5 ways to be a better advocate: what I learned from Susan Linn’s leadership

Last night I had the honor of celebrating Susan Linn, who is stepping down as executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, an amazing organization that she co-founded. I wanted to share a few of the ways that Susan has inspired me; maybe she will inspire you too.

It’s not about you: In an era of celebrity experts and social media, it’s easy to use advocacy as a platform to promote yourself. But for Susan it’s never been about her, it’s always about the issue; in her case, protecting children. Often the best advocates are operating behind the scenes. It shouldn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as change happens.

Sound reasonable: Stopping marketing to children is a fairly radical idea, but when Susan talks to the media, she makes it sound eminently rational, and delivers her message with a calm demeanor. That’s an important skill for those of us challenging the status quo.

Take the long view: Too many advocates and organizations go for the quick and easy win, either to please their fans on social media or use a hollow victory as a fundraising tool. Susan always says, “it’s a movement, it’s a movement”, meaning we have to invest in critical issues over the long haul and real change takes time. It’s a selfless approach.

Take a moral stand: Too many advocates focus solely on facts and figures, avoiding making ethical arguments. While Susan certainly has the research at her fingertips, she has taught me that marketing to children is not about the nutritional content of a Happy Meal. Rather, all marketing to children is inherently unethical, regardless of the product. I wish more advocates would take a moral stand on today’s critical issues; try it, you might find it empowering.

Be generous: Fighting unethical corporations can be lonely. Susan is incredibly generous with her time, always willing to offer strategic advice and to help me feel just a little less crazy.

Thank you Susan for being such a great role model for advocates fighting for social justice.

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Contact Michele Simon: michele@eatdrinkpolitics.com

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