I had the great pleasure of listening to Stacey Abrams speak at the recently concluded Com Net 19, a convening primarily for people who work in communications for philanthropies and non-profits. She had a powerful message for people who do the work we do, and I wanted to share it with my network of people doing communications for social change. Her lessons were hard won during her Gubernatorial campaign which mobilized more and different kind of people than even many of her supporters could have imagined. She asked us to do three things:
1. Be honest. Stacey (she was so accessible I feel like we are on a first name basis. Is that ok?) doesn’t want us using euphemisms. She says when we aren’t honest, it allows other people to lie to us and about us. It’s not just reproductive health care we need, we need abortion access. Communities aren’t “at risk” they are under attack. Talk about gun safety because that’s what we demand. Say what we mean so people know they can trust us to tell it like it is.
2. Be present. Stacey went to every county in Georgia and she talked to people. People who were not supposed to like her or relate to her. And she told her story, about being in debt (remember that honesty) about her brother being in and out of jail, and people she never expected told her that they never expected her to be telling their story too! She increased turnout among almost every demographic by running one campaign for all of them.
3. Be an advocate. Stacey was a non-profit tax attorney before she went into politics, and she said her clients were always so afraid of the line between C3 and C4 advocacy they stayed far far away from it. She challenged us to do more. “You are the intercessory between those who have no voice and those who refuse to shut up,” she said. She reminded us its on us to speak truth to power and to do it forcefully. Policy makers make the rules, and one she explained, “they are like 15 year old girls. They respond to money, peer pressure, and attention.” We have the power to deliver all of those, and if we are not, we are not doing our jobs.
I was overwhelmed and inspired by her powerful advice, and I hope every person trying to communicate for good takes it to heart.
Amanda Cooper is still buzzing from being in the presence of Stacey Abrams and resonating with her powerful message.