Releasing information at a point in time when it’s most relevant to the target audience is marketing 101. So leveraging appropriate campaigns around holidays has been a tried and tested advertising and marketing tool used successfully for decades. But it can be just effective for government relations pros trying to get the message on their issue out. Here’s how:
By Joshua Habursky
It’s that time in the election cycle when staffers and campaigners are taking up new jobs. For those moving to grassroots advocacy, here’s some tips from a seasoned pro for your first 30 days on the job.
You left the Hill and landed your first government relations job in grassroots advocacy, or maybe you’ve seized the opportunity to work at the intersection of lobbying and communications. Irrespective of how you got a job in grassroots advocacy, the first 30 days can be intimidating and overwhelming with the volume of information you have to consume.
Every organization has different expectations, responsibilities, technology assets, processes, layers of approval, strengths, and challenges, and a step-by-step guide on how to approach a grassroots job doesn’t exist.
Grassroots is a fluid profession where you need to develop and maintain relationships to compel people to action. One of the most valuable resources for navigating the profession is the experience of other grassroots pros that have tried different techniques that have succeeded and failed.
While the below isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success for the first 30 days of running a grassroots program, there are a few time-tested tips and tricks that could get you started as you delve into your role in grassroots advocacy:
In the grassroots departments of corporations, nonprofits, or trade associations, discussion often revolves around a signature advocacy campaign.
This signature advocacy campaign could take the form of a basic online petition, or a fully-fledged initiative complete with an advocacy center, paid and earned media, printed collateral and in-person meetings. If an organization chooses the latter form, a decision must be made on whether or not to give the advocacy campaign a unique identity or brand.
The main advantage of giving your national advocacy campaign a unique identity is the ability to be more creative and less restricted from the conventional brand standards of your organization.
But you don’t want it so wildly out there that consumers of the campaign fail to connect the dots that it’s got anything to with your organization at all.
“Diplomacy without an army is like music without instruments,” mused Frederick the Great. But he could also have been speaking about present day grassroots building.
It’s always better to negotiate from a position of strength, with the physical resources necessary to affect the policymaking process, and grassroots advocacy is largely about amassing an army of advocates that harmoniously echo the sentiments of your organization.
That can be a challenge on your own, and coalitions offer a great way to amass strength in numbers fast. Here’s how to fast track your coalition for success.
Coach USA/Megabus, the bus company known for affordable rides across the United States has been particularly successfully at the nuances of the site visit, and at bridging online and offline advocacy techniques.
Here’s what presidential elections mean for the advocacy space: higher advertising rates, oversaturated email lists, and the public’s interest diverted away from your organization’s issue (where it belongs) and instead focused on daily presidential campaign minutiae.
Every four years, the chances are good that your advocacy organization is starting to feel the frustration pains of competing with the presidential election for resources, manpower and mindshare beyond the days and months leading up to Election Day.
But you don’t have to sideline your grassroots efforts during the presidential election or any other election cycle – you can actually deploy some techniques during this opportune moment to continue the success of your program, provided you stay within certain guidelines.
Members of Congress receive millions of letters and emails each year, mostly about policy issues or position statements on behalf of groups and individuals.
An effective advocacy organization will correspond with congressional members and staff on a routine basis about legislation affecting their issue areas, but also will remain in steady contact, regardless of whether an immediate issue exists.
Advocacy organizations should maintain a routine protocol for simply placing their name, organizational mission and staff contact information in front of congressional staff.
August can be a slow month for the advocacy community with Congress out of session until early September. However, your advocacy programs can still make the most of the summer lull to bolster your ability to press for legislative priorities in the fall term.
Here are a few ways to sustain activity during the recess:
Buried in the text of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, next to the goliaths freedom of religion, speech and press, is the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
As someone working in the advocacy community, this phrase is one of my favorite parts of our Constitution. Here, we as citizens and groups with similar interests, are granted the ability to organize to support or oppose government action.
This can come in many forms, from writing a letter to elected officials to sending a Tweet or signing an actual petition – and there is much to recommend the petition.
American Industrialist Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Building and maintaining an effective grassroots advocacy program follows the contours of Ford’s logic, and each step of the process presents a unique set of challenges.
Measuring progress along the way by monitoring key performance indicators, or metrics, can vastly improve just about any grassroots program.