As the summer Olympics are approaching and the torch is making its way around the world, advocates for a Free Tibet are leveraging public relations to help make their cause known.
As soon as China was named as the host of the Olympic Games seven years ago, Tibet supporters began planning an aggressive PR strategy to use the worldwide event as an opportunity to have its message heard.
Kalaya’an Mendoza, a coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet, told The New York Times, “At first there was a profound sense of despair after the Chinese government was awarded the honor. But after five minutes passed, we realized this would be a monumental opportunity for the Tibetan people to be put in the international spotlight.”
China was has been slow to react, but there are reports that the government recently began a PR search, to help them manage this growing problem.
Students for a Free Tibet, a member of the international organization, sends out its own talking points, press release templates and protest plans to its 650 chapters. That is supplemented by two Students for a Free Tibet Facebook cause pages, which now have about 37,900 members and a YouTube page where organizers post reports and footage from protests.
Every other month, Students for a Free Tibet holds conferences for members of pro-Tibet groups, where media training is a focus. The sessions cover everything from giving a good sound bite to answering reporters’ questions artfully.
The Olympic torch has been a focal point of the Tibet protests. From large banners hanging across the Golden Gate bridge, to a protestor trying to steal the torch – it has been an aggressive campaign aimed at calling attention to Tibet and human-rights issues in China.
In fact, security around the Olympic torch has become such an issue that when it reached Pakistan on Wednesday, the government elected to close off the torch relay from the public.