Frustrated reformers need to take away one key lesson from the recent U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election: Passion doesn’t matter unless you channel it into powerful incentives. Unless they organize into an active constituency that must be reckoned with by those in power, advocates for a more grassroots, club and athlete-centered model of American soccer will continue to fail to achieve real change.
It’s a fundamental tenet of public policy advocacy that the overriding priority of people with power is to retain that power. Politicians of whatever stripe and in whatever environment value reelection over everything else. That’s why elected officials need to believe the support or opposition of people sharing a point of view will play a meaningful role in that equation, or else they will be set aside in favor of interests with more perceived power. Given this reality, American soccer reformers must organize the amorphous mass of frustrated fans, supporters, players, parents, club owners and other stakeholders into a functional constituency for their shared interests. Only then will they have the power to demand and expect meaningful change from the people with power over the sport’s official structures in our nation.
If they don’t, the future will hold more of the same.
Continue reading “American Soccer Reformers Must Learn How to Force Real Change”
Michigan State University’s handling of communications around the trial of sexual predator Dr. Larry Nassar is an advanced case study in how to destroy an organization’s reputation. From an outside perspective, the university’s leaders appear to have made two dangerous decisions that are all too common for organizations in crisis: They only listened to the lawyers, and they put themselves before the organization.
Continue reading “Michigan State Botches Crisis Messaging with Focus on Lawyers and Leadership”
The Guardian reported yesterday that Facebook was running a test in small national markets that created two news feeds, one that had posts from friends and another secondary feed that had posts from pages users had “liked.” The catch was that promoted content – the posts page administrators had paid to get to an audience – showed up in the former feed. This meant that organic, non-paid content was unlikely to reach its target audience, and many pages saw their non-promoted content reach drop by as much as two thirds with no warning.
Most who heard of this assumed that Facebook was testing something many marketers have long feared, which is a full pay-to-play barrier between brands and Facebook users. This isn’t a new concept – most advertising throughout history has required marketers to pay for all access to an audience – but for organizations that depend on organic Facebook content for their marketing reach the implications were sobering. Left in place, this change would have completely rewritten marketing plans and budgets, as well as the ROI calculations for all the work those organizations had done to build their organic Facebook followings.
Continue reading “Facebook’s Paywall Test is an Unpaid Advertisement for Marketing Strategy”
Any time you’re told someone wants to “raise awareness” of a policy issue or topic, your immediate response should be, “OK, and then what?” Just as if you were trying to sell pickup trucks, hamburgers or prescription medication, awareness of a policy topic is only the first step in a marketing funnel-based strategic process that gets your target audience to the point where you can close the deal.
Continue reading “They’re Aware. Now What?”
You may have the perfect policy to meet your population’s needs. But do you know how to give them what they want?
Principled public policy advocates tend to work proactively where they see the biggest need for reform. This differentiates them from politicians, who largely react to public opinion. Taking on the big issues is a good way to go about staying true to your mission, but it can backfire if your advocacy only focuses the need for the reforms rather than connecting it to what people truly want. This doesn’t require a change in policy, but it does call for thoughtful marketing and communications strategy and execution.
For instance, as a fiscal policy expert, you may know that your state needs to shut down its wasteful “economic development” corporate welfare programs. Evidence, logic and principles are on your side and you can explain very clearly how this needs to happen. But most people want a job far more than they want good fiscal policy. While you’re explaining to them why they need these reforms, the interests at the intersection of big business and big government simply contend they’re “creating or retaining” jobs and you lose overwhelmingly.
Continue reading “Give the People What They Want”
I joked on Twitter today that I was going to save this graphic from a depressing Annenberg Center study for the next time I had to convince a policy wonk to tone down the complexity of their messaging for a general audience.
There is a serious point behind that joke: One of the most important roles a communicator plays in an organization is serving as the proxy for their audiences. Before you can communicate effectively with an audience, you have to be able to listen to them — and listen as them — as well.
This is especially critical for groups engaged in advocacy or education, such as think tanks. Communicators have to help subject matter experts distill their work into messaging that’s appropriate for each unique audience, while keeping it all consistent enough across those tiers of complexity. This avoids what I’ve called “messaging arbitrage,” where your inconsistencies in what you say to different audiences can be collected and used against you.
To accomplish this, the communicator needs to be able to put themselves in the audience’s mindset and understand what they value, what they know and what they understand. This lets them be an effective sounding board or even gatekeeper for their subject matter experts, who understandably struggle with the “Curse of Knowledge” in these situations and can value comprehensiveness of argument over comprehension.
Continue reading “Breaking the Curse of Knowledge”