Marketing is about values

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Politics is in my blood. My great-grandfather, Eddie O. Knopp was the Mayor of Pendleton. It's no surprise I ended up working in politics. It's a big part of my life, but I recognize that it won't be for everyone. I do hope that everyone here wants to make their communities better in their own way. One way we can do that is with what we say and how we say it.

No one ever really stops developing their voice. As a young person, my voice is a bit more fluid as I work to find my footing in the turbulent world of politics. Today I want to share my experiences with you. Perhaps my successes and failures can be instructive as you mold and shape your own voice. Then I'll talk about how we can use social media as a force for good.

My name is Reagan Knopp. I am a digital-first political consultant. This entails quite a bit of writing, messaging and design work focused on the Internet and social media.

I am also the Editor in Chief of Oregon Catalyst. Oregon Catalyst is the largest conservative political blog in the state. Last year, we had 300,000 unique readers. In this role, I am responsible for shaping what we publish and deciding how we get it in front of our readers across the state.

I never considered developing my voice until about three years ago. In 2015, I had grown tired of writing words that belonged to others. I wrote a personal blog for a few years, but I didn't feel like I had enough to say, so it never took off. Around this time I left my full-time job in the Oregon Legislature.

I bounced around a bit and ended up on a congressional campaign in Salem. It was on this campaign that I did the best thing for my voice that I possibly could: I started my own business.

This is where I stop and tell you that this endeavor is hard and isn't for everyone. Luckily for me, my wife continues to be very supportive and has made it possible in so many ways. If you ever start your own business, I would strongly suggest you surround yourself with smart, encouraging people that will be there when you want to throw in the towel and go get a "normal" job.

Early on in starting my business I latched onto a simple idea. It helped me to stay grounded in what I wanted my work to be. It's important to have core values that keep you focused on your mission. Otherwise, you'll look up from your desk one day and realize you forgot why you started.

The core value driving what I do comes from a much longer talk Steve Jobs gave in 1997 when he returned to Apple. He said Marketing is about values.

I decided early on that I only wanted to work for people whose values I could understand and support. Whenever I followed this core value, I found more success than not. When I didn't, frustration and failure were there to greet me. To me, Marketing is about values means that not all marketing is created equal. It means some messages are inherently more worthwhile than others because a better system of values supports them. So what are my values?

That's a complicated question, but they can best be summarized with an excerpt of this speech by Ronald Reagan:

Our Founding Fathers, here in this country, brought about the only true revolution that has ever taken place in man’s history. Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rulers for another set of rulers. But only here did that little band of men so advanced beyond their time that the world has never seen their like since, evolve the idea that you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and the ability to determine our own destiny. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well thought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.

I believe God created all of us and that he created all of us with inalienable rights. Those rights are outlined in our Constitution. The purpose of government is to secure those rights. Now that all sounds very dramatic but it's just the 10,000 view of why we exist as a country.

Not everyone believes this and not everyone who agrees thinks the same way. That's okay, but this means that I can't work with everyone.

One of the difficulties of this job is that in a consulting role, it's not always very popular with clients when their consultants publicly express unpopular opinions. I have written tweets and articles that were unpopular with a lot of Republicans I work with. I've gotten angry emails, tweets, texts, and calls on occasion.

I usually know when I am going to write or say something that would be controversial. That's when I stop to make sure what I am saying is part of my core values. I've never lost a client over something I wrote, but I know it has cost me future business. I decided early on I would be okay with that.

Fast-forward to December of 2016. I lost the congressional race, and things aren't usually very busy for the consultants on a losing campaign. It turns out; I did a lot of good work on that campaign, I just didn't know it at the time. This is the lesson that I failed to get early on. Show up every day. Do the best you can do with what you have and then keep working to make it better. You may not feel like you've made an impression, but you almost certainly have.

That December I was approached by the founder of Oregon Catalyst as well as its current editor. It turns out that after nearly a decade, the editor was taking a step back and they were looking for someone to carry Oregon Catalyst forward. I accepted, and suddenly, my potential audience expanded and my opportunities to make a difference increased.

My point is, for this to happen it took years of hard work. Being willing to speak up. Being willing to be wrong. Being willing to reject the haters and accept constructive criticism.

One of the threads that goes through pretty much everything I work on these days is social media.

It's a massive part of how we communicate and an important platform for reaching a broad audience. It brings a voice to many who don't have one. But it's not all good. Some people misunderstand how to use it, and it's damaging people in the process.

I firmly believe that the free and open Internet with social media is a net positive for society as a whole. Social media is a massive place where you and I can tell our story, stand for our values, and have meaningful discussions about the future of our country.

But online communities are a bit different. I find that it's incredibly easy to build an online community of people who think alike. However, it seems to be much more challenging to build a community of people who think differently and will intelligently discuss things.

It's true that in real life people assemble into groups too but you also regularly find yourself running into people at church, school, and work that think differently than you. Unlike online, these opposing views have a face and name that you know.

If we start to spend too much time in our groups of like-minded people, we lose the ability to understand beliefs and views that differ from our own. I think this is how we ended up in a world where people eating tide pods as a YouTube video is a real thing that happens.

So how can we use social media in a way that allows us to reach people who are like us to spread the message while also reaching people who don't think like us so that we can have a real discussion about our future?

The key to using your voice on social media as a force for good means realizing that your personality, your values, and your creativity make you unique. It's a form of personal marketing that you can use to make your community better. Whatever it is you do or make, just make sure it's imbued with your core values.

Every day people invent a hundred crazy ways to get people's attention, but the ones who make a difference are those who recognize that authenticity is what will bring them back. Because at the end of the day, Marketing is about values.

Note: This is a written version of a speech given at the Jackson County Young Conservative Event on Feb. 24, 2018.

Reagan Knopp