The Engagement Edge – Symptoms of PAC Depression & Amy’s Advocacy Trigger Warning

Hi Everyone, this is Amy with the Engagement Edge. Today I’m going to share with you how to tell if your PAC is depressed, as well as an observation regarding your advocacy priorities based on a webinar I attended a few weeks ago. Oh, and there’s a “trigger warning” for the advocacy portion of this episode.

Is Your PAC Depressed?

So, let’s get right to the PAC playground.  I think it’s common to believe that when we encounter a particular contribution obstacle more than twice, that the PAC is doomed —- there’s no hope to change things. And you know how I feel about this. You’ve got to do the proper kind of research to determine that, to determine where it’s coming from, but what I don’t want you to do is to assume that your PAC is depressed and that there is no hope.

I believe if the objections are pervasive, personal and permanent, your PAC is depressed. Then you need an overhaul, okay? First, some quick background. You can see the picture of me with Dr. Martin Seligman

Being a fangirl with Dr. Martin Seligman, circa 2015.
Read or listen to apply his diagnostics to your PAC’s mental health!

I’m a big fan of his work. He has been named the “Father of Positive Psychology,” and founded the Positive Psychology Center at Penn, where his methodology emphasizes the development of wellbeing.

So, let’s have some fun with this. According to Dr. Seligman, clinical depression occurs when you believe that your problem is:

Pervasive – it’s everywhere, in every situation
Personal – it’s your fault
Permanent – it will never change

If you ruminate with this thought pattern, your brain chemistry does indeed change and clinical depression ensues.

I believe this can be applied to your PAC as well. Here’s how I see it, and if you answer “yes” to two of three of these questions, then I would say yes, your PAC is clinically depressed.

Pervasive —- the problem is everywhere —- all departments, all PAC eligibles have these negative feelings toward the PAC, etc. Do all, and I mean all, PAC prospects who don’t contribute, do they all mention a particular rationale for not giving? Do they all say, “I disagree with the politics of our CEO,” or “I disagree with us speaking out on social issues,” or “I think we need to speak out on social issues more, and we don’t and that’s why I don’t give.”  So, there’s all kinds of rationales out there but is it pervasive. Are you hearing the same thing?

Personal – It’s your fault. And it could be, if you aren’t leading! This can be really depressing if true. Is it because of you or someone on your staff? Are people saying, “Well I don’t like the team. I don’t like the government relations team. You don’t return our emails or our phone calls.”  Our Velocity Data Analytics projects have found that trust in the government relations team and increased exposure to them predicts PAC engagement. So, if your team is out there with your association members or employees a great deal, but your conversion rate is low, then yes, there may be a personal aspect of this that you should investigate.

Permanent – The attitude that it will never change. Is it permanent?  (Relatively permanent, meaning that it hasn’t changed in a couple years.)  In the political world “permanence” is really about two or three months, but for our purposes we’ll say a year. Are you hearing it over time, despite changing political, legislative and organizational contexts?

So, if your PAC is depressed, it’s time for an intervention. You know who to call.

Trigger Warning: The Obsession with Medium Continues

And lastly, on a depressing note, I participated as a listener in a webinar regarding state advocacy trends.  The panelists were all CEOs of major trade associations.  They talked about how they work with different groups at the state level. 

Now here’s your trigger warning. . . .the audience had access to these association leaders, but yet they spent the valuable Q&A time asking —- wait for it —– whether online meetings were better as a follow-up with a lawmaker after an initial meeting, or should you meet with them in person. I’m telling you, it’s conversations like this that lead me to assume that the listeners are not “advocacy professionals” but rather “advocacy enthusiasts.” Then I realized that this was a major concern and they were going to spend fifteen minutes to debate this.

My friends that is not the issue.  The issue is not the medium. The issue is the message and the messenger.  As my colleague, Dr. Kelton Rhoads reminds audiences, this discussion is like debating whether Ukranian President Zelenskyy should call, email or see President Biden in person. . . . it doesn’t matter, because if Zelenskyy faxed Biden something, he would read it. That’s not the salient matter here. If it’s a carrier pigeon, he’ll take the message. It doesn’t matter.

So, it seems the advocacy “profession” is still putting way too much emphasis on downstream issues. And I can guarantee that if those groups who are so concerned about in person or online follow up would invest that amount of time (and more!) into examining the credibility of their messengers and message, as in who’s my messenger, how are they perceived? What’s their CQ? (credibility quotient), their likeability, their message frame, etc., they would have an improved influence result.

I feel very strongly about that my friends. We have got to be focused on the big picture and not the downstream topics.

All right, it’s good to be with you. Of course, if you have any comments, questions, or topics you want me to opine on, you know where to find me – [email protected]. Thanks, this is Amy with the Engagement Edge.