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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.

6 thoughts on “How to Stage An Effective Protest”

  1. To be fair, you might not be the target audience of their marketing — the protest could have been very effective at achieving the goals of the protesters even if everyone who saw them didn’t understand and join their cause.

    Reply
  2. when a service union of office maintenance/janitors did this in downtown SF, I can tell you that it won the workers no sympathy from those of us who had to listen to their cacophony and make our way thru crowds of protesters gathered in front of the buildings they targeted.

    Reply
  3. I think America should line up and protest the scam they are running over on freecreditreport.com This is the biggest fraud in American business today. Its not free and they charge your credit card without authorization. Do not ever do business with this web site they are crooks!!

    Reply
  4. Hi Rohit,

    Are you near Metro Center? There’s a group of protesters I’ve seen off and on for a while and I still haven’t figured out what they’re trying to accomplish. And I’ve asked them.

    Good post on getting your marketing plan in place before you grab those picket signs.

    Best,
    Daria

    Reply
  5. Public support is key. Give the uneducated passer-by a reason to agree with your point of view and you grow your crowd. Social media is a good point too…there’s nothing like some good ‘ol drama to get something to go viral. Speaking ov viral…you could always make a video of your point of view and release it on youtube or something. Nothing is worse than googling your company and having a bad video come up!

    Reply

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Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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