Not everything is a protest

I think we’re headed for protest exhaustion. Already I’ve heard people comment when seeing a mass gathering, “Now what?”

Turns out the weeks of rallies following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis cops prompted people to go the way of the protest to send a message. The problem with that is there will be public exhaustion.

It’ll be like those National _____ Day things that pop up – every… single… day. National Pretzel Day, National Walk to Work Day, National Red Head Day. Pretty soon you brush them off as even more trivial than the last. Pretty soon you tune them out entirely.

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The Floyd demonstrations led to widespread rioting and civil unrest and perhaps set the stage for why people hear the word “protest” and look the other way.

On Canada Day, there was a movement called Cancel Canada Day. It didn’t pick up much steam and certainly wasn’t trending on social media, but people used the country’s birthday as a time to highlight injustice. Was it effective? Not really. Most people didn’t know it was happening. I understand choosing that day because of its significance but when they won’t have support from the masses – and demonstrating on a holiday no less – it likely wouldn’t gain much traction.

Last weekend, protestors gathered outside the immigration minister’s office in Toronto to demand more rights for foreign workers after it was announced 1,000 migrant farm workers have tested positive for coronavirus. It happened on a weekend and there’s no indication the minister was even there. Message received? (“I’ll be at the lake this weekend, call me when the mob is gone,” I can almost hear Minister Marco Mendicino saying.)

Previously, when I’ve helped companies with PR and media relations strategies I’ve had to make clear that not everything is a “thing” to everyone. Meaning, not every internal announcement is newsworthy to the general public. To be blunt: Nobody cares but you.

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Every day, I’m on the receiving end of press releases from publicists making announcements about their clients. Sometimes it’s noteworthy and an interesting interview opportunity, and other times it’s something stupid like, “So-and-so appears on podcast-you’ve-never-heard-of-before.” Honestly, that’s not news.

So, what does that do to me? It either makes me hit “unsubscribe” or I remember the sender’s name for next time and it trains me to disregard their future emails. Really, it does.

Not everything is a press release and not everything is a protest. Heightening an announcement to that level over and over, no matter what the cause, runs the risk of people tuning out. At that point, you’re not doing your cause or message any favours.

As I’ve stated a few times in this column, I’m all about people expressing themselves and standing up for their beliefs. (After all, my company is called SpeakFree Media.) While I’m not suggesting people don’t stand up for what they see is right, I do encourage a more strategic approach so as not to be awash with the message.

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