Just as “trust but verify,” is important in the day-in-day-out hand-to-hand combat of moving forward, an equally important tool in your arsenal as you fight the incremental war is to “keep them honest.”
Your main ally in this is the media… and social media. To keep with the war analogy, media and social media are the “air support,” the bombardment that can have a big impact and often reset the battle lines.
If you’re not “out there” in the media with your positive vision of your project, Joe and Jane Everyone can’t follow along. If too much time passes without an update, they lose the thread or revert to some previous understanding of the issue. The opposition can drive its own news, too, and their version of it will never be as sympathetic to your version of what’s possible than yours. It will never be as compelling either, and that is a continuous advantage you will have.
The good news is Champions of lost causes are more nimble and agile than the people on the other side, who often have to get their messages passed up the chain of command or okay-ed by the mayor or their corporate lawyer. This watering-down process makes their messages way less compelling than yours. This makes it all the more important to be able to convey a positive version of the story at every phase.
Focus on the progress made. Again, use conflict very sparingly… as a last resort… especially in the later phases.
- Issue a press release at a key juncture.
- Go on a morning talk show and have your spokesman make the case succinctly.
The best person for this PR assignment is often the diplomat, because they have in their heart the more optimistic, generous version of the story and what’s hoped for, and they can look past the small, grievances to paint a prettier, optimistic picture using bullet points. The viewer gets a quick update and is left with the thought Well, that’s great! looks like people are working together and making progress.
If this makes the other side a little uneasy, that’s good. It should. They need to see that you have a direct connection to the people and that you can sway public opinion. They need the public on their side (for a given issue or for reelection).
It is a reminder that they need you on their side and that your group can’t be taken for granted. They have to occasionally be caught off-guard by your use of media. You do it in a way that leaves them no choice but to like and appreciate you, because you give them nothing to attack… it’s all positive and couched in gratitude for them. How can they have any issue with it? Your version is different enough that they’ll see where they are not in alignment. It will concern them. This will tee up additional meetings, where you’ll find more common ground, build more rapport etc.
Without the occasional counterweight of media to “keep them honest,” they’ll revert to their default, which is working on all the issues themselves and in concert with the “hidden stakeholders,” who either avoid you or are cagey around you, and who want to conduct their business privately, and with the people they consider the traditional power brokers.