Regrets – I Have a Few – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (9)

While campaigning for the closure of institutions in British Columbia in the 1980's we created a team that was effective in getting media attention as a means to put pressure on our provincial government.  Through trial and error we arrived at a winning formula.  Time our press releases  for Saturday; release them to news outlets outside the urban Vancouver area (we chose Kamloops).  Further, we found that placing a Cabinet Minister's name in the headline got the media's attention.  This was in the days before e-mails and faxes were just starting to be used.

Here's one headline I regret: Minister 'X' Responsible for Deaths of Hundreds.

The response was immediate – the Minister's Assistant phoned Sunday evening. What did I mean – was I accusing the Minister personally?  They were preparing for media inquiries, Question Period the next day and the inevitable scrum in the Legislature.  I immediately retracted and did my best to send an apology to the Minister

To this day I don't know whether she ever accepted my apology.

What I do know is that shortly after, a Memo was sent to all Cabinet
Ministers, Deputy Ministers and ADM's warning them that I
was not to be trusted.  The impact of that Memo lingered for years
through successive governments and long after this particular
Minister moved to another portfolio.

And a year later when our President and I did get a meeting with that same Minister it was clear she had not forgotten. The meeting lasted about an hour – most spent listening to a tongue lashing directed at me.  Clearly, I had hurt her deeply.  And, there went the chance to speak about the well being of the folks living in institutions that we were there to meet about.  They were the real losers in this situation. 

It took a long time for me to be seen as part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.  If you need to get attention and raise awareness, try to do it in a way that elevates your issue and the potential for solutions.  A winning formula is still just technique unless linked to ethical behavior and ethical objectives.

NOTE:  Little did I know. This particular Minister had been responsible for securing major funding for a Vancouver disability organization long before she went into politics.  And when she retired from politics she founded another disability organization for a group of people whose concerns had been ignored.  She was and still is a force for good.

This is the 9th in a series entitled Tips for Solution Based Advocacy.  If you click on the Advocacy Category on the right hand side you can read them all.  Please share with others and encourage them to become regular subscribers.

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  1. Craig

    Hi Al, really liked this post! Excellent, honest writing.

  2. John

    Another great post Al – keep it up! And the Annie Lennox song brought tears to my eyes (today’s post).

  3. Al Etmanski

    Thanks Craig and John
    I am trying to ‘mine’ my mistakes as much as my successes to create some universal lessons. I have more of the former than the latter!

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