The Importance of the “Issue du Jour” (and the dulcet tones of the Advocacy Guru)

I’m going all high tech with those .mp3 recordings the kids are into these days.  So, if you want to hear the dulcet tones of my beautiful voice (actually, I make no promises that it’s at all soothing), click on the microphone link and you’ll hear me telling you about Tactic Number 34: Connect to the Issue du Jour.

If you can’t find the thingy on the computer that makes the sound come out (a frequent problem for me), here’s the text:

Tactic 34: The Issue du Jour

With record high (and stubborn) unemployment figures, the 111th and 112th Congresses (covering the time frame of January 2009 to December 2012), introduced more legislation mentioning “jobs” or “the economy” than at any other time in recent history. In the years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, legislation addressing terrorist threats was all the rage.  In fact, the world around us impacts everyone’s thinking, especially decision makers.  As someone seeking to influence others, you must be in tune with the big events of the day, and, as much as possible, frame your argument in that context.

For example, earlier in the book I refer to the “Repeal of the Job Killing Health Care Reform Act.”  This title makes it pretty clear how the authors view health care reform (and what they want to do about it).  But notice they did not call it the “Repeal of the Access-to-Care Killing Health Care Reform Act,” or the “Repeal of the Health Care Reform Act that Will Endanger Our Citizens Act” or even the “Repeal of the Health Care Reform Bill That’s Mean to Children and Seniors Act.”  The focus was on jobs, because that’s the topic du jour.

We also see this with education reform.  Every few years the federal programs associated with education services must go through a renewal process.  Legislators hope to review what’s worked, what hasn’t, and to update funding levels accordingly. This renewal process (known as “reauthorization”) also forwards the agendas of the political parties associated with government leaders.

When it came time to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (which authorizes specific types and levels of federal funding for K-12 schools and services), the issue de jour was “family values”.  Everyone talked pretty much non-stop about helping families and America’s children.  President George W. Bush sought to take advantage of this synergy by referring to his package of renewal proposals as the “No Child Left Behind” Act.  No one wants to leave children behind ever, but it was particularly relevant at the time.

For your own influence situation, figure out the “issue de jour” and find the best way to connect your cause to that issue.  Remember that the issue de jour may change over time and shift your message accordingly.

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