Harnessing the Power of Grassroots Advocacy
“When I feel the heat, I see the light.” This famous quip by the late Senator Everett Dirksen is a still-powerful reminder that there’s nothing quite like pressure from constituents back home when it comes to influencing a lawmaker. Grassroots advocacy has long been a major impetus for social and legislative change.
Now that email, websites and social media are pervasive, these digital tools are exponentially increasing the energy and reach of citizen participation in government.
Communications professionals have more ways than ever to harness technology to build public support and accomplish policy objectives. Where to begin? Here are a few tips Stratacomm offers our clients.
Do Your Homework
Conducting opinion research is the critical first step. Done properly, you will know exactly who your likely supporters are, how to reach them and what messages will best educate, persuade and motivate potential allies to action. Every dollar invested in research to understand the hearts and minds of your key audiences helps ensure that subsequent dollars will return the biggest bang for their buck and deliver measurable results.
Make It Easy
Your website should be an important portal for advocacy, and the Web places a premium on clear, concise writing. Make scanning content easy with bullets, hyperlinks and bold text. Lead with a compelling call to action so recipients know immediately why and how they should get involved. When emailing, optimize your landing page to orient the user quickly with an obvious path toward the desired response. Once they’ve acted, help supporters explore other sections of your site and learn more.
Provide a variety of ways for advocates to lend support. These options should range from quick and easy (like joining your mailing list) to more involved (such as recruiting a friend or calling a member of Congress). Your goal is to walk grassroots allies up this “engagement ladder,” with each step helping to reduce participation barriers and foster ongoing dialogue.
Whether you are engaged in social media or not, conversations about your issue are taking place in online communities across the Internet, such as on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. So don’t sit on the sidelines; start by monitoring the conversation. Once you understand the landscape, you may then want to establish a presence and engage in discussion to demonstrate your expertise. As you build a following, invite your audience to offer their thoughts and create incentives for them to share your content with their personal networks. Using social media channels to drive audiences back to your advocacy website (where they can learn more and take concrete actions) is a great way get the full value from all available media platforms.
Look for Partners
Find groups who already cater to your target audiences. Some of them may have business models built around helping to expand your contacts within their communities and can provide a cost-effective way to build a highly qualified list quickly.
Don’t Forget to Listen
Email alerts to your grassroots database are still very effective at generating results. Just be sure to monitor your social media properties closely following an email distribution, especially to new supporters, and be ready for a conversation. Recent recruits are among the most enthusiastic, but they also can easily become skeptical and pose tough questions. Earning their trust through subsequent individual interactions will pay dividends, so prepare draft responses to frequently asked questions that can be tailored and used to reply rapidly. Place an experienced and knowledgeable community manager at the helm to maximize these public interactions and mitigate threats to your organization’s brand.
Segment, Analyze and Refine
Analytics data from your website and contact management service provide a wealth of insight about what’s really working and who’s acting. Use this intelligence to optimize future efforts and tailor your approach.