I sometimes use the hidden arena PR strategy.
On rare occasions, I put the hidden arena PR strategy to good use. It’s not always a good fit, but mountains will be moved when it is.
You see, sometimes there are people just waiting to become activists. When your interests are aligned with theirs, all you have to do is to activate them. “Unleash” them upon the world, if you will.
The challenge is identifying such latent publics and, of course, finding a way to activate them.
- What Are Activists (and What Are Their Driving Forces)?
- Why Latent Activists Are Interesting for Public Relations
- How To Identify (and Activate) Latent Activists
- Establishing a Hidden Arena (i.e. “Activist Backend”) for Amplification
- How To Boost the Hidden Arena by Pooling Resources
- Common Mistakes To Avoid When Establishing a Hidden Arena
- Recommended Reading
- PR Resource: Typical Social Group Sizes
- PR Resource: How To Write a 1‑Page Strategy
- PR Resource: More PR Strategies
What Are Activists (and What Are Their Driving Forces)?
An activist is an individual or a group member actively seeking to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change. They are driven by a firm conviction and dedication to a particular cause or set of issues, often arising from personal experiences or a desire to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. 1Activism. (2023, April 3). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activism
Activists employ various methods to raise awareness and advocate for their cause, including but not limited to protests, demonstrations, online campaigns, lobbying, and educational initiatives.
Activists aim to achieve diverse goals, depending on the specific cause they are passionate about. Typical objectives include shaping public opinion, influencing policy and legislation, mobilising resources, and fostering a sense of empowerment and solidarity among like-minded individuals.
They often strive to challenge existing social norms, structures, and systems that they perceive as unjust or harmful, aiming to bring about tangible change to improve the lives of those affected by the issues they champion.
Why Latent Activists Are Interesting for Public Relations
Typically, activists organise themselves in various ways to maximise their impact and reach. Some prefer to work independently, leveraging social media and other digital platforms to share their message. In contrast, others join or establish formal organisations, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), advocacy groups, or grassroots movements.
These groups may be structured hierarchically or operate on a more decentralised, consensus-based model. Networking and collaboration are vital components of activist organising. Individuals and groups often form alliances, coalitions, or partnerships to amplify their voices, pool resources, and coördinate actions to achieve shared objectives.
But these groups are all active activists. Not all people who feel strongly about a specific cause or issue have organised themselves.
These individuals may not be aware of how they can contribute or may be hesitant to take action due to personal or professional constraints. Identifying and mobilising latent activists can significantly bolster the strength and impact of a movement, as their untapped energy and passion can be channelled into productive efforts for change.
How To Identify (and Activate) Latent Activists
Creating opportunities for dialogue and education around the issues at hand is crucial to identify latent activists.
Public forums, workshops, online discussions, and community events can serve as platforms for raising awareness and generating interest in the cause. Engaging with people through these channels can help unearth potential activists who may have been unaware of the depth of their passion or the avenues available for action.
Encouraging open discussions, sharing personal stories, and emphasising the importance of individual contributions can inspire these individuals to leap from passive supporters to active participants.
Once potential activists have been identified, it is essential to “activate” them with the resources, guidance, and support needed to translate their passion into meaningful action.
Offering training on effective communication, organising, and advocacy techniques can equip latent activists with the skills necessary to make a difference.
Establishing a Hidden Arena (i.e. “Activist Backend”) for Amplification
Connecting latent activists with established networks, mentorship programs, and volunteer opportunities can facilitate their growth and involvement in the movement. By nurturing latent activists and helping them find their footing, organisations and movements can harness the power of a larger, more diverse, committed group of advocates working together to achieve shared objectives.
One way to facilitate this type of nurturing is to establish an “invite-only” arena for latent activists to get together. No matter if this arena is a private Facebook group or a privately hosted web forum, it’s essential that these latent activists feel safe to explore arguments, exchange information, and discuss strategies and activities.
The first step in creating this “hidden arena” is to carefully select and vet its members, ensuring they share the same core values and objectives as the broader movement. This may involve a combination of personal invitations, referrals from trusted sources, and thorough screening processes to maintain a safe and supportive environment for all participants.
By fostering a sense of exclusivity and trust, the group can become a haven for open, honest dialogue and collaborative problem-solving.
How To Boost the Hidden Arena by Pooling Resources
Recognising and celebrating the successes and milestones achieved within the hidden arena is important. By highlighting the accomplishments of its members and showcasing the impact of their collective efforts, the group can foster a sense of pride, motivation, and purpose. This reinforces the collaborative space’s value and encourages its members’ ongoing engagement and commitment.
In addition to providing a secure space for discussions, it is crucial to offer resources and tools that enable effective communication and collaboration. This may include secure messaging platforms, file-sharing systems, and project management tools to protect sensitive information and facilitate coördinated action.
Regular online meetings, webinars, or workshops can also be organised to foster community and camaraderie among members and provide opportunities for skill-building and leadership development.
As the group evolves, it is essential to continually assess its effectiveness and adapt its strategies to ensure that it remains a valuable resource for nurturing and empowering latent activists in their pursuit of meaningful change.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Establishing a Hidden Arena
Since I’ve used the hidden arena PR strategy quite a few times, you can learn from some of my (many) mistakes:
della Porta, D., & Diani, M. (2006). Social Movements: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Earl, J., & Kimport, K. (2011). Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Tarrow, S. G. (2011). Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (3rd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
PR Resource: Typical Social Group Sizes
Typical Social Group Sizes
How many social connections you you comfortably sustain? According to the social brain hypothesis, limits exist. 2Zhou WX, Sornette D, Hill RA, Dunbar RI. Discrete hierarchical organization of social group sizes. Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Feb 22;272(1561):439 – 44.
“The ‘social brain hypothesis’ for the evolution of large brains in primates has led to evidence for the coevolution of neocortical size and social group sizes, suggesting that there is a cognitive constraint on group size that depends, in some way, on the volume of neural material available for processing and synthesizing information on social relationships.”
— Discrete Hierarchical Organization of Social Group Sizes
Scientific evidence suggests that people tend to organise themselves not in an even distribution of group sizes but in discrete hierarchical social groups of more particular sizes:
Alas, there seems to be a discrete statistical order in the complex chaos of human relationships:
“Such discrete scale invariance could be related to that identified in signatures of herding behaviour in financial markets and might reflect a hierarchical processing of social nearness by human brains.“
Source: Discrete Hierarchical Organization of Social Group Sizes
Read also: Group Sizes (The Social Brain Hypothesis)
PR Resource: How To Write a 1‑Page Strategy
How to Write a 1‑Page Strategy
Here’s how you can write a 1‑page strategy that fits one page — using the mythical battle between David and Goliath as an analogy:
2. Guiding Principle
3. Coherent Actions
If you write 1 – 2 clear sentences per bullet, your strategy should fit nicely on one page.
PR Resource: More PR Strategies
|Activism. (2023, April 3). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activism|
|Zhou WX, Sornette D, Hill RA, Dunbar RI. Discrete hierarchical organization of social group sizes. Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Feb 22;272(1561):439 – 44.|