Baumhower: Boycott blueprintWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Oops, he did it again … last week, Rush Limbaugh created a media firestorm by referring to Sandra Fluke, a woman who testified in front of Congress about insurance companies and birth control mandates, as a “slut” and “prostitute.” Limbaugh then double-downed the following day when he suggested Fluke make a sex tape, “if taxpayers are going to pay for her birth control.”
Limbaugh has apologized but a reported 35 businesses have pulled their advertisements/money and two radio stations have dropped his show. In my career, I have been involved with a couple of these boycotts, so I have learned how they happen and where they go wrong. So I wanted to offer you the “boycott blueprint” for any media comments that offend you in the future.
1. Just cause: The most important thing in executing a boycott is the reason for the boycott. What has been said that has motivated you to leap into action? Who did it offend/hurt and why was it said? Limbaugh’s recent comments are the perfect just cause.
2. Organize: Once you have the reason, it’s time to find others who are equally offended by the host’s statements. To find offended parties one may want to use Facebook or Twitter. Once your initial group is formed, it’s time to talk to bigger groups who would be offended — churches, political parties, unions, etc. Professional tip: The larger the group, the faster and easier the boycott will be. Getting multiple groups will increase the speed of this process.
3. Contact the station: You are organized and motivated; now it’s time to convey your anger toward the persons in charge at the radio/TV station. When asking for a meeting, make sure that all station higher-ups are in attendance. The No. 1 solution immediately and almost always offered is an on-air apology. In certain cases, management may agree with your just cause and suspend the host(s) for the comments. If the local management fails to meet your needs, contact the corporate offices, ask for titles like regional vice presidents, program directors, etc. Professional tip: Apologies and suspensions often boost ratings for the show and the station. If all you wanted was an apology or suspension, please stop reading.
4. Listen: If your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction, start jotting down every company who advertises, locally and nationally, on the offending program. Holding a sign outside the station may get your group television coverage, but going after the advertising money is the crucial element. TV and radio stations are businesses first, and they need advertising money to operate. Solely boycotting the station always backfires, because it generates interest and interest translates into ratings. Boycotting the companies that advertise on the station is the most efficient way for your group’s message of discontent to be heard and acted upon (although there is a risk — one prominent Limbaugh advertiser, Carbonite, has seen its stock plunge dramatically since it announced it left Limbaugh’s show).
5. Contact sponsors: Once you know who’s advertising, the next step is to reach out to the person actually responsible for making the advertising decisions for each company. Inform the decision-makers of what happened and how your group has been handled, treating them like a future partner. Encourage them to reach out to the media entity and express their concerns. They may offer to remove their advertising from the show, but that means the station will reschedule their commercials, making its money during another program. Professional tip: Please remember to treat the advertisers with the greatest amount of respect, as they have done nothing wrong but marketed their businesses on the offensive show.
6. Contact media: Now that you’re organized and have given notice to the advertising businesses, it is the time to take your case to the public via the local media. News releases should be sent to every media entity stating the history of what happened and your group’s intentions. Ask for the public’s help with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook.
7. Take it national: If the above steps have not yet worked, taking the story national often will help.
8. Update: Here’s another crucial step: keeping the public notified of your success and momentum. Constantly update the public as to what businesses have pulled their advertising, etc. You may want to start a Twitter #Hashtag like #StopRush.
9. Warning — Do not fail: If you fail to get the show removed, you may have inadvertently crowned a new king. Nothing breeds ratings success like controversy and outrage. Rappers are often judged by how many bullets they have survived; the same goes for local media.
Limbaugh’s ratings will be through the roof if he survives this latest controversy, as people are tuning in to hear what he will say next. That’s why TV/radio personalities say such controversial things — to generate interest, which equals ratings. There is a fine line between what’s accepted and what’s not. The broadcaster who can toe the free speech line the longest will be the richest as well.
When you cross the line, as many feel Limbaugh did, you face what he’s facing now.
Jeremy Baumhower tweets @jeremytheproduc.