is unknown, and even though big banks are the targets du jour, who’s next in line and what are the Occupiers’ long-term goals? It appears the movement is in the midst of a public relations crisis, and unless the collective consciousness can think of something quickly, the cold snap of winter is going to shut this protest down.
War, civil rights and genocide all present perfectly valid theses for inciting protest. There is a means to an end, and even if the end is not near, the path to salvation is clear. But the Occupy movement has no such endpoint. All of the ingredients are present, with the exception of a well-articulated goal. Hey, hey, the protesters might say, the movement is evolving organically because that’s what the people want. But when was the last time you tried to accomplish something without knowing what exactly you were trying to accomplish?
So here’s some public relations advice to keep the protest alive and media engaged:
- Set some realistic goals that Occupiers and non-Occupiers can understand and rally around to stay motivated;
- Assemble a dream team in Washington, i.e. lobbyists, politicians, union leaders, financial executives, etc … and create an action plan that everyone running in the 2012 election will have to address and promise to review if elected;
- Keep the messaging consistent across the country. Yes, there are a lot of things people are angry about, but staying focused on specific topics will ensure a more cohesive and powerful message;
- Know your allies and do whatever is possible and practical to support them;
- Do not generalize or stereotype when attacking a target. Be specific. Not everyone on Wall Street or who works for a big bank is an enemy. The movement has already alienated itself from powerful people who can help accomplish the very change the Occupiers are (perhaps) seeking.
— Evan Pondel, firstname.lastname@example.org