Archive for October, 2010

How to Waste a Picket Line

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Two weeks ago I was in San Francisco to walk the Nike marathon. When I arrived at the Hilton near Union Square, I found the hotel was being picketed by union members. The handbill they were distributing said that the picketers were “taxpayers” who were upset with the hotel because it had been acquired by another company, a transaction that allegedly was paid for by taxpayer funds. At least that’s what I think it said; the handbill’s two-page narrative was somewhat hard to follow.

So what was the union’s point? Beats me. The handbill described a business transaction that already had occurred and couldn’t be changed – nor was it likely to be reversed. Despite the fact that the picketers were saying, “Shame! Shame!” to people going in and out of the hotel, they provided no clue about why the sale of the hotel had provoked this reaction. Importantly, the handbill didn’t say why anyone else should be upset either – or why the union members believed people should be ashamed about staying at the Hilton. From my perspective as an observer, this multi-day, noisy display was a waste of time and effort because the union failed to communicate what it wanted and why it mattered – to their members and to the public.

If someone had asked me how this effort could have been more effective, here is the advice I would have given:

    1. State your point clearly and succinctly. WHY are you unhappy with the hotel, and why should members of the public share your unhappiness?

    2. Tell people what outcome you want.

    3. If you want to discourage people from staying at this hotel, give them a good reason for going somewhere else. Realistically, how many people do you think would change their minds about staying at this hotel because it had been bought out by another company – even if it had been at taxpayers’ expense?

    4. If you want to discourage people from staying at this hotel, offer them information about alternative places to stay.

    5. Instead of yelling through bullhorns and pounding on drums so loudly that no one can hear anything, tone it down so people will be more open to listening to your message.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.