Let’s be clear one on thing at least: I’m not against what these people are doing. I just don’t have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish.
With that being said allow me, as a communications coach, to suggest three keys to clear protest communications. These work outside of a formal protest just as well but contextually I think it would help the movement.
Key #1: Know your Audience
“The press” is NOT your audience. The press is a means to communicate to your audience. Realize they also editorialize your message. Interestingly enough in any form of protest you actually have more than one primary audience. You have the people against whom you are bringing a grievance and you have the people who you hope to recruit to the cause.
These audiences are different in that what you want communicate to them is essentially different. You need to anticipate their response, their propensity for agreement or attack, even their level of understanding of the issues. In regards to your targeted villain you will be communicating demands. In regards to your targeted supporters you’ll be communicating objectives.
Key #2: Distinguish between Demands and Objectives
This is crucial. A lot of the current chatter around Occupy America has to do with taxing the richest 1%. But is this a demand or an objective?An objective is what you want to accomplish. A demand is a part of how you hope to accomplish it. Taxing the rich folks is a means to an end, not an end in itself…at least I hope not.
Once the emotions start to fly demands and objective get wrapped up in rhetoric and sound bytes and, as several of you suggested in your comments yesterday, rational dialogue goes out the window.When rational dialogue goes out the window you start to lose both your primary audiences and attract only the attention of those who already agree with your emotional position. (Typically the villain doesn’t agree as a rule.)
The objective can be contained in a single sentence. Once you get it there, and it takes work to do it, you have a clear, precise, easily understood statement of what you hope to accomplish and THAT opens up dialogue with a much wider audience.
Key #3: Clarify your Objective
Let me say it again. Your objective should be a single sentence. Your demands are how you hope to accomplish that objective. The importance of a clear objective shouldn’t be underestimated. The objective is the bit which you want me to agree with as a potential recruit. If you can get the villain to agree to the objective too then you’re down to discussing tactics, in this case demands, for achieving that objective.
Here’s a clue though, “We want a better America” is a nebulous objective. EVERYONE wants a better America, even people who hate America want a better America.The last two elections were supposedly votes for “change” but because there was no clear objective, nothing targeted to change TO, we find ourselves wanting more change.
Ok, enough of THAT. I always avoid political conversation…
But THIS is where I get lost in regards to Occupy America. I am starting to see lists of demands but I’m not seeing a clear single objective. In fact, it seems to be working backwards. It appears there are multiple objectives tied to single demands: Tax the Rich! …so we can get better schools…to punish corporations…to limit their political influence… A lot of assumptions there don’t you think? Tax the rich and the government gets the money! Not sure that’s good!
Many objectives to one demand is how a five year old tries to get their way: Get me this toy!…and I’ll never ask for anything else…I’ll clean my room…I’ll do whatever you ask. Just acquiesce to my demand and the world shall be yours!!
Understand your audience. Distinguish between objectives and demands and for cryin’ out loud make your objective clear! Then I’ll bring the beer, we’ll sit down and discuss the issues rationally, and we’ll arrive at some conclusions.
A couple people pointed me in the direction of demands and supposed objectives for the movement yesterday and I thank-you for those. Anyone else have a sense of the objective or a place to find it? I’d love to hear your views.