Just this weekend, the United States Army announced that it will find an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline (#NODAPL on social media), which had plans to run through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois.
This news is huge, not just for environmental reasons, but for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its land. The proposed plans for the pipeline would go directly through the Standing Rock Indian Reserve, which would disrupt sacred ground, the reserve’s clean water supply and people who call Standing Rock home.
There is no such thing as an overnight success
When we take in news, we only see the headlines – not the work put in to create those headlines. Successful grassroots work doesn’t happen quickly. Instead, it succeeds when people put time and passion into the work. The people standing together at Standing Rock have been doing so for days, weeks and months. What started with a small group grew into thousands over time. Similarly, we have grown our network and connections at 834 through patience, determination and passion. We love what we do, and we’ll do whatever we can to support and promote the things we believe in.
Every single person counts
When it comes to big issues, affecting change can be intimidating and not worth someone’s time. “What does one more person matter?” If every person protesting the pipeline had that same attitude, there is a huge chance that the pipeline would not be rerouted. Every person counts. With effort and passion, a handful of people can quickly turn into hundreds and even thousands. Social networks have increased the impact one person can have. One post has the opportunity for information to get out to a large audience, inspiring others to get involved. Never doubt the impact one person can make.
But sometimes the right people can help get word out
Actress Shailene Woodley has been one of Standing Rock’s biggest Hollywood advocates. She’s spent months at the Standing Rock protest site in solidarity with her fellow protestors. She’s also protested at the White House, used social media to raise awareness and spoke at activist events. Awareness for the Dakota Access Pipeline increased dramatically when Woodley was arrested and charged for criminal trespassing. Through Woodley, teens and young adults who have followed her work through The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent were made aware of the events happening at Standing Rock. Her visibility helped raise awareness and get more people involved in the protest.
So, what does this have to do with communications?
Just like the protests that started from scratch and led to change, communications campaigns must start somewhere. With hard work and passion, growth will happen over time. We live in a “now, now, now” culture and our patience is tested to the point where we give up. The protesters at Standing Rock didn’t put in effort over a week’s time and call it good. They made sure their voices were heard for months – as early as April. That’s almost an entire year of protesting.
Progress – whether its social justice or a marketing campaign – isn’t instant. Oftentimes, we have to tell our clients why large growth hasn’t happened in a month or even a week. Organic growth, while slow and steady, guarantees the right people are coming on board your product, business, organization or cause. If you believe in what you are doing and have a clear message, likeminded people will follow and then spread the message to other likeminded people. And, if your strategy is strong enough, you will be so strong in numbers that you cannot be ignored.