I'm not sure what the protocol is here, but I would like to present a proposal to the General Assembly this evening regarding the need for a Communication Strategy Overhaul.
The Occupy Chicago movement, along with others like it, has many admirable qualities. Its non-violent nature, its "leaderless" and egalitarian structure, its emphasis on productive and respectful dialogue, and its nearly universal appeal make it something that I feel very comfortable supporting. Unfortunately, our current communication structure is not effectively conveying this to the public and press, and the result has been the perpetuation of stereotypes and misinformation.
I understand that this is a young movement, and that everyone is working as hard as they can to make it a success. This is not intended to be a personal criticism of anyone who has so selflessly defended their country through participation and support. That being said, as a lifelong student of communication, former competitive speaking and debate participant and coach of ten years, current communications director and major supporter of the Occupy movement, I suggest the following changes be made to our communications strategy:
We need an "elevator pitch"- a one sentence explanation of what the movement stands for that neither excludes nor isolates particular grievances (both official and unofficial). I advise the following statement be adopted:
The government does not reflect the best interest of the people, but the vested interests of corporate influences.
This message is simple, constructive, apolitical, gets at the root of the problem while being all-inclusive, and demonstrates unity and organization.
We need to be blasting out a press release at least once daily, detailing activities and numbers. This helps us to control the message, and get it in front of the media with accurate information instead of speculation. Pr-log.org is a free distribution service that works well, in my experience. All we need to do is create a template and have someone speaking with committee organizers throughout the day to create the releases and send.
We also need a press kit- an easy reference for reporters who want to start learning about the movement, what it stands for, what some of the misconceptions are, how to get involved and contact information. It's a standard practice for most organizations to offer such a document- it's a cheat sheet to the basic details. It would also minimize resources spent on answering repetitive and basic questions, and if blasted out to every Chicagoland reporter we can get an email address for, could help generate controlled buzz.
We need to be defending the movement more effectively through our own resources. Take a criticism and break it down with logic, reason, and data. Post it on our blog. Every press release should also go on the blog. Other content may include personal statements from participants about why they chose to support the occupation- a "faces of" type series.
We need to be more active on Twitter, in particular. I've replied to the Occupy Chicago handle on several occasions, and never got a response. There were a couple of people actually wondering if the occupation had been shut down because they hadn't heard anything. We should be retweeting and responding- in particular to show solidarity with other occupations and especially in times of turmoil (ex. Boston on Monday night/Tuesday morning). We should also encourage those on the ground to be tweeting and taking pictures as often as possible.
We need to be responding to every email. I understand that there is probably a lot of email coming in right now, and template responses to particular kinds of issues can be useful for managing that workload, but there is no reason we should have people not receiving a response. We can even have a template for the trolls, but ignoring emails indicates a lack of organization and/or interest.
Here comes the contentious part. I understand that we are a leaderless organization, but this strategy needs someone orchestrating it. As a result, I propose we have at least one person- and up to 3 or 4- as communication facilitators. In order to ensure that there is always someone with internet access, I would advise that one of these facilitators not be in permanent occupation.
How would this work? Via conversation with supporters on the ground and in the digital sphere, they would attempt to develop some basic message points that encapsulate the majority opinion without excluding the minority, and then submit the proposed templates and strategy pieces to the GA for review by a specific deadline. Upon approval of the materials, the facilitators, using the agreed upon messaging, materials and frameworks, would be sending out tweets, composing blog posts, writing press releases, etc.
Obviously, this proposal is not an all or nothing concept, and can be modified to suit our purposes. I am more than willing to assist with this, and would be able to fulfill the off-site communications support function, but am not a candidate for media appearances. I welcome any feedback you may have, and any direction you may be able to provide for ensuring this gets discussed this evening at the General Assembly. I work full-time and am a single mother, so I have a very limited amount of time during the week to get out to the GA, and would love to answer any questions/talk it over. Thanks, and all the best!
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Yes marching and protesting is an amazing way to show support, but we have so much more work to be done and we all need to work together to do it.
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One example is we have a moderator. That person has a role of control over the GA which is currently where all the actual change happens. If one person always did the moderating that would be a violation of the horizontal structure. However anyone is allowed to moderate assuming the understand the process and we rotate various people in and out so it's fine.
The types of roles stated above make sense and as long as multiple people fulfill those roles at various times and anyone can move into those roles if they posses the skills then I see no issue.
As far as the language I at first thought "no longer" seemed better also. After contemplating it I had to come to the realization that it is not 100% certain that it ever did however I don't think anyone would argue with the fact that it does not now. So I say keep as is.
I almost want to change "people" to "human capital" but that's getting a bit too reactive to the corporate person hood thingy and avoiding the concept of people being confused with corporations and also wanting to point out how this government views humans as cattle and corporations as people. I understand that language is contentious and divisive and am not recommending it.
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