Managing Phony Issues & Conflict on Social Media
During Clinic #96 on “Protect Your Work from Citizen Anger (and Politics!)”, we outlined how to prevent being end-run by your projects’ opponents.
More importantly, how to see end-runs as a symptom of a problem — rather than the problem itself.
If minimizing pseudo-input is key, what can professionals do about the massive amounts of phony issues being slung all over Social Media?
This is worth a whole webinar of its own! (In fact, it will be the crux of the Clinic #99.)
There is SO much mis-information on the Internet, much of which your public cannot decipher from facts related to your work — don’t think you’re going to combat that volume of content.
But you can get pretty close!
What you can do, is take note. A lot of notes actually.
Keep a running list of what pseudo-issues are being shared on Social Media.
Use Social Media as a listening device — even if most of what you’re hearing is garbage.
Try to identify who is generating and perpetuating these issues. (Not publicly, but for your own understanding of what communication lapses your team isn’t already aware of.)
If fake issues circulating (about your project) are getting ANY traction on the web, you need to know it!
You can’t possibly address these phony issues, and help the public see them as “pseudo-input” if you aren’t even aware of them.
Use Social Media, to deepen your understanding of the whole ecosystem of phony issues, mis-information, or misunderstandings and the people who promote them.
Even though these issues are misleading for stakeholders, and qualify as “pseudo-input”, you have to publicly identify each issue as such before soliciting for real input.
If an online user says “No, don’t do it!” — that isn’t input unless you:
- – Didn’t anticipate that reaction from anyone.
- – Expected to hear that from other stakeholders, but not THAT stakeholder.
- – Had no idea this person, group, or sister agency saw themselves affected by your project.
If that’s the case, then that’s a symptom that you also need to have a better handle on who your PAIs (Potentially Affected Interests) are, and how they see your organization and Mission (Clinic #95)… As well as what pseudo-issues they are conflating with bona fide issues.
Granted, scanning Social Media and online outlets for phony issues isn’t exactly fun, nor where your expertise is…
However, once you demonstrate that you have a complete handle on nearly all the pseudo-input out there, have adequate responses to each, you’ll help clarify what is real input, and what is pseudo-input, for the rest of the public.
Do that, and you’ll have made some serious progress!
Learn more about:
- – preventing pseudo-input,
- – dealing with stakeholder emotions, and of course
- – how to keep politics from interfering with your effectiveness
by selecting from nearly 100 topics in our Clinic Library.
Why Opponents’ Dirty Tactics are so Effective for Decision Makers
Hard problems are hard to solve.
As subject matter experts, most of your solutions will have serious drawbacks.
Do NOT expect negatively impacted stakeholders to like your proposal!
Some will even resort to “playing dirty”, attack you personally, or dispense mis-information to get you to stop.
A listener to our monthly webinar asked:
What can I do when their use of misinformation to lobby decision-makers is successful?
How can I correct the misinformation in a way decision-makers might be able to consider if they are somewhat swayed by the tactics of opponents?
It’s true, you need to be concerned when a policymaker is swayed by the tactics (especially dirty tactics) of an opponent.
You must be careful not to attack the person directly, only his position and possibly behavior.
But take a deeper look at what’s causing this situation.
The reason these tactics work (regardless of how legitimate the opponent’s tactics are) is because there’s some doubt as to how…
- – Fair
- – Caring
- – Responsive, and/or
- – Responsible to the Mission your team was in relation to this opponent.
If there’s ANY doubt that you played fair, that you listened, that you actually cared about the negative impacts your work will have on an opponent — you can expect policymakers to be swayed by their argument.
Even when based on mis-information!
Even if only 1% of what they say is true!
Think about it…
Opponents are MORE effective when they play dirty!
By calling your level of concern, compassion, or fairness into question — they are sure to grab decision-makers’ attention.
These (dirty) tactics are useful information themselves.
Critical information for you.
Dirty tactics are an indication that a stakeholder feels justified in suspending his own need to be fair… His own values.
Opponents who use mis-information and dis-information are sending you a deeper signal: that they don’t trust YOU.
Even more important than revealing these tactics to decision-makers, you need to understand WHY an opponent feels justified in using these tactics.
If you don’t understand why a stakeholder is spreading mis-information, or using unfair tactics, you won’t plug the well from which these ploys spring.
Prevent dirty tactics from having their intended impact, and stay on track to fulfilling your Mission by streaming access anytime to our Consent-Building Library.
How Should Public Agencies Funded by Users, Weigh Non-User Input For Decision Making?
An organization that participated in one of our recent monthly Clinics asked an interesting question:
“Agencies were created by the public, but many agencies are funded largely by users (i.e. hunting and fishing licenses). When there is disagreement, does the will of citizens trump the will of license holders?”
A fair question, as “fairness” is what’s really at the heart of it…
This goes back to something we brought up in the follow-up exercises to Clinic #89 (received by those who attended the live webinar, or are annual subscription holders)… And that is the history of the agency.
When you understand the actual origins of your organization, how it formed, it’s original mission and how that mission has evolved — you stand a better chance of getting your larger public to understand this, and why who funds the mission doesn’t impact decision-making.
Like many agencies, the mission of an organization that originated with self-taxing users (hunters, fishermen, boaters, etc.) has likely morphed over time.
Take for example, the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)…
Originally, created to bring water out to arid areas during the settling of the western states, USBR’s mission then changed during the Great Depression to help support jobs and industry through the creation of public power.
