Arguably one of the most hotly debated topics in 2015 has been the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement has lead millions around the nation and the world to gather in protest of racial injustice in the United States. However, a closer look at Black Lives Matter reveals that it’s not just an activist movement, but also has the characteristics of a public relations campaign. Specifically, when you compare its process to PR’s R.A.C.E. model of strategic communication, it’s easy to see why Black Lives Matter is more than just a demonstration in activism.
- Research – Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement are constantly searching for stories of black Americans who’ve lost their lives at the hands of police. Similar to the environmental scanning PR professionals must do in their daily work, Black Lives Matter activists search for every opportunity they can to continue their work.
- Action – Once PR professionals have the information they need, they’re better educated to make decisions and create a plan for executing their strategy. Black Lives Matter did this by taking their action steps after former police officer Darren Wilson was acquitted in the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. After the ruling, the movement began with protests around the globe, in one case closing down shopping malls in St. Louis the day after Thanksgiving.
- Communication – While none of the founders of Black Lives Matter movement have backgrounds in social media, they each have prior history in community organizing. Using their relationship-building skills, similar to the ones PR professionals need, they’ve been able to communicate their strategies with activists and organizers around the world. Even when organizers aren’t protesting, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter allows supporters and criticizers alike to join the conversations about equal justice.
- Evaluation – Judging the success of Black Lives Matter is difficult without a set of predefined goals and metrics. For many PR campaigns, success is achieved if the strategy meets the organization’s financial bottom line. For others, success might be determined simply in the amount of awareness a campaign’s raised. Black Lives Matters seems to fit the latter as it hopes by raising awareness that it can influence change in the U.S. justice system.
It’s too soon to say whether Black Lives Matter will make the impact that it truly desires since it is a relatively new campaign. One can only hope that eventually its founders will come up with a true set of outcomes beyond simply raising awareness. As most PR professionals would agree, conversations are nice, but they mean little to nothing if they don’t lead to actions that deliver results.