In a sense, the growth and momentum of the Occupy Wall Street protests gathered in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and elsewhere was in the making for a long time. A May 2011 CNN poll showed that nine out of ten Americans blamed Wall Street for the direct economic pressure they felt as consumers at the gas pump. The national mood holds a lot of anger over the overwhelming power of big business – over markets to be sure, but also over our civics and in our government,.
As communications consultants, it’s our job to refine and sharpen messages for the chosen medium. Which is why I had to do something when I saw Occupy Wall Street – a movement we love and support – release communications that were anything but refined and sharpened.
I see a similar lack-of-editing problem often with clients in our consultancy. We often encounter this in the context of social media strategies and tactics. In short, we consult with our clients on what should be said and why. The social media space and its interactive potential means that simple PR skill is not enough. We have to understand the technical and semantic underpinnings of social media messaging.
Over at my personal blog, I applied these to the building of a draft declaration for Occupy Wall Street, submitted in solidarity to the group. A couple of days later, I wrote up a description of the rationale behind cleaning up the OWS messaging.
In terms of social media, I’d like to point here to the word budget as major factor in the editorial decisions. 300 words is the appropriate target for blog posts, for reader engagement without attention loss, and for issue framing in brief, repeatable, digestible pieces. What follows is more or less at that target length:
WHY ARE WE HERE?
WE WANT OUR ECONOMY BACK
The bloated and reckless financial sector harms the real economy. 40 years ago, the financial sector commanded 2% of all the economy’s profits. Today, it commands over 40%. We, in the real economy, demand a 1% tax on all securities transactions. We call for the nationalization and breakup of all “too big to fail” financial institutions. We call for the nationalization and de-privatization of the Federal Reserve Bank. WE WANT OUR ECONOMY BACK.
WE WANT OUR DEMOCRACY BACK
We will no longer pretend we are well-represented by a government corrupted by runaway financial and commercial interests. We demand public service. We demand an end to the normalized corruption of our democracy by 1) instituting public financing of elections, 2) ending all lobbying for changes to the tax code, 3) the end of audit-less electronic balloting systems. WE WANT OUR DEMOCRACY BACK.
WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK
Wall Street’s political power has far exceeded Washington’s. The economy’s biggest players have the biggest say in its outcomes. Now, we want our say. Corporate profits and cash reserves are near all-time highs. Yet, unemployment is effectively well over 15% while “job creators” create only excuses. WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK.
WE WANT OUR HOMES BACK We signed on the dotted line. But Wall Street banks didn’t. We didn’t want a housing bubble. Wall Street’s banks and derivatives traders created one. We are not in default, we are victims of massive financial fraud. We demand an immediate cessation of foreclosures. WE WANT OUR HOMES BACK.
WE WANT ARRESTS AND PROSECUTION OF FINANCIAL TERRORISTS
Too big to fail is too big to jail. We demand immediate indictments on charges of securities fraud for Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs), Vikram Pandit (Citi), John Stumpf (Wells Fargo). Jamie Dimon (JPM/Chase), Ken Lewis (BoA), Martin J. Sullivan (AIG). WE WANT ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS OF FINANCIAL TERRORISTS.
WE WILL NOT LEAVE UNTIL WE REGAIN OUR ECONOMIC CIVIL RIGHTS.
It’s certainly true that messaging for a protest has a wider audience and different goals than your NPO’s messaging. Nonetheless, chances are, your messaging could use a cleanup. Nothing beats memorability – memorability to readers as well as to search engines. It’s worth the extra effort to impart the maximum.