Yesterday, the inaugural Digital Advocacy Institute conference brought together an impressive array of speakers from leading advocacy technology vendors, expert strategic political consulting firms, and associations and interest groups with top-notch digital communications practices. Through this broad range of perspectives, the conference provided valuable tips and tricks for all sorts of digital organizing strategies and tools.
The expert advice dispensed broke into two general themes. First, the era of shock-and-awe through the sheer volume of communication that digital tools ushered forth when they emerged in the late 1990s is over. What matters much more now is the quality of the content within advocacy communications and how well that content sustains understanding about an issue.
Second, the tools of digital advocacy do not work to get people interested in a cause or concern. Instead, they connect communities and individuals who are already personally invested in an issue.
Yes, digital advocacy tools still primarily operate on massive scales and digital advocacy campaigns still try to organize lots and lots of people at once. But it was striking throughout the day how many panelists emphasized that even in this digital age, advocacy was still fundamentally about cultivating and building upon interpersonal relationships.
The work of digital advocacy, then, is the same as it was in the analog era — or the horse and buggy era for that matter. The key is knowing which of the bewildering number of tools out there now are best suited for specific advocacy challenges and diving deeply into using those.