“The case studies are a wonderful antidote to defeatism because as you read the examples – and recall your own successes – you know that you could do those actions, too.”

Murray Dobbin, rabble.ca

Consider your audience

Contributed by

In Sum

If a banner drops in the forest and your target audience isn’t around to see it, will it make a difference? Probably not.

When evaluating the success of a particular action, it doesn’t matter what you think about your creative poster or press release or civil disobedience. All that matters is what your audience thinks. Protesting solely for the sake of self-expression and self-gratification? That’s the political equivalent of masturbation. Political action that is carefully and thoughtfully designed and executed to cause a reaction or response from a targeted audience? Now that is making love!

If you’ve already thought up some awesome, off-the-wall action and are now trying to figure out who you want to reach with it, you’re doing it backwards. The point of creative political action isn’t simply to be creative, but to have a desired impact on a particular audience. First identify your target audience and then brainstorm actions to effectively convey your message. A guerrilla musical performance of the latest Justin Bieber hit would be awesome — unless you’re trying to influence the members of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Remember that there is no right audience, just the audience that is right for your particular goals. Try this basic formula: we can get A to do B if they believe C. A is your audience, B is your objective and C is your message. Design your action or actions toward getting A to believe C.

If your core tactics and actions aren’t explicitly and strategically designed to get the desired impact on your target audience, you’re not being strategic. That Bieber number may be fun and the hits on YouTube astronomical, but will it reach your senior citizen target audience? Baby, quit playin’.

Traditional artists don’t necessarily worry about their audience’s experience. For them, creative self-expression may suffice. But for political artists, the audience is every­thing. The purpose of political art is the reaction of those who experience it. When you push over your tree in a grand act of theatrics, make sure the right people are watching, and that they hear one heckuva loud noise.


Sally Kohn makes the world safe for radical ideas. As a veteran community organizer turned political commentator, Sally makes complex political issues accessible for everyday audiences. Sally is a grassroots strategist actively engaged in movement building for equality and justice. She is a regular on Fox News and MSNBC. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, FoxNews.com, Reuters, The Guardian and the American Prospect, among other outlets.


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