The best advocates start with the point of the effort – how the world will be different if the effort succeeds – and build their campaigns backward from the imagined future to the reality of the present. Neither do they assume that what was done before should be done again, nor do they abandon old tools simply because they are old.
In addition to being very cool (see for example the Wired story) the car offers lessons for advocates.
In a video about the car Bangle explained that designers questioned the point of the body of a car – what the door panels and hood and such actually do. A light and strong frame on the car means the body doesn’t provide protection in accidents and doesn’t hold the car together. Mostly the body keeps everything dry, improves aerodynamics, and looks cool. Designers put the point of the body front of mind when designing the car. With the point of the body front of mind designers could come up with the best solution possible, which in this case was cloth. They did not ask “which metal is lightest?” Or “what can we use instead of metal?” They asked “what’s the point?”
Advocates should use the same approach.
Too often advocates assume that whatever was done before should be done again, just a little flashier or with fins. Sometimes what was done before should be done again, but not always.
For example, a lot of campaigns want to have a formal launch with a press conference at the center. Recognizing that media have changed advocates may host a tele-press conference, push material out through social media, etc. But the event at the core remains. This may not be a good idea. The point of a press conference is often to draw policymaker attention to an issue. The logic is that policymakers are both part of and respond to the public, which is reached through news media, which writes about issues it learns about through events such as press conferences. Sometimes this works. But in some cases it may be more efficient to sit down with the reporters or papers to which targeted policymakers pay the most attention and not worry about the rest – rather than cast the wide net of a press conference hoping to catch the right outlet, just go to that outlet directly. Or even chuck the idea of the press conference entirely and go right to the public through social media and right to policymakers themselves. If the point is policymaker action, and that action requires attention, figure out the most efficient and effective ways to get that attention. The answer may be a press conference – but might not be.