Communications in an Age of Protest: 8 Tips to Help You Better Promote Your Event
The energy unleashed by Women’s Marches across the country has clearly galvanized the progressive movement. It also changed the equation for those of us in progressive communications.
In the days after the election, The Hatcher Group met as a staff to discuss how we could work on the issues most vulnerable under the new administration. Now, more than six months later, one way we have made an impact is by supporting grassroots protests and rallies.
We have helped clients organizing national marches and rallies around healthcare and climate change, as well as local and state events to rally support for raising the minimum wage and protecting funding for mental health.
Here are our top tips to ensure a successful event, whether you’re planning the next march on Washington or a neighborhood rally.
Decide whether a march/rally will actually help you achieve your communications goals. Do you really need a rally? If your goal is to show lawmakers broad public support around an issue, then probably yes. If you’re really more interested in fundraising or public education, then maybe not. Be realistic about your capacity to pull off the enormous amount of work that a successful march or rally requires.
Do your research. You don’t want to discover at the last minute that another march is happening the week before yours. Stay informed about other events that that would affect turn out. Specific topics also lend themselves to certain times of year. Hosting an environmental rally on Earth Day or a marriage equality march on Valentine’s Day can be smart marketing.
Partnerships are key. Coordinate early and often with other influential organizations because you will ask them to do a lot for you, including assisting with communications. To make it as easy as possible for partners to share content about your event, send regular updates with sample social media content. Offer to publicly thank partners on your website as well.
Always think about your target audience. Don’t ignore this cardinal rule of communications. If you are focused on Social Security, your supporters may skew older and so you might want to focus more energy on Facebook and email marketing. If you’re promoting net neutrality, your audience is probably much younger and may respond better to channels such as Instagram and text message marketing.
Get out in front of your critics. You can’t please everyone, even within the same movement. Anticipate criticism and ask the tough questions ahead of time. Develop a one-pager with talking points and answers to tough questions likely to be asked of event organizers.
Consider questions of diversity and inclusion from day one. Ensure that everyone, particularly those from marginalized communities, is represented at your event. For example, make sure all events are ADA accessible and that speakers’ ethnicities accurately represent the communities impacted by the issue being addressed.
Protests/rallies are digital as much as physical. Not everyone who would like to attend can do so. By driving a strong digital presence, however, an event’s impact can be felt far and wide. Incorporate digital into your planning from the beginning. Your plan should lay out exactly what you’re trying to do and how your tactics will help you get there. For example, a recent digital plan we created for a national march included partner outreach, influencer marketing, paid advertising, and graphic design.
Plan for the day after. How will you translate the energy of your event into action? To build a movement, you need a way to communicate with attendees. Implement an RSVP system that can capture emails from the start. Think about ways to meaningfully engage with supporters in the days and weeks after the event. For instance, you could put together a round-up of the top tweets sharing signs from your event.
To remind you of the power of protest, we have created a special image of the Women’s March you can use as your desktop background. Click the image below to download the file. (Photo credit: Brian Allen, Voice of America News)
Planning a protest/rally but need support? The Hatcher Group can work with you as a communications partner from start to finish. Contact us to see how we can help.