A couple of generations later, with the Endangered Species Act of the 1970s, the USBR’s mission nearly took a 180-degree change as the very dams created by the agency were found to jeopardize salmon.
The same agency that had built the dams to assist farmers during the Homestead Act, were now dismantling those same dams and sending the water down river to protect species of fish.
At the time of the USBR’s creation, a problem had been identified: arid land being settled in the western part of the U.S. couldn’t be farmed without help to irrigate it through the creation of dams.
Later, another problem was identified: industry and jobs needed electricity. The agency that had built the dams, was identified as the right entity to address that problem — and so their mission broadened.
When the public concluded it was a problem that species were becoming endangered as a result of dams, the same agency (USBR), that built the dams was found to be the appropriate one to deconstruct them to protect those endangered species (and not the farmers they were originally mandated to protect!).
Back to the question at hand — whose input has more weight…?
A user who funds the agency, or the general public…?
The thing is, an agency that manages and protects natural resources likely has had such an evolution of its mission.
The percentage of people who hunt and fish, is on the decline. Yet, the public that benefits and appreciates wildlife continues to expand. What hasn’t happened for many such organizations, is an informed public discussion about the mission’s expansion.
When the public identifies either a problem, or an opportunity — such as the need for wildlife that is not for hunting, or is non-game — it will find or create an agency to address that problem/opportunity.
How we fund it, is somewhat immaterial!
It’s a separate conversation, but if it’s seen as a legitimate problem/opportunity — the public WILL find a way to fund it, with or without license fees.
Look at funding of public schools — it comes from property taxes, regardless of whether or not the taxpayer has children attending public schools. And parents of public-school students — who aren’t property owners — have just as much say as the taxpayers that fund those schools.
Society uses the same approach towards roads… Truckers pay more via gas taxes, but don’t have any more say about transportation projects than people with electric cars — who don’t pay any gas tax.
In fact, we can’t think of a single instance where what you pay, relative to a public agency, gives you more say than anyone else. Even if you have more at stake! (We wouldn’t rule it out, it’s just we can’t think of any at the moment.)
And sure, you can join the PTA, or a truckers’ lobbying group — and make your voice louder — but again, that doesn’t have to do with who much you pay through fees or taxes.
What’s happened isn’t that we’ve shirked a public discussion about “what’s fair?”… It’s that we, as a society, have concluded that we all benefit from children who attend good schools, whether or not the children are our own.
Similarly, don’t we all benefit from organizations that protect wildlife, even if we don’t hunt or fish that wildlife?
Departments of Fish & Game (or “Game & Fish” if you’re in landlocked states) have to bring their public and the policymakers along that the organization’s mission has changed over time. (This “public” includes the license-bearing hunters and fishermen.)
So if you’re agency is in a similar fix, where a minority of the population funds the agency through licenses and fees, it might be time to put your leadership skills to work and get the larger public, which benefits from the agency’s evolved mission, to start paying more of it’s share of the cost of that mission…
Missouri has done just that through a state wide tax that support their wildlife agencies, because they created such a public dialogue and the public concluded, everyone benefited from the mission of those agencies.
But you can’t jump into that conversation without first bringing the public up to speed on the history of the organization’s mission, its evolution, and who it now serves (i.e. that by creating a rich flora and fauna, you serve far more than hunters and fishermen).
Then, as a separate issue, the public and policymakers can worry about how to fund that broader mission.
Otherwise, the public will identify a need that (it perceives) isn’t being met and will create a parallel agency to replace you!
(Just look up the Soil Conservation Service — it easily could have served the same role as today’s EPA, but didn’t see a natural broadening of their mission and so the agency was ultimately decommissioned.)
The Key Differences Between Private & Public Sector Work
There are so many aspects that make your public service work different from private-sector work. Some differences are obvious. While the most significant are not.
Even if you’ve had experience in both the public and the private-sector, chances are you haven’t fully wrapped your head around THE fundamental difference between the two.
But the differences are crucial to understand.
Why is this important?
- Without a thorough awareness of what separates the two types of work, you’ll lack the ability to articulate WHY your organization is the best entity to do the work you do.
- When there’s so much talk about turning everything over to the private-sector, you need to understand when this does and does NOT make sense.
- More importantly, you need to get the public you serve — as well as political appointees — to come to that same conclusion.
Otherwise, 5-10 years from now, they’ll just reinvent you all over again… Meanwhile, your work and its solutions sit on a shelf, gathering dust
Get Off On The Right Foot
This year, we’re making sure your year is off to a good start, by taking a close look at the critical differences between your public-sector work and the exact same technical work in the private-sector.
- Two differences have to do with accountability and choices.
When you’re working for a corporation, stockholders can sell their shares if they conclude you’re management methods don’t align with their values and perceptions.
Not so in the public-sector.There, the public is stuck with you!To add salt to the wound, the funding comes from taxpayers’ dollars. So not only can’t they sell their share of the “company,” they are forced to keep paying for your work.
- Public professionals don’t have it easy either!
The edge isn’t just felt by the public, particularly when it comes to accountability…
Because in the private-sector, you only need to please the owner, or the board.Whereas you have the difficult task of pleasing a diverse and diametrically different public, that is almost guaranteed NOT to agree.
And while these are fundamental to the differences between public and private work, there is a difference even bigger than these…!
Any guess what it is?!?
Here’s where you can find out. Click to get access to our Consent-Building Library.