PR Picks Up Occupy Wall Street Mantle

Two New Sites Aim to Keep Movement Alive Rather Than Define It

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

You've heard of Occupy Wall Street ; now there's Occupy Wall Street PR. No, it's not an attempt to rush public relations firms across the country to protest shops responsible for putting a positive spin on companies owned by the 1%. It's a website and well-meaning attempt by Workhouse PR to editorialize the movement and compile OWS-related coverage and content (art, music, film, graphic design).

And coming soon is, a similar effort by David Sauvage, a freelance commercial director who worked on the crowdsourced TV ad for OWS.

These sites aren't intended to bring order to a movement that has no specific goals. Instead, they serve as extensions of the protest and aggregate arts content related to it.

"Workhouse has crafted this [] affinity group as a platform to continue the performance of public relations service, special events and message amplification on behalf of the OWS movement," CEO Adam Nelson said in a statement.

The site is "Saul Bass channeled through Adobe Illustrator" the statement said. "Add a dash of comic-book art, a strong influence of vintage rock-and-roll screen printing [and] knowingly ironic Cold War propaganda blended against World War II iconography, and you have arrived at a defining moment."

*An undisclosed supporter of the Occupy movement, "who read about and really liked my commercial work, and entrusted to me," bought the domain name on sale, according to Mr. Sauvage. It stands to override Mr. Nelson's statement that the OWSPR "platform is the only site dedicated exclusively to Occupy arts and culture." is in progress, and Mr. Sauvage is working with "messaging clusters" within the NYC General Assembly group tied to OWS to brainstorm ideas and "find the right balance of working within the structure of OWS while having the autonomy required to put out meaningful content." Initial thoughts include custom music, photography, multimedia projects, documentaries, animation and "some form of interactivity," he said. "We want to invite people to join the movement wherever they are."

Like Mr. Nelson, Mr. Sauvage acknowledges the power of PR in building momentum around the movement and its impact on pop culture. "My [OWS] commercial made a splash because of the PR angle, not because a lot of people saw it," he said.

But the real question is if OWS wants PR or advertising executives creating such sites. The answer might depend on whom you're identifying as the the movement's administrators. If it's Adbusters Editor-in-Chief Kalle Lasn, who played a role in igniting the initial protests, the answer is that the OWS doesn't want "PR" -- the term or concept -- tarnishing its brand.

Mr. Lasn views these kinds of platforms as beneficial in advancing the movement, but he is concerned about Mr. Nelson's domain and the use of "PR" in relation to something that should "change the kind of aesthetic that exists in this culture."

The development makes it feel "like they lost a little of that purity," Mr. Lasn said. "It's not what this movement is about. There's a line between PR and human conversation and propagation of means. The word PR demeans what human beings really do."

Sree Sreenivasan, professor of digital media at the Columbia School of Journalism, agrees that these types of web platforms will be necessary for maintaining momentum, especially during the winter, as OWS advocates shift from physical protest to "doing more to keep people connected around the issues."

Given that , he disagrees with Mr. Lasn on the relevance of PR as a discipline and its role in OWS. "In the end there is a PR angle -- to keep people engaged and interested," Mr. Sreenivasan said.

But he was confused by the use of "PR" in a domain that 's not on a corporate page or a website dedicated to the discipline. "I'd think it's like the parody site of BP Global PR," Mr. Sreenivasan said. "When I hear PR [in this] that 's what I think of first."

On OWS's lack of ordered messaging, he said, "American media is often shallow and easily distracted. It wants a horserace format, an antagonistic format, with direct goals and verifiable stuff, and if you don't provide it indefinitely people are going to get tired."

Platforms like OWSPR or must radiate and defend the "We are the 99%" refrain, even though its literal message doesn't always accurately reflect the movement's concerns, said Mr. Sauvage. "There are plenty of people financially in the 99% doing a lot of bad work and plenty in the 1% doing great work. There's an unfortunate crisscross of name and reality."

Mr. Sreenivasan said that "in a diffused movement like this, I'd be careful about extrapolating what anything means."

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CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that Colin Mutchler bought the domain on sale. In fact, the domain was purchased by an undisclosed supporter of the movement.

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