autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

If you have to ask, you’re already too late, friend (online advocacy)

With no little amusement today, I read a story in which “the traditional lobby” and those who follow them continue to express surprise and a little dismay at the flexing of constituency muscle. I think the thing that bemuses and boggles me the most is the continued inability of “those folk” to realize that this isn’t new and it isn’t even unusual… that their continued treatment of it as such eloquently underscores a blunt and rather derogatory perspective that is common “in their circles” that (frankly) is the thing in need of redress; to wit, that the constituency is stupid, doesn’t care, isn’t watching/paying attention, and doesn’t know what to do even if/when they are paying attention.

Clearly, this is a flawed stereotype; likely the result of the usual industry-related preferential bias that any aspect of specialty tends to nourish, but you’d think that, of ALL the industries who would swallow such tripe so fully, one that purports to makes its money by understanding its audiences and their motivations and being able to effectively engage and direct them would “get it” a wee bit better than this story demonstrates.

Alas, apparently not; this cluckfest about strategies for managing communities, is filled with intriguing little quotes where the traditionalists dream about, “…a future in which consultants or lobbyists would actually play a very interactive role with the community.”

Ahem…. Methinks thou doth over-estimate thyself and the truth of thy profound lack of indispensability.

Or, to phrase it a la Lennox, “Constituents are doin’ it for themselves” and ALL aspects of traditional gate-keeping are being challenged, systematically, and being forced to evolve.

Scary ain’t it? (Not nearly as scary as watching how hard your industry seems to be working at denying it or trying to straddle the increasing gap between old and new worlds.)

I read this article and it is striking to me that the entirety of the “discussion” seems to revolve more around ‘how to manipulate and track engaged constituency’ and ‘how to create an image in the community’ than ‘how to effectively include and work with/on behalf of the constituency’; “they” still don’t get it and this article does a good job of spotlighting and showcasing just how far from “getting it” the generalized “they” of PR firms, lobbyists, and other manipulation minded mobilizers remain.

Oh, oh, and I just LOVE the article’s closing quote, “There’s an inside world of crafting legislation and offering amendments and fighting amendments that simply cannot be done with a series of postcards.”

Zounds! Talk about clutching the security blanket! Yes, yes, dear, keep telling yourself that the system just cannot function without you… but forgive us if we manage it just fine and all the same in the meanwhile, won’t you?

Dissonance and denial aside, the implication of some “old school network” that either cannot or will not work WITH constituency is just… so classically traditionalist and misplaced that it would be cute were it not so abysmally sad. I mean, it’s like watching a Dodo jump along a precipice, swearing that, any minute now, it really WILL fly.

You DO realize that newspapers said the same, right? As did magazines, books, television, and, well, pretty much all the other traditional information gatekeepers and controllers, right? Have you actually been watching what’s happening? (How could you not, given its impact on your business?)

You DO realize that you’re not exactly going to reap converts and supporters by continuing to imply that we’re all “stupid constituents” who can’t or won’t be just as effective (if not more so) at making themselves heard, drafting legislation, offering amendments, fighting amendments, and doing so as well as you ever did (let’s face it, you weren’t born knowing how to do this, were you)?

You DO realize that any engaged, advocacy-prone constituent who gets hold of this article is as likely to add you to their list of targets than seek you out or consider working with you, yes?

You DO realize that implying there is some set of mystery ingredients that PR firms, lobbyists, and those manipulation minded mobilizers have that “We The People” do not and cannot cultivate only points directly to the very issue that is being challenged most consistently, right?

(In case you wish to pretend to plausible deniability, that would be focused funding/money to pay toward courting and “influencing” representatives and the notion that money and “old school network status” can, does, and should continue to mean more to those representatives than the common issues as encapsulated and expressed by the common constituency. That would be that these things are or should remain “requisite” elements of access and cooperation.)

Indeed, most advocate communities in which I am involved, on both sides of “the aisle” (and between them as well) are about as interested in PR or lobbyists “representing them” as a baby fawn would be to have the representation of a wolf. Y’see, that is the problem… “you all” are more concerned in speaking for your own perspective and strengthening your collective lobbying base than actually listening and speaking for the constituency. Not entirely unexpected, really, since the only world in which you do more than dabble your toes is the one completely populated by people who act and believe and feel and think precisely the same way as you do. (Does the shape of what is pushing this uphill begin to occur to you yet?)

This, of course, is surpassed only by the flawed assumption that this is a recent change of less than a year’s age. In reality, this change began in the mid ’80s and only “went mainstream” with the advent of mainstream online networking (not just social, but that has certainly helped). You’re only noticing it now because you’re not longer in step with the constituency and that’s finally hitting where it hurts. To turn one of the article’s many quotes around, “Honey, that genie has been out of the bottle for a LONG time; you’ve just been too busy taking it all for granted to notice.”

I have to admit, watching this lesson be delivered is going to be interesting; the only real questions are, “How long will it take you to really get it?” and “How much longer after that will it take our representatives to do the same?” Oh, and of course, “You do realize that you’re not in Kansas anymore, right?”