16 Dec Four New Year Political activism tips for PRs
One of the most pointless things I’ve done this year was to attend a hot yoga session. I spent 60 minutes inside arguably the smelliest sauna I’ve ever been to, hoping not to faint as someone insisted that I insert my head into my arse while sniffing my toes.
The other pointless thing I did was to write a long piece on Facebook about how outraged I was about Brexit.
Yes, there have been injustices. We’ve had atrocities take place in Syria, refugees treated like viruses by the media and our own government dismantle public services. We’ve had Brexit and Trump.
And Southern Rail.
During this time, I have read so many long-winded diatribes from my beloved profession. They’re promptly followed by hundreds of likes and comments of support. Something occurred to me. All of this meant nothing. It achieved nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s satisfying to be reminded that people agree with you. But what concerns me is that the energy invested in crafting these sycophantic scribbles could have been spent doing something different. Something worthwhile.
I see it as wasted talent.
As comms professionals we’re gifted with the ability to craft meaningful convincing arguments to influence people’s behaviours. Unfortunately, these talents have been spent on convincing those that didn’t’ need it. Our mates. Our colleagues. Our bubble.
This realisation prompted me to do a few, more useful, things this year, all centred around grass roots activism.
Here’s what I did in the form of tips for those looking to do the same next year:
- Get in the face of your local MP: Chris Grayling MP is my local politico. Over the course of this year, Chris and I have been engaged in healthy debate. From issues around transport, to voting age to, of course, Brexit. I’m in his constituency so he has a duty to talk to me. In turn I have a duty to be a pain in his arse and to try and at least influence his voting decisions through reasoned argument. Find your MP here and get debating: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/
- Engage in the Facebook groups that repulse you: If you go onto a cat group and post pictures of cats you’ll get a lot of likes. Equally, if you go onto a group dedicated to pro-EU thoughts and post pro-EU sentiment you’ll get thumbs up but the needle will be still. Instead, enter the ‘enemy’ territory. That is where the wins lie. Engage in debate, keep your cool and expect to be booted or sworn at. Every now and then however you’re going to have someone who listened. That’s important.
- Do your research: One of the best debaters of our generation, Christopher Hitchens, always talked about the importance of knowing his opponents’ arguments better than they did. This is utterly critical. Again, very rarely do we have our arguments tested by people who agree with us. Learn what the other side are saying, understand your own weaknesses and develop your influential content with this knowledge in mind
- Help a local party outpost (if you want): Most political parties, including the major ones, are grossly underfunded and draw from a shallow talent pool in many constituencies. If you’ve picked a side, then bringing your comms talent to them is going to be enormously valuable on a local level. Personally, I help from a digital comms front with my chosen team, but other skills are desperately needed.
I’m not going to say, ‘I don’t care what side of the fence you sit’. I do care, deeply.
If I find you agree with similar things to me, then I’ll see you at the front line.
If you stand for everything that I hate, then I’ll see you on the battleground.
If you stand for Facebook likes and circle jerks, then I’ll see you later.