I’ll be discussing this topic on The Ed Show with Tony Trupiano at about 12.20 today
This post was originally published on June 24 2012
“Yeah, I wish I could help you, but my life is nuts right now.”
Unless you’re one of those crazy (but lovable!) people who can’t say no, you’ve probably said that at one time or another. If you’re like me you keep on saying it because despite your best intentions, your life is never NOT nuts. You can’t commit to a meeting or an event because the kid has a play or you’ll be out of town or [insert something here]. And that can be disheartening if you want to have a greater impact on this world.
The good news is that activism doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be about meetings or events, and it doesn’t have to be focused on organizations or candidates. It can personalized and customized to fit your life. Smart campaigns have already figured out how to individualize campaigns; President Obama’s political dashboard is a good example of this. The Obama campaign gives you the information you need to engage in the campaign based on your own comfort zone and your own level of resources. But what if you don’t want to hook up with a campaign? What if you’ve got your own issue that no one else is talking about right now? What can you do in your limited time, with your limited resources?
I brainstormed this and in just a few minutes came up with 5 different types of activities that you could do with very little time and few resources. These should work for about any issue you can think of.
- Wearables, stickers, and lit drops. Head over to CafePress or SpreadShirt and make yourself some merchandise. If you aren’t good with graphics, just type up a slogan or a URL to your favorite website and set it up on some shirts, hats, buttons, bumper stickers, etc. The goal isn’t to sell the merchandise but to make it available for you to use. Wearing your message gives you the opportunity to share the message with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. If you get lucky someone will ask you about it and show some interest in the issue. If you get really lucky, you’ll meet someone who agrees with you and wants to network.
I put lit drops in this category because it’s a creative process, similar to a t-shirt or a bumper sticker. Create a business card and hand them out, leave them in library books, drop them in the envelope when you pay the bills. Or create a flyer to hang on doorknobs. If your life is too crazy to go out on a lit drop, just do 5 copies a week. It would only take minutes to hand out 5 copies, and you never have to knock on a door unless you want to.
- Build a social network and use it to promote relevant material. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful Twitter and Facebook are for this. If you do not want to interact on a personal level, you can set up a Twitter feed and Facebook page for the sole purpose of sharing news items and announcements. Using a tool such as Hootsuite will simplify the publishing process and provide you with advanced options such as scheduling messages to be published later.
The key to building this network and getting followers who pay attention to your messages is to find unique material to publish. This is a great time to refer to your personal legislative agenda; you must have found organizations or elected and appointed officials who are important to the issue. They probably have Communications Directors. Contact them and find out if you can get on their mailing list. This is the kind of source information that most people won’t have access to.
You can almost always get on a mailing list, but there are special circumstances for some. For example, to get on the mailing list for the Shiawassee County Commissioners meeting minutes, you have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for all future Board minutes. (Don’t get me started) If you encounter any kind of hurdles in a process like this I would love to hear about them so that we can all learn from them. It took me a while to learn how to navigate the waters and I’m all for sharing the knowledge.
Once you get the info, publish it to your networks. For example:
Shiawassee Co Commissioners kill 4-H funding. Clerk says “4-H is fluff.” See board minutes for 6-23-12.
There’s no URL but you’ve given the source. That’s it.
(Aside: Everything except the date in that hypothetical tweet is true)
- Comment on Internet articles, like those on Mackinac Center, MLive, Detroit News, etc. Most sane people do not want to do this because the comments get so nasty and you’re not going to change the minds of the people you’re arguing with. However there are a few things to keep in mind here:
- Most of the skeezy and nasty right-wing people in those comments are PAID to be there. Really.
- The purpose of your participation is not to change the mind of anyone commenting, but to influence the lurkers and support your friends.
- Don’t take anything personally and stay on topic and you’ll be just fine.
I try to hit Mackinac Center, MLive, and Detroit News at least once a week. I don’t get into arguments too often and when I do I just stay awesome and then I win. You too can develop these powers; all you need is a Facebook account and some thick skin.
All kidding aside, it’s important to publish some “push back” on these articles. The worst thing we can do is leave disingenuous garbage out there unchallenged.
- Contact your elected representatives. This is probably the most important thing in the list and it’s so easy to do. Regardless of who your representative is, you can easily contact him by phone or email. A written letter might get more notice but will be slowed down by the security screening if you’re sending it to DC. Be sure to use a local office for that.
Some things to remember if you’re planning to call your representative:
- Be prepared to give your name and address
- If you’re nervous, prepare a short statement or talking points ahead of time
- You’ll be talking to a staff member or an intern.
Keep track of your contacts with your representative, and you can use this information if/when you need to call back. The worksheets from the PLA article can help with that.
- Talk to your friends and colleagues. This may be out of your comfort zone, and is not always appropriate, but there are times when it can work out. For example, a young co-worker of mine was able to decline medical coverage from our employer because he was able to stay on his parents’ health care. Ding ding ding! That’s an opening for a convo on the Affordable Care Act. I’m not one to fight with co-workers about politics (or sports or religion) but if I can have a conversation then I will. Anna Post on HuffPo has some good tips on how to do this:
- Stick to the facts, don’t get personal
- Have an exit strategy, have a plan to get out of an argument if necessary
- Know your goal; are you there to learn, vent, or influence the other person
- Know when to NOT talk politics, such as at weddings, holidays, or other events that people plan to remember forever
- Do not assume that you know what the other person thinks
That list can work for just about any issue. Here are some issue specific examples:
- Position: Union support. Action: Find a union to join. Writers (including bloggers) can join the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981
- Position: Healthy eating. Action: Pin healthy recipes to Pinterest and share them on Facebook
- Position: Financial literacy. Action: Creating a financial tracking spreadsheet and showing people how to use it
I’ll be talking about this with Tony tomorrow morning on Blog Role, at 8.35. Feel free to chime in on the comments here or call in to Tony’s show. You can listen in at 1310am or stream it live at www.thetonyshow.org.