Is Digital Advertising the 2016 Power Tool for Advocacy & Public Affairs?
Digital ad spending in the U.S. is expected to surpass TV ad spending in 2016, so it’s no surprise that associations, nonprofits and corporations are getting in on the act and using it to assist them in their advocacy and public affairs efforts.
Organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation have used it to help push past the gridlock in Washington, engage with the public on important issues, and bring in new advocates.
But it can also help advocacy professionals move beyond traditional relationship lobbying and grow their advocacy programs into true grassroots movements.
Before any organization commits resources to digital advertising, they should fully consider their ultimate goal. Clear objectives will help you decide what type of advertising to buy, how much to consider spending, and what ad content to create. Your digital advertising campaign should be optimized to meet and match your goals; otherwise, you may be wasting valuable ad dollars creating calls to action that don’t speak to your intended audience.
Four Reasons Organizations Use Digital Advertising for Public Affairs and Advocacy
#1: Gain New Grassroots Advocates
Digital ads can be very effective in spreading your message to potential advocates who are willing and likely to take action on your behalf. If your company or association wants advocates to sign a petition or send an email to their lawmaker, then targeted digital advertising can be a cost-effective way to build a grassroots army of online supporters.
With digital advertising, you can place carefully crafted ads in front of your intended audience by using data to target audience segments by party identification, education level, or profession. This enables organizations to reach out to potential advocates, and lead them to a webpage with an advocacy ask.
#2: Increased Awareness About a Policy Issue
Organizations are often dealing with complex policy issues, and trying to build awareness or educate the public on their policy positions. Digital advertising can be helpful in messaging to the public by actively engaging concerned citizens, and giving them a policy solution. Digital advertising is usually much cheaper than television ads, and can direct interested viewers to a webpage with additional information on your position, which is harder to do with TV ads. However, in order to engage the general public on policy issues, your ad must be both creative and compelling.
#3: Persuade Policymakers
Legislators, regulators and their staff spend a large portion of their time online, but are often hard to reach and are constantly being bombarded with meetings and emails. Using sophisticated targeting techniques, digital ad companies and publishers can target specific areas like Capitol Hill or state capitals — both of which can help you make that final pitch to staffers and legislators alike. If your ultