Without solid comms, Occupy Wall Street lacks staying power

Has Occupy Wall Street's 15 minutes come and gone?

Without solid comms, Occupy Wall Street lacks staying power

Has Occupy Wall Street's 15 minutes come and gone? According to Google Trends, searches for "Occupy Wall Street" have fallen by 60% from their October 15 peak to October 30.

The New York Daily News on a mid-November Saturday devoted a portion of page 17 to Occupy Wall Street, sort of. The headline read: "Rebels without a clue as 60s legend Joan Baez plays for OWS." The piece said nothing about the movement's objective of expressing corporate dissatisfaction. Rather, it detailed how few protesters actually knew who Baez was and how a small element of troublemakers are now taking over headlines because of altercations with police and subsequent arrests.

The movement made it to page 4 of the New York Post that same weekend, but only because music superstar Jay-Z, a member of the 1% that Occupy Wall Street is rallying against, was rolling out a line of T-shirts with the logo "Occupy All Streets." Surprisingly the proceeds from the shirts would not support the cause. Come Monday, the shirts were no longer available on Jay-Z's website and a spokesman for the movement known by the pseudonym "Grim" said to TMZ, "To attempt to profit off of the first important social moment of 50 years with an overpriced piece of cotton is an insult to the fight for economic civil rights."

I agree with "Grim." Proceeds should have been allocated to the cause, but without the T-shirt hullabaloo, the movement wouldn't have made the paper at all.

The movement made headlines the following day, but only because city officials cleaned up protest sites and temporarily evicted protesters.

Occupy Wall Street fails on the communications front, highlighted by its inability to leverage its initial momentum into cohesive talking points and a sustained strategy to keep the media focused on a core message.

In PR, partnerships are vital, which is yet another missing element here. Save a few stars and some union backing, Occupy Wall Street hasn't connected with politicians, trade groups, or business to lend a credible third-party voice. How often have we heard that outside brand ambassadors go so much farther in terms of authenticity than self-promotion? The protesters are increasingly being labeled in the media as the "disenfranchised," further eroding credibility.

At a very grassroots level, Occupy Wall Street succeeds on the free-speech front. But the definition of passive resistance is a method of nonviolent protest in order to force change. As the movement nears the three-month mark, it will be impossible to effect real change and it will lose all momentum unless it articulates definitive goals. 

Bernadette Casey is the senior editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at bernadette.casey@prweek.com.

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