The PR BlogMedia & PsychologyPublic Affairs & LobbyingThe Hidden Arena PR Strategy: Your Key to Mobilising Change Agents

The Hidden Arena PR Strategy: Your Key to Mobilising Change Agents

Mobilise the unseen—revolutionise your cause.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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.

Here goes:

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​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​A​c​t​i​v​ism

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. 

  • Latent act­iv­ists are pas­sion­ate about a par­tic­u­lar cause but have not engaged in advocacy or act­iv­ism — yet.

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:

  • Don’t skip your research. When estab­lish­ing a hid­den arena, wish­ful think­ing will get you nowhere. If your agenda is unreal­ist­ic or entirely self-serving, no one will join. If you don’t want to make a fool of your­self, research before attempt­ing this PR strategy.
  • Don’t try to build too fast. Inviting (or admit­ting) new mem­bers slowly is wise. The group cul­ture must be able to settle and evolve as new lat­ent act­iv­ists join. There are likely to be in-group debates and power struggles, which is good, but it’ll require patience on your part.
  • Don’t push your agenda. As the organ­izer of a hid­den arena, it’s essen­tial to remain open to diverse per­spect­ives and ideas. Avoid impos­ing your per­son­al opin­ions or pri­or­it­ies on the group; instead, facil­it­ate open dis­cus­sions that allow mem­bers to express their thoughts freely and col­lab­or­at­ively devel­op strategies that best serve the move­ment’s goals.
  • Don’t try to con­trol everything. While provid­ing guid­ance and struc­ture is essen­tial, remem­ber that the group’s strength lies in its mem­bers’ col­lect­ive exper­i­ence and know­ledge. Encourage self-organ­iz­a­tion and allow mem­bers to take on lead­er­ship roles with­in the group, fos­ter­ing a sense of shared own­er­ship and responsibility.
  • Don’t hide your agenda. Transparency builds trust and cred­ib­il­ity with­in the hid­den arena. Be open about the group’s object­ives, strategies, and decision-mak­ing pro­cesses, and encour­age mem­bers to voice their con­cerns and sug­ges­tions. This will help cre­ate a sense of unity and pur­pose, ensur­ing every­one is work­ing towards the same goals.
  • Don’t be cheap on resources. Investing in the right tools and resources is essen­tial for the suc­cess of a hid­den arena. Ensure the group can access secure com­mu­nic­a­tion plat­forms, col­lab­or­a­tion tools, and rel­ev­ant train­ing mater­i­als to work towards their goals effect­ively. Remember that a well-resourced group is more likely to be suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able in the long run.
  • Don’t hold on to admin­is­trat­ive rights. As the group grows and evolves, it’s essen­tial to decent­ral­ize power and author­ity. This means shar­ing admin­is­trat­ive rights and respons­ib­il­it­ies with oth­er trus­ted mem­bers, which fosters a sense of own­er­ship and shared respons­ib­il­ity. This approach encour­ages a more demo­crat­ic and inclus­ive envir­on­ment, which is vital for the long-term suc­cess of the hid­den arena.

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Recommended Reading

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:

  • Support clique (3 – 5 people)
  • Sympathy group (12 – 20 people)
  • Band (30 – 50 people)
  • Clan (150 people)
  • Megaband (500 people)
  • Tribe (1,000 – 2,000 people)

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

1-Page Strategy - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Keep it clean. (Photo: @jerrysilfwer)

How to Write a 1‑Page Strategy

My inspir­a­tion for writ­ing “no-bull­shit” strategies comes from the clas­sic Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. The 1‑page strategy focuses on how to win.

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:

1. Analysis

  • David can­’t beat Goliath using his size or raw strength, but he has an advant­age in speed and accur­acy from a distance.

2. Guiding Principle

  • David should­n’t engage in close com­bat but rather use tools that will allow him to strike from a distance.

3. Coherent Actions

  • David should­n’t use any heavy armour because that would slow him down.
  • David should use a sling­shot, a weapon he is famil­i­ar with and can strike from a distance.
  • David should lever­age the sur­prise ele­ment and not advert­ise his advant­age beforehand.

If you write 1 – 2 clear sen­tences per bul­let, your strategy should fit nicely on one page.

Read also: The Easy Street PR Strategy: Keep It Simple To Win

PR Resource: More PR Strategies

Doctor Spin’s PR Strategies

Make sure to explore a wide vari­ety of PR strategies for every dif­fer­ent type of situ­ation and challenge:

Learn more: How to Create a PR Strategy That Actually Works

1 Activism. (2023, April 3). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​A​c​t​i​v​ism
2 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.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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