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When Is an Advocate Not an Advocate?

Twice in the past week, I heard from people whose APHA memberships expired, explaining why they didn’t renew. In both cases excuses in the form of complaints about their memberships were made. A little bit of research turned up the facts that those complaints were at least misguided. I responded to each of them about their frustrations. In both cases, they felt insulted.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I receive criticism and suggestions on a regular basis, sometimes including good, usable, feedback. I’m always appreciative of constructive feedback and ideas even if it’s in the form of criticism. That’s how we improve the benefits APHA offers.

Further, I recognize there are many reasons someone might not want to renew a membership. Sometimes health challenges have gotten in the way. Sometimes someone just decides independent advocacy wasn’t a good fit for them. Most of the time I hear nothing at all.

But that’s not what these exchanges were. In both cases they were making excuses by using APHA membership as the whipping post. Not kosher.

Where have they been for the past year? Why did they wait until their memberships expired to complain? I wonder how they think they can be good advocates for other people if they don’t even advocate for themselves?

Of course, I don’t intentionally insult people. I may push back, and I may be blunt, but that’s because, as a business owner, one must be sure that her work isn’t misrepresented. Here are examples. See what you think.

We’ll begin with Complaining Advocate A (CAA) who decided not to renew her membership because 1. she hated logging in with a username instead of an email address, and 2. because she had trouble getting her password to work on her phone, blaming our log-in system for that problem.

Yes, seriously. But I addressed both excuses.

As you can see by the login below (found at ) one can use either a username or an email address to log in.

Regarding the trouble with passwords on a phone – that’s a problem with her device and not her APHA membership. However…

She was a member for a year. Had she reached out for help, we would have happily suggested she go ahead and use her email address to log in, pointing out the instruction on the page. We also would have explained to her that the problem with her phone was probably a caching problem, then we would have provided her with information on how to fix that. Instead of a year’s worth of irritation she would have had solutions – and could have allayed all that frustration.

But no, she did not advocate for herself.

Complaining Advocate B (CAB) had been listed in the AdvoConnection Directory for a year. His complaint was that he never received a single phone call from his listing. If that was true, then it’s understandable why he would question the expense of membership. However, directory-listed members’ renewal rate is about 98%, usually citing the calls they receive from the directory. So I had to wonder why he would not have received any calls.

A look at his directory analytics added to the mystery.

In the course of the year, 74 “unique” individuals landed on CAB’s listing, and 15 of them visited at least twice. Granted, that’s not very many (some of our listed advocates see that many pageviews in a month). But of 74 people, why didn’t a single one contact CAB? The only answer could be that his profile listing itself was lacking.

So I checked it out. Turns out his listing missing the details and keywords needed by searches and search engines and was not written from a marketing point of view. No wonder he had so few visits and wasn’t getting calls!

APHA provides plenty of great guidance on writing marketing text and maximizing one’s listing for searches including written, step-by-step advice, articles, and a podcast of great ideas. Further, we provide the opportunity for every listed member to request their stats so they can tell along the way if they need to improve their listing.

CAB could have taken advantage of all that good advice. Or he could have reached out for help, advocating for himself and his practice. But he did neither. So now, not only has he lost an opportunity to maximize his listing, but his potential clients have lost the opportunity to work with him, and APHA has lost a member.

So – why do I vent to you, my reader, today? Because there are a few takeaways from these experiences for all of us, especially those listed in the AdvoConnection Directory.

  1. If you can’t advocate for yourself, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can successfully advocate for others. If you don’t give yourself every opportunity to succeed, then what makes you think you’ll go to the line for clients, or that you can sustain a practice?
  2. Don’t make excuses. My educated guess is that neither of these folks really wants to develop a successful advocacy practice. In their heart of hearts they know they haven’t put themselves wholly into practice development, they don’t really want to invest the energy, so for them it’s easier to blame someone or something else than to own up to their own lack of effort.
    Don’t be that advocate. Jump in 100% or don’t waste your time and energy. Anything less is not fair to yourself, your practice, or your potential clients.
  3. Members of APHA who experience challenges need to reach out and ask for help! We offer tools and information for every aspect of building your business. If together we identify a gap in that information, then we will find or develop a resource for you. Sometimes we can even help with your tech challenges (like figuring out why phones won’t accept passwords).
  4. Directory-listed members of APHA need to review their listings, read the advice we’ve provided to maximize their reach, and give themselves every chance of making their phones ring as a result.
  5. When someone makes an accusation that just isn’t true, push back. Don’t be rude or confrontational, but when appropriate, be sure you defend not only your practice, but your way of doing business, too. Command respect. Advocate for yourself.
  6. Listen to advice, and don’t get defensive. Appreciate good, useful feedback, and improve your work when good advice is gifted to you.

There. Jumping off my high-horse for today! Hopefully we’ve all learned from this exercise. And hopefully many of us will step up our games as a result.


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