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The Influencers

Follow My Lead: How a Grass-Roots Effort is Turning into a National Labour Movement

INFLUENCER: StrawberryFrog's Sarah Landsberg on what marketers can learn from the teachers' strike in West Virginia

Follow My Lead: How a Grass-Roots Effort is Turning into a National Labour Movement

My fiancé is a fourth grade teacher at a school in Newark, NJ. We spend a lot of time talking about issues plaguing teachers today. Recently, the hot topic of conversation has been around pay rises. More specifically around the latest teachers' strikes stemming from West Virginia and now Oklahoma, Kentucky and beyond. It’s a slowly simmering pot that’s now boiled over. 

There’s plenty to read about from a political and economic perspective so I won’t attempt to re-iterate what’s already been said. I want to talk about another angle. Cultural movements. More specifically, how grass-roots movements go national using the teachers' strike as a tangible, real world example. 

At StrawberryFrog, we believe that the most significant engagement comes through social movements, and that despite the differences between business and society, marketers can learn how to mobilise the masses to grow brands.

Here are some key principles that I hope shed some light on how a teachers' strike in West Virginia has the potential to ignite a national movement.

1. Begin small to grow big

By starting a Facebook Group Alberto Morejon, a teacher in Stillwater, Oklahoma was able to get 73,000 members in only a month. Any good movement has a starting point, a spark. But to take things to the next level you need to get organised. You need to have scale and impact, which means numbers. Lots and lots of people willing to go to bat for your cause. Organisation is a crucial first step. It creates camaraderie, connection, as well as a place for support emotionally and fiscally. 

2. Ignite your passionate advocates

Walkouts, strikes, rallies, marches are all tools at everyone’s disposal to elevate our voice and form powerful communities. There is strength in numbers and only by coming together under a unified presence can we create real change. Start a GoFundMe page, reach out to your friends and family, your colleagues, start or join a network on LinkedIn. Be persistent and visible. The goal is to rally your people into a space that they can join the conversation, find ideas and spread the movement to their network.

3. Spark mass participation

Keep people informed about what’s happening and when and how to participate. Start a website, a social media group, an email chain, make postings. Some teachers in West Virginia started posting images of their pay stubs in an effort to bring awareness to the issue. A picture is worth a thousand words. Staying connected and providing access to information allows for more people to get engaged, learn, and hopefully participate. Once the movement has been seeded and momentum is building you need to broaden the movement by thinking big and finding platforms that can take it to as wide an audience as possible.

4. Keep the fire burning

It’s one thing to capture people’s attention. It’s another thing entirely to sustain it. The clearer the goals, the more succinct the demands, the better the outcome. Use events, podcasts, interview people, create short form content to share to keep your message front and centre. Furthermore, PR plays a big role in getting your conversation into pop culture. In today’s age you don’t need to have access to a network or a news station to gain traction. A powerful message in the right format on the appropriate channel can generate word-of-mouth marketing without spending a penny. Going from spark to explosion doesn’t just happen. It requires watching where the sparks start and engaging in the conversation there. You need to actively stoke the fire, adding bursts of fuel to make the flames jump ever higher.

Some concluding thoughts.

During the 2015/16 school year, nearly 18% of teachers worked part-time in addition to teaching full-time – making them five times more likely to have a second job than the average full-time worker (Source: Canvas8, 2018). 

As a topic near and dear to my heart these numbers are truly upsetting. But, there is something we can all do to make a difference. We can show our support. We can get involved. We can take action. We can raise our voice using the tools available to all of us. From social media to word-of-mouth to email to events and more, we can and should participate. It’s often the actions of one that move many.

We live in a world desperate for more movement makers. The great news is anyone anywhere can ignite a movement. So, what moves you?

If you’re interested in learning more about Cultural Movements or want to chat with Sarah Landsberg, check out StrawberryFrog where she works as a Senior Strategist. You can also email her directly at

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Genre: Strategy/Insight