Congress: Add Local Online Businesses to Your Whistle-Stop Tours and Photo-Ops
We all know the drill. It unfolds across our local newspapers and local TV stations every day. Whenever regional, state and federal politicians make "whistle stop" tours of our cities, towns and municipalities, they do the inevitable photo opportunities at local factories and local public works projects, posing with either hardhats and goggles or shovels and babies. Politicians swarm assembly lines and shiny machinery, and bulldozers and flying dirt, like ad sales reps do CMOs after industry event panel presentations.
You almost never see politicians stopping at the online business in local office parks or downtown loft spaces -- unless you're in Silicon Valley, of course. Visits to online businesses, many of which are run out of homes, downtown loft spaces or in low-rent office parks, have never been high on most politicians' agendas. They don't make for traditional vote-getting photo-ops.
We in the digital industry need to change that. This was the advice from Connecticut Congressman Chris Murphy, a candidate for the US Senate in 2012, during a discussion with a number of Interactive Advertising Bureau members at a recent event in New York City. Murphy's advice: Make yourselves known to your elected officials and candidates; invite them into your offices; impress on them the fact that our businesses will fuel future economic and job growth.
This is important for us. There are many big public policy issues out there where the digital industry needs to be top of mind with legislators and regulators. If we aren't on the minds of Congressmen when they are at home in their district, we will never be there when they are voting in Washington.
Just look at the headlines over the past week or two:
Antitrust. The Department of Justice has sued AT&T to block its planned merger with T-Mobile. This move will certainly impact you, but is a good or bad thing? Where do online marketing issues fall here? Have you thought about it? Have you communicated your concerns to your legislators and regulators?
Privacy. Lots of action in both Congress and at the Federal Trade Commission on this issue. Do your regulators and legislators understand how well-intended regulation might impact our industry -- and the jobs you create?
Trademarks and Copyright. There is proposed new legislation to dramatically increase the enforcement powers of trademark and copyright owners, which could create private cause of actions that could be used to block websites from being accessed, even if they don't infringe on intellectual property rights themselves. Is this prior restraint of free speech? Could this affect you?
Patents. The trades are full of stories of large, incumbent technology companies using their multibillion-dollar war chests to hoard patents and protect their market positions. The trades are also full of stories of "patent trolls" recycling old, leftover patents and reshaping them into lawsuits to sue (and tax) start-ups with little money in the bank to fight litigation.
Public policy issues -- particularly those disrupting traditional industries -- impact all of us. Are you ready to invite your Congressperson to visit you for a photo-op on his or her next whistle-stop tour?