Mike Ashley was the focus of a double protest eight days ago.
The international break giving Newcastle fans the idea of using the football-free weekend to demonstrate against his refusal (unless you honestly believe he is trying…) to sell Newcastle United.
The Magpie Group organising a protest at the Shirebrook Sports Direct HQ, whilst working in tandem, The London Magpie Group were simultaneously going to be protesting outside the Sports Direct flagship store on Oxford Street, as well as Lillywhites and KBA (Keith Bishop Associates).
The London protest went really well, got very good feedback from Newcastle fans overall, plus decent coverage in the media.
The Shirebrook HQ one, not quite so well.
We (The Mag) put out a final call to arms on that Saturday morning (17 November), reminding Newcastle supporters of the two protests and if they were in the area(s) and fancied getting involved, to go along and help.
Not so long after that final call to arms went up, we had conversations with two different people who got in touch, informing us that the Shirebrook HQ protest wasn’t actually happening, which all seemed a bit bizarre as we had seen nothing saying this was the case. I even checked on the Magpie Group Twitter account and nothing at all there.
We had no doubt though that the two sources were on the money and put something up on The Mag warning that the Shirebrook protest wasn’t going ahead, though with it being mid-morning by then, anybody who was going to be heading there would have already set off.
Sure enough, at least four people had turned up to support those travelling from the north east. Two from Northamptonshire, somebody who had driven from 30 miles away, as well as another who had cycled from nearby Bolsover.
After the intended protest meet up time had passed, the Magpie Group claimed that the cancelled protest was due to extra security Mike Ashley had employed at his SD HQ, which didn’t make a lot of sense. There were also claims it had simply been a hoax to cause hassle to Ashley in terms of having to waste time/money employing the extra security, which also didn’t really convince. Only to eventually, in a question and answer with the Chronicle last Sunday, appear to admit that the cancelled protest was due to lack of numbers willing to travel.
The thing is, asking (most) people to spend the time and money to do a 300 mile round trip on their day off to protest outside the Sports Direct HQ, was always going to be ambitious and a a hard sell.
No shame in just being honest and saying there hadn’t been enough support for the idea and then publicising the fact it was cancelled.
Or indeed just going ahead with the hardcore still willing to travel (I understand there were around 20 or so still up for going down from Newcastle) and meeting up with whoever turned up that was more local (to Shirebrook). Things like this are always a token protest anyway, you are never going to get thousands turning up as is the case with ones on matchday etc.
There is one big problem with The Magpie Group and it was kind of summed up by their response, when it became known that at least four ‘locals’ had still turned up at the Shirebrook protest.
They put a comment up on Twitter saying they thought they had covered all bases by putting out a message (the day before the protest) on Twitter, asking those intending to go to contact them, via Twitter…
This gets to the heart of their problem, communication.
Yes they have made the odd mistake and there has been the odd daft loose comment from those involves in The Magpie Group – but it is the way they are communicating, or not as the case may be, which is limiting the impact and reach of the protests.
They seem to think that solely using Twitter is some magical way of reaching the Newcastle United fanbase.
However, whilst Twitter is a decent tool that can help get the message across, the reality is that only a minority of Newcastle fans use Twitter AND only a tiny minority of those will ever see any particular Tweet that goes out.
The Magpie Group HAVE to get their message out to a far wider audience AND explain better, on a regular basis, what is happening and why.
The Magpie Group was formed over four months ago and here at The Mag we have had only one press release/communication from them in that entire time.
Now I’m sure it is not a personal thing and so I have to assume that nobody else has had more than that one token communication in all that time.
A press release should be going out at least once a week, more often when something is happening. Sent out to every newspaper, TV station, radio station, journalist, website they can think of.
They already have a press list obviously so it is a really quick and efficient way of getting the message and explanation out there, somebody writing up an few paragraphs of what is happening and why, then trust me, it will get loads of coverage as journalists are by their very nature, lazy.
They need to be spoon-fed, so send them out a press release and sure enough, next thing it will be appearing all over the place with a few lines added.
It is a massive own goal for The Magpie Group to think Twitter can do the whole job, to make matters worse, their website is yet another own goal.
Nothing (hardly) ever gets added and the only thing put up in this entire month so far was this below on 1 November.
As you can see, it is even still advertising the Shirebrook protest that was cancelled.
What kind of message is that sending out to people?
Surely you have to use your own website, or else what is the point?
If anybody from The Magpie Group sees this then I hope they accept it as constructive criticism.
All Newcastle fans want to see the protests succeed and Mike Ashley to sell up but to do that we need to have a structured and cohesive plan to get as many fans as possible onboard.
Take for example the 11th minute protest at the West Ham match, it needs to be explained to supporters exactly what is happening and why.
All I have seen from The Magpie Group is Twitter messages regularly going out saying it is happening but with no real explanation. A very small minority of Newcastle fans will see these Twitter messages.
The messages initially just said for people not to go into the stadium until the 11th minute but then later ones have said to either do that, or instead go into St James Park and then wait on the concourses until the 11th minute before taking your seat.
However, these things need to be explained, how it is going to work and the reasoning behind it.
Most Newcastle fans have very busy lives on top of their Newcastle United addiction and don’t spend their entire day on social media, we need to get the message out there.
Knowledge is power!