In watching some of the videos from the last few climate change protests in Edinburgh, London and elsewhere, it was easy to see some examples of good campaigning and effective stunts for media attention. A large Octopus is never not going to get you coverage and neither is a fire engine spraying an old building red. Even protests at London City Airport can get you the kind of attention you want.
With that kind of stunt, you are going to be asked for your more substantial views and reasoning, to showcase your knowledge, agenda and programme to make real change and grow an actual movement. In short, it creates the opportunity but the stunt should not be the end in itself.
But, as with many campaigns, the stunt becomes the objective and you feel you have to “do something new” and “go further” rather than looking at why the first thing worked and what it enabled you to do.
The footage this morning of commuters in London dragging XR protestors off a tube, following the blocking of train stations and bus stations are where protestors have lost sight of their audience and purpose. The people being inconvenienced are, afterall, doing what XR wants to see more of – using public transport. Because of public transport conditions, they are also likely to support more money being spent on it to improve the service.
I would be willing to bet that if you polled these commuters they would also support more effective action to tackle climate change. These are the people who agree with you and you want to bring to your campaign. They are your audience, why are you abusing them and treating them as the enemy? Sure, you will get coverage and attention but it will not grow your support nor will it advance your objectives, quite the opposite.
This is common in PR and political campaigns, the base or client demands more but forgets the long-term objective and who the audience is. At Orbit, this is something we combat by asking clients to focus on three simple questions at all times during campaigns and if a particular activity is going to help our longer-term objective. Who is our audience? How do we reach them? What do we want them to do?
Activity for the sake of activity may look appealing but forget your audience at your peril if you want to achieve anything.