Leading During a Pandemic
Advocacy from a distance
Advocacy is traditionally shoe-leather work at associations. Government relations staffers are experts at relationship-building—meeting with legislators, regulators, and their aides to make an association’s case clearly and efficiently. It’s a job practically defined by handshakes and face-to-face meetings. But so much, thanks to COVID-19, for that.
The Direct Selling Association, like most other groups, has had to adjust to the new normal, pivoting its meetings and events online in a hurry. DSA President and CEO Joseph N. Mariano says that in March DSA began ramping up its webinars and shifting its member content to “all virus, all the time.” (Last year, DSA hosted three webinars, Mariano says; this year, it’s hosted around 30.) That’s proven to be successful, especially in terms of its annual meeting, which was originally scheduled to be held earlier this month in Phoenix and instead was held entirely online.
But COVID-19 hasn’t changed DSA’s advocacy policy priorities, and in some ways it’s made them more complicated. DSA represents companies that sell household goods and health supplements, sometimes through multi-level marketing (MLM)—a structure that some critics equate to a pyramid scheme. Because DSA is mindful of the reputational issues related to the industry, it’s kept a close eye on how COVID-19 has affected it, and how government has responded.
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