What if protests followed a marketing strategy?

What if protests followed a marketing strategy?

I drove by yet another protest in Downtown Winnipeg the other day.

In total, there may have been twenty five people standing on a windy corner in the city, waving banners, and hand-made signs, and chanting as loud as they could.

I tried to read the signs – I really did. But they were badly made, and they used acronyms to state their claim – acronyms that I was not familiar with.

I suppose that if I were as engaged in the community as I think I am, I could spend some of my work time and go online to search up the protest or at least the acronym – to help me understand what these people were doing today. But if the protesters understood that their activity was an event and a promotion, they would have held their protest to some level of marketing scrutiny and I would not have to search to find their message.

Which made me start to wonder, if you were protesting, why wouldn’t you consider the protest activity as less of an emotional time to yell and scream and more of a large organized marketing event? Why wouldn’t you ask a marketer to help you manage the event to maximize your exposure and increase your ability to deliver the message to the desired target audiences.

If I was running a protest (perhaps one against people running protests), I would ask myself the following questions:

  1. What am I trying to accomplish with this protest?
    • If it is exposure, is the area I have chosen for the protest going to maximize my reach or do I need another place?
    • If it is to reach a specific audience with information, will I reach that audience at this site? Is there a better, more appealing way to get this information to them?
    • If it is to create some kind of action, what kind of action do I hope to generate by standing on the street signing songs? Do my signs even address the desired action or do they just complain about the problem? Am I, during the protest, telling the target audience how they might take action if they are so inclined?
    • If it is simply to embarrass the group that has ticked you off (or wronged you in some way), is the site appropriate to the goal? Is the site even adjacent to the perpetrators of the wrong? And is the action you are taking embarrassing the perpetrator or the protester?
  2. What is my message and who is it targeted at?
    • If I have a message and not just a complaint, have I defined that message and been able to translate it into a format that can properly be conveyed during a protest?
    • Is it written in a way that will engage the desired target audience, is it relevant to that target audience, and will that target audience even care?
    • Does your message tell that target audience why they should care?
    • Have I assigned the proper spokespeople that truly understand the message and that can convey this message articulately and with reasoned passion.
  3. Do I have the right target audience in the first place?
    • Just as it is in marketing, it is a mistake to think that everyone will care about your issue.
    • Identify the people that may care, clearly identify why, and perhaps what elements of the issue would be relevant to them.
    • Build the message around the elements that are important to the audience not around what is important to you (remember the point of this article is on how to have affect – not on what to yell to make yourself feel better).
    • Then really look at the location you have selected. Is this a place that will enable you to interact with this audience? Will they even notice you and what you have to say? Or is the site too easy to avoid and as a by product, avoid the message?
  4. Finally, what have I done prior to the protest to pre-promote the event, to let the audience know that it is happening and to provide them with an opportunity to choose to engage in the event?

If we took a look at this list, and we removed the reference to “protest” and replaced it with “promotion”, the same principle would apply. Yet I doubt many protest groups actually consider the marketing implications or requirements associated with their activity before they head to the streets.