Lobbyists take talking points mobile

David Gura Jun 11, 2012

Lobbyists take talking points mobile

David Gura Jun 11, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Politics and policy in this country nowadays is almost entirely wrapped up in the message. Campaigns and special interest groups want to make sure everyone who’s on their side is all on the same page. Hence: widely distributed talking points, ad campaigns, daily message meetings.

And now, even smartphone apps. There’s one out today aimed at keeping the financial advisers industry on message. And the art of getting a talking point to break out beyond the Beltway to, say, the farmers of Nebraska is quite an industry.

We asked Marketplace’s David Gura to follow the message.

David Gura: I was in Nebraska a few months ago, and Brad Heinrichs, a corn farmer, started telling me about how much he loves his job. He gets to work with his brother and his dad…

Brad Heinrichs: On a day-to-day basis, you know, and try to grow something, to feed, you know, to feed the world.

And that phrase — “to feed the world” — is something I heard over and over again. Here’s another corn farmer, Mark Jagels.

Mark Jagels: I mean, if my yields triple? Wow. We will. We’ll produce it, to feed the world.

I realized the phrase had caught on when I left Nebraska, and I heard this last week:

Pat Roberts: Farmers and ranchers in my state truly help feed what we have said again and again is a troubled and hungry world.

It wasn’t just in every farmer’s lexicon, politicians were also using it. That’s Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. I wondered where this phrase came from, so I called the National Corn Growers Association. Janice Walters says she thinks it started with the farmers.

Gura: So, this is not a phrase that the Corn Growers Association came up with?

Janice Walters: I don’t believe so.

The American Farm Bureau Federation said the same thing. But the lobbyists have embraced it. The phrase showed up in an Agriculture Council of America memo about a decade ago. So, maybe that’s how long it takes for talking points to travel from a trade group to its membership.

Or at least that’s how long it used to take. Today, the Financial Services Institute released a smartphone app to push its message to its members. Chris Paulitz does communications for the group.

Chris Paulitz: It is very hard to break through to your own membership and really get them to pay attention to what’s critical.

Paulitz says this is how the Washington message machine works today, and how it will deliver talking points in the future.

In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

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