The Dialectic Issue LifeCycle Model (DILC) is a very cool heuristic for thinking about how some societal problems become issues, what industry does when the problems climb the political agenda and how the issues are (or aren’t) ‘resolved’. Here’s a video starring its progenitors. The DILC has five phases, and looks at three categories of actors in detail – those trying to get the issue onto the agenda, those trying to keep it off/to shape the problem into a soluble issue, and the state functionaries (elected and non-elected).
Last year I came up with the idea of each of these ideal types writing letters to an agony aunt during each of the phases, seeking her strategic advice. I am posting these 15 (well, 16) letters and responses, one per day, over the next two weeks or so.
Today, Phase 2, industry.
That problem you told us to ignore? Yeah, well, the activists didn’t go away when we ignored them. They’ve now started getting some articles in specialist magazines and at 3am on the radio. That junior Minister we thought was in our pocket? They’ve started muttering about setting up a stakeholder panel. Some of our more neurotic vice-presidents, who are paid to worry about these things, say they can see this going wrong for us like leaded petrol and DDT. How do we nip this in the bud?
Company Under Less Timid Surveillance
Answer: Thanks for your letter, CULTS. First off, I didn’t say a strategy of tacitcal silence would definitely work. Be nice to ProblemLady, or else she might tell the world about that embarrassing personal problem you had last year after the convention in Las Vegas, capisce?
Now, hire some PR flak and see if they can say the following with a straight face. “It’s not a problem. And the problem is not our fault. And I never borrowed that broken kettle from you.” There is still every chance that the activists will get tired, distracted, disheartened. Don’t attack them in public. Instead, get your mates in the media (you HAVE cultivated mates in the media, haven’t you?) to do your dirty work for you. Remember the smears against Ralph Nader, Rachel Carson and so on? Of course you don’t, those were 50 years ago. Ask your archivist.
And while you re setting up these counter-attacks, it might also be good to think about some industry front group along the lines of the old Global Climate Coalition. Spread uncertainty, raise the spectre of job losses. That sort of thing.