Monday, September 20, 2010

What Should You Do if a Protestor Crashes Your Press COnference or Event?

Protestor crashes Ragan conference in Canada; PETA hijacks event hashtag

How do you react when a protestor with a cameraman crashes one of your press conferences or events?

You don't panic, no matter how dumbstruck you are. You don't call out the hounds or summon the muscle-bound security. You definitely don't tase them. (Remember the "Don't tase me, bro!" viral video?)

This situation isn't a hypothetical--it happened recently at a Ragan Communications conference in Vancouver. A woman dressed like one of the conference attendees entered a ballroom where the conference was taking place and began protesting McDonald's, which was one of the presenters at the event.

Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, was there when the protest began.

"The whole episode offered a great lesson in what to do when someone hijacks your press conference or event," Ragan said.

"I made the decision to let her speak and NOT to have security drag her from the room," he explained. "Her co-conspirator was filming her with a Flip cam, which meant they were hoping she'd be dragged from the room. That would have given her a dramatic video to send to local news outlets, YouTube, etc.

"Instead, she got a pretty boring video of her delivering a canned speech."

After the event, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals--you know, PETA--entered the fray and hijacked the event hashtag on Twitter. PETA supporters tweeted anti-McDonald's message, which included a link to a website about the restaurant chain's treatment of chickens, and included the hashtag that conference attendees are using to talk about the event on Twitter.

Often the best lesson here is to allow the protestor time to make their point but don't allow them to take control. Viral videos are often the objective in these instances so managing the event to the end that the less confrontational you can make it appear- often the more boring the video and boring videos don't go viral.

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