What a Year

51 weeks ago 600+ hungry progressives gathered in Pennsylvania eager to make a difference in the life of everyday Pennsylvanians. We ate, drank, talked, networked and learned. We came in a fragmented progressive community and left a little more united and a lot more energized as we headed into the busy 2010 election season.

This weekend we again gathered in PA for the 2nd PA Progressive Summit. This year there were 3-400 of us. A smaller group to be sure, but our goals haven’t changed. We ate, we drank (c’mon you know me right?), we talked, we networked and we learned. We also spent a lot of time rehashing the couldve wouldve shouldves from 2010 and we started to talk about what we need to differently in 2011 for the more localized elections and in 2012.

So what’s changed? Well, the obvious changes might be the fact that there is now a Republican Governor, one of our Senators is now a Republican and the State Legislative situation hasn’t improved any if you’re a Democrat in Pennsylvania. However, that just scratches the surface.

What’s really changed is who we are as a progressive movement and doing what I do both professionally and as a hobby of sorts (because technically if you don’t get paid it’s volunteering and a hobby right?) I’ve been lucky enough to be able to witness this change up close and personal.

IMHO the biggest change is in our approach to messaging. I’ve long said to anyone who would listen to me that the biggest problem we as Progressives have is that not only do we have a lot to learn about message framing, we also had a lot of work to do to create the kind of messaging echo chamber we’ve long witnessed on the other side of the aisle.  This weekend only reinforced this.  As I met people and talked to people the need for a progressive echo chamber was often brought up by others to which I laughed and said “well then listen to this…”

Today I’m happy to report that the change needed in this area is well on the way. Under the leadership of Reps. Grijalva and Ellison, the Progressive Caucus is making a sincere effort to not only frame messaging but to reach out to the disparate Progressive groups to create the echo chamber needed to ensure that message is heard. As the old saying goes, united we stand or united we fall.

In November, we weren’t united and on November 2nd while our Progressive block largely remained in tact, the rest of the Democratic ideologies were decimated.  To me that says we’re on to something but that we need to make sure our message gets out.  Luckily, there are others out there who see things much the same and together- them, me and most importantly you can get it done.

Our first step in this direction was put to the test last week with the GOP led efforts to repeal health care reform. Some of my contacts in DC let me know that someone in Rep. Stark’s office had come up with the idea of framing our messaging around the idea of “No Care”….as in “if health care reform is repealed millions of Americans will have no care”.

This same kind of email was shared with progressives all over the place and soon “No Care” was echoing everywhere. On Twitter I tweeted a few sentences using #nocare and went to sleep. Next morning we’d taken over that hashtag and it was flying fast and furious. On Facebook, people’s status updates contained the phrase. In floor speeches, progressive members of Congress used the phrase as they spoke against health care reform repeal. And Friday a Republican friend sent me an email that basically said “wtf is this no care nonsense”.

It worked. People are hearing OUR framing of messaging. But this is only the beginning. We need more people echoing that messaging on Twitter, Facebook, in the blogosphere, and more importantly in every day conversations with friends and family.

This is how we can make a difference. This is how we take the first step to reclaiming our country.

So this weekend in Pennsylvania, some 3-400 progressives listened to workshops, attended DFA sponsored trainings, ate and drank and talked. We heard from Progressive leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jim Dean and Leo Gerard.  We heard from former candidates like former (still hurts to say this) Congressman Joe Sestak and current Senator Bob Casey.

But most importantly, we talked to each other and we united in our efforts to move the Progressive message into the mainstream.

So what can you do? You can drop me an email at progressiveechochamber at gmail and ask to be included on my messaging email list- when I get such notes as mentioned above you can get the same information and join our efforts. There’s nothing secretive or elite or exclusive about this <anyone> who wants to help improve Progressive messaging is welcome to join my efforts. It’s a community effort – together as a community we can and will take back our country.

One community at a time.

Note: This is the first in a series of diaries I’m working on about messaging and how we create the Progressive Echo Chamber we’ve needed for so long.  Some of these diaries will be theoretical in nature and some will be case studies and some may even have a few pooties, but their purpose is singular: exploring how we create an effective two way communication bridge between those in DC and rest of us so that we reinforce each other’s messaging.  One person this weekend called me an enabler- someone that those in DC can reach out to to help spread the word outside of DC and someone who those outside of DC can reach out to in order that their messaging ideas can be heard and used by those in DC.  Never thought I’d say this, but I’m happy to be an enabler of this kind of behavior.

Disclaimer: Progressive PST works for Rep. Grijalva’s legislative office as an independant consultant, assisting them with netroots outreach and social media strategy.  I’m happy to say they understand the importance of this echo chamber building and are working to help unify our messaging but these diaries and my efforts are independent of anything they are doing.

please note: this diary was originally posted on Daily Kos on January 24, 2011.  This is a semi regular series that will from now on be posted here on Dirty Hippies first.  I will also start posting some excerpts from my weekly email as time allows but you’re still better off joining the email list to get the full messaging alerts.

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About the Author

Beth Becker

Sped works as a social media consultant to Dem campaigns, legislative offices and assorted Democratic organizations. In her spare time, she works on message distribution and building message amplification, manages Progressive Congress News and occasionally reads and sleeps.

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