Net Neutrality: We're Asking the Wrong Questions

The Wrong Call to Action

I'm going to start this post on the topic of net neutrality, but this post is about more than that. This post is about the fact that we (authors, ghostwriters, editors, and business people in general) are asking the wrong questions and what we can do to think deeper and differentiate ourselves from our competition in times of uncertainty.

First, let me state for the record that I am a proponent of net neutrality for all the reasons stated elsewhere by educators, equal rights activists, and small business owners. Seth Godin sums things up nicely here: The simple truth about net neutrality, and I clicked the link in his post and signed the petition. (I encourage you to do the same.)

The petition writer(s) gave respondents a call to action: "Tell the FCC why Net Neutrality is important to you." I spent several minutes crafting my answer before my marketing brain kicked in.

Telling the FCC and powers that be why net neutrality is important to me is the wrong call to action; that's asking the wrong question.

The better question is Why is net neutrality important to the FCC (Ajit Pai), Trump, and every other appointed or elected official whose name will be attached to this decision?

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? We think we know why it's not important to them, and this is our chance to let our voices be heard and express why it is important to us.

The thing is, we've already spoken. Remember 2015? What makes us think that these decision makers will be swayed by reasons important to us? This is the equivalent of telling prospective clients that they should hire us because we have mortgages to pay, kids to put through college, and a sports car that doesn't run on sunshine and good vibes. They do not care. None of those reasons solve their problem or benefit them.

Every good marketer understands that trying to persuade a prospect to buy a product or services based on the seller's need is a sure-fire strategy for failure.

So, when it comes to net neutrality, let's not talk about why it's important to us to maintain it. Let's go back to Marketing 101 and figure out how overturning Title II will be bad for them and talk about the benefits to them if it remains in place.

Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers

Now that we've considered and created in the minds of those in power a vision for the professional and political consequences they might suffer by overturning Title II, let's turn our attention to the next level question, the question that does address our problem.

As a business owner who has worked hard to establish an online platform and uses the internet daily to operate and improve my business, I suffered a wave of panic when I saw the headlines about the possibility of this change. You may have had a similar experience. But we are business people. We are entrepreneurs. We cannot afford to waste precious energy tilting at windmills. We must voice and vote, but it behooves us to then turn our attention to what's next.

While our competitors are worrying about their futures and wringing their hands, we have an opportunity to consider the future of our businesses and put our hands to work creating it.

What if instead of worrying and asking about how this change can harm us, we ask ourselves what we can do immediately to mitigate the risk and position ourselves for success as the landscape changes? (And the landscape is always changing. This is a lesson best learned sooner rather than later. Those who learn quickly stay in business. Those who don't, don't.)

Winners and Losers

I'll speak only about my industry, the publishing industry, but I'd be willing to bet that this applies to many others.

Authors, editors and ghostwriters, literary agents, and all business people who've been hiding behind the protective wall of the internet are at the greatest risk. Those of us who've balanced our platforms between online and offline engagement will fare much better because if we're forced to shift our digital marketing and sales strategies, we can do it with one foot still firmly planted in our offline strategies.

The winners are always the ones who are willing to invest their time, money, and energy in doing whatever it takes to get in front of the people they need to get in front of to achieve their personal and professional goals even when that means wiggling into real clothes and putting ourselves in unfamiliar situations. That requires action--and interaction.

A Better Call to Action

Sign the petition, but position your reasons for upholding Title II in the most persuasive way possible to your target market. In this case, your target market is President Trump and his administration. (This may or may not work. We may not "get the sale" on this one, but we aren't responsible for that part.)

Now, while the net is still neutral, do some strategic planning: Get out your laptop and a pen and piece of paper, find and make a list of the people you need to connect with in your industry. After that, find every conference you can that's within your reach and at which the people on your list (agents, editors, ghostwriters, or whoever) will attend. Register for and attend those events.

In the meantime, do whatever it takes to prepare and present yourself as the best strategic partner those people have ever interacted with online or in person.

I know, yoga pants and basketball shorts are so comfortable, and networking and speaking in public can be draining. But consider what you can control and what you cannot. Consider your words and your actions: Shout out and show up every single time.

Think better. Do better. Be better.

WriteNow, LLC 2017