February 22, 2009

SOME ADVICE ON FUTURE “TEA PARTY” PROTESTS, from a media producer who attended the Overland Park affair:

I attended the invigorating protest outside Congressman Dennis Moore’s Overland Park, Kansas office yesterday.

I hoped 10-15 souls might show up. I was thrilled to see hundreds. Here are some suggestions. I don’t really want my name used. Sadly, it could really hurt my business, which is already hurting.

As a professional media producer, here are my concerns:

1. Incoherent message – the signs were all over the place. There were lots of agendas. That’s fine. The color and signage look good on TV.

But, when it came to the microphone – the overall message was tepid and unsure.

2. Create a theme – like “We want Senator So-and-So to resign for voting for this bill.” Or, “We want the Stimulus Repealed!” “Start Over.” Have a definitive purpose to your Assembly. A central theme will also help public speakers to focus. And don’t be afraid to personalize this. Put it on your Senators, Congress people, and the President. That’s what they are doing to anyone who objects.

3. Speakers not prepared for the media – the organizer was asked to name some specific objectionable items in the stimulus. She couldn’t do it. I doubt many of us could.

If you are an organizer, or the “face” of the event – take an hour to prepare. You don’t need to know everything about the stimulus. Just find 2 or 3 things – hard facts – you can point to and credibly say – these are wrong, wasteful spending items. Or, these items grow government, not the economy. It is critical.

4. Pass out talking points, just in case Joe or Jane Protestor gets buttonholed by a reporter.

5. This is all about image. If we don’t present the media with a professional, organized and, unfortunately, scripted image, they are going to make their own, and it won’t be favorable.

6. Recruit some help to pack the area around people being interviewed for background. God love the guy in the crazy Uncle Sam suit, and we certainly need the Minute Men, but these folks will quickly become THE story because they are colorful or controversial i.e., Good TV. Welcome their support. Maybe give them a minute on the mic. But I recommend trying to pack in mainstream, boring looking, and diverse Americans around the camera. No offense to anyone. Anytime a TV camera comes out, a certain number and type of attention seeker will flock to it. Now is the time for Grandma and Grandpa, the Plumber, the Young Executive, and the Homeschooling Mom to flock to the camera as background. Don’t be shy. Remember, how do you want your cause to be presented by the media? As crazies? Or as Concerned Neighbors?

7. Have an Agenda and a Time. We’re going to Assemble at this Time. We’re going to have a Sign-In Table. We’re going to have a Sign-Making Area. We’re going to have speakers at 10:30. We’re going to March to the Senator’s Office at this time and demand she resign. We’re going to end with Chants, and a Call-to-Action for the next Protest. That, and Protestors want to know what’s going on. If they become unsure, they leave. Organization wins, and it also intimidates the opposition. And the opposition is going to start showing up.

8. Share the Day’s Agenda with the Media. You have to create your own press. The event in Overland Park was HUGE, but only one news station came out to cover it, and there’s not even a photo in today’s Sunday paper. Sell it to them. They love good stories.

That’s it. I hope this helpful. These things are only going to get bigger, and people need to realize that a great responsibility comes with this wonderful opportunity. Get a Message. And Get It Out.

Sounds like pretty good advice to me.