An Audience Missed in a Protest

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The Energy Transfer Partners applied for permission to build a 1,172-mile pipeline in 2014 that was going to cross four states. This issue with the pipeline was in North Dakota and it would interfere with a Native American tribe’s (Standing Rock Sioux) reservation as well as possibly damage their water reserve.

The potential for the pipeline to interfere with sacred grounds and damage a water supply caused a massive protest that lasted several months. Hundreds of people from the United States were involved including celebrity Shailene Woodley. However, the protest has reached the news cycles again due to the elected official being voted out of office.

The public relations aspect for the Standing Rock Sioux is unique because they did a great job of having people become aware of the protest, but they lacked to use a big opportunity throughout the event. During the protest, Standing Rock did an outstanding job of having information available on all platforms, but during the event the reservation lost profit because of their primary source of income being unavailable. Standing Rock’s primary source of income came from the casino that was unavailable due to the road being blocked from the protest.

The opportunity that Standing Rock missed was the number of protesters entering their land. Hundreds of people came to support their cause, yet the aftermath of it left the tribe in debt. Their official, Dave Archambault, was voted out in the recent election by his opponent who claimed there were other issues that needed to be addressed besides the pipeline. The lack of concern for other issues from Archambault is a problem that hurt the tribe’s economy, especially considering the potential audience they didn’t address.

The potential audience was all of those who came to the protest. Their attendance could have addressed other economic concerns of the tribe by either having them visit their stores or support other issues. It was a mistake that didn’t cost them their entire tribe, but it definitely was a lesson learned.

The pipeline debate is continuing. This past spring everyone was removed from the construction site, but the fight continues.

Madison Schein is a senior at Oklahoma State University majoring in strategic communications with an interest in environmental science. She is the president of the OSU PRSSA Chapter, and the PR committee chair for the Student Alumni Board, which is the executive team for the Student Alumni Association. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @madison_schein.

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