Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protecting Our Comfort Zone

Do you have these signs up around your industry, your cause, your work?  I'm sure you do!  We all do, some are small and only in certain areas (personal or private information, places where we are just ourselves).  Others are industry or cause wide. They stop us from doing important work because they limit our audience, our scope, our very reach to do our work.

You say, "Not us!" or "Not here!" but yes it is you, and yes it is here.

This is what I have learned, from the inside to the outside, from the outside in.  There comes a time when we run out of converts in our own church (horse industry, pork industry, beef, dairy, sheep, goat, GMO seeds, pick yours).

There comes a time when you have to choose between meeting the outside world and speaking out for what you stand for, believe in and work at.  Or choose to say inside your comfort zone, put up the yellow and black tape and hide away - hoping that the big bad media, activists, consumers, competition just magically get smart or go away.

Folks, I am here to tell you that when you end up with no one but the converted to talk to, it is time to stop talking and start communicating outside the comfort zone.

Horse industry - are you for or against horse slaughter?  Are you for or against welfare?  Are you for or against eventing, rodeo, trail riding, pony rides at fairs?  Are you willing to stand up outside your comfort zone and say that?  Are you for or against owners of horses who do not belong to an organized horse group? What is your stand on spade bits, tie downs and quirts?  Do you have a breed preference that is blinding you to horse industry wide issues?

That gasp you heard, the one that sucked all the dust off of everyone's key boards is the collective gasp of someone being told to get the lead out.  Suck it up, you won't be popular for speaking out.  Suck it up, you won't even be able to convince everyone your point of view has value.  Speaking up isn't about popular nor is it about consensus.  It is about sharing what you know, the information you have with those who do not know it, have it and need it.  It is not about you.

Speaking out is about  sharing information, providing resources, telling another side to an issue, advocating for your industry to someone other than your industry.

Pork producers telling other pork producers they are doing a great job means nothing - nothing to anyone who isn't a pork producer!  Prove to me, a consumer, that your world is changing to meet the needs of your animals, your customers.

The beef industry telling other beef producers that they are making a difference means nothing to me.  The auto industry telling its own members how good they are doing things for the consumer means nothing.  The messenger cannot spend all their time speaking to other messengers.  

Talk to ME.  On my own grounds, in my own media, in my own language about why what you are doing matters, why what you are doing should count in my score keeping, why what you are saying should be weighed any differently than anything else that is said by sources I have come to trust.

"We are concerned but really it isn't our job to do anything, it's _______'s job.  We are here to support an industry that ________ of _________.  It means jobs, it means money.  It wouldn't be an industry if no one supported it." No one wants this type of media friendly, teflon covered, wiggle word double speak.  Your media relations people LIED.

That isn't communication. That isn't a message I care to hear.  It tells me nothing except where you've taped up your "comfort zone" signs.  Tell me how I can make a difference where  I am not where you are.  

I read the news, I see the cruelty that is done.  What I don't see is proactive steps for change.  I don't see you on Facebook, I don't see you blogging, I don't see you reaching any new audiences.  We matter.  We can choose.  We can read and research and make decisions.  Go to a social networking site and do a search - how many groups, fans and discussions are going on? Hundreds? Thousands? More?  Where are you? Where is your voice?

What you need to understand is that  if you don't do your job we will assume you either cannot do it or are uninterested in doing it outside your comfort zone.  Which one is it?  You cannot speak out for horses, you cannot share resources and reach the people who are outside the easy bounds of your comfort zone?  Or don't you care enough to try?  Is the disinterest an indication of your lack of regard for the audience or an indication of your fear?

You tell me.  Really, please do.  Tell me why social networking, blogging, advocating, speaking out, reaching past the comfort zone is so threatening, dangerous and hard to do?  I'm inviting you agriculture industry to tell me.  Please show me where is your fight.  Please show me where is your passion.  Please come out of the comfort zone into the world with the rest of us.

I'm mean you animal agriculture groups, I mean you commodity groups, I mean you welfare alliances, I mean you lobby groups, I mean you....

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