Nowadays, social media makes everyone feel like they have a big, booming voice to use for instigating change. Just spend a little time on Twitter or in the comments section of a newspaper article and you’ll read opinions and suggestions from everyone from issue experts to the tinfoil hat brigade. It’s a dynamic litany of the blah-blah-blah of public discourse, fast-moving, heated to roaring, sharp and nasty. It makes people feel powerful, informed, active in the process.
However, as Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams told Time Magazine recently, “I love Facebook. I tweet all the time. But that is not activism. Activism is not signing a petition online.”
I totally agree. Social media platforms are great places to gather and share information but they not a great way to reach decision makers.
If you really want to be an agent of change, you need to get off the Internet and get in the room. What room am I talking about? Any room with a decision maker in it. It might be an office on Capitol Hill, it might be community forum, it might be a fundraiser that you pay to get into. And decision makers can be legislators, corporate leaders, staff of a government agency, or the principal of your local school. These are people who are supposed to give ear to the voices of the people they serve.
They are not required to go trolling Twitter to find what those voices have to say. You have to break through the static of internet noise and get your message across clearly and individually.
I am a total fan girl when it comes to the provision in the First Amendment that says we have the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. I see those words as the open door into the halls of power. We are constitutionally guaranteed the opportunity to say our piece to those in power. The key is knowing how to do it in the most effective way.
I used to do advocacy work for a non-profit and without a doubt, our best outcomes came after people came to Washington and sat down with legislators or their staff to tell their story and make their request. Face to face meetings are worth their weight in gold. Meetings in the home district are just as effective as meetings in D.C. Literally, get in the room. Call and make an appointment or find out when there’s a public event where the lawmaker will take questions. If you can’t get into the room, get your voice there and make a phone call. You can use email, mail or fax to get your message into the room. Just make sure you’re using a direct conduit to your decision maker, not just shouting into the online wind and hoping that the right person happens to overhear.
You have to do the outreach if you want to be heard. Take your message to the right rooms and say it loud and clear. Put the active back in activist.
Photo Credit: MorgueFile