10 ways to communicate when protesters mass at the gates

As anti-NATO demonstrators target Boeing, crisis experts tell how to reach out to the public—and the crowd. Would milk and cookies change minds?

Demonstrators opposed to the NATO summit in Chicago vowed to shut down the aerospace giant’s headquarters Monday because of its military contracts.

For every committed protester, dozens tag along out of curiosity, says Jonathan Bernstein, principal of Bernstein Crisis Management. Targeted organizations should consider reaching out by serving the protesters milk and cookies, lemonade in the summer, or coffee when it’s cold out.

“Even though these are people trying to block you and shut you down, you are treating them with kindness and respect,” Bernstein says. “If they insist on taking the low road, that can be nothing but great PR for your organization.”

Everybody’s preparing

As Occupy Wall Street-style protests erupted around the country, companies—particularly in controversial sectors such as banking and energy—are preparing for such a crisis.

Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher was pleased that the protest was peaceful, respectful, and fairly short.

“From our perspective, it went as well as we could have hoped for,” he says.

Protesters, however, declared victory because Boeing asked most employees to work from home. (Media spokespersons were at their desks.)

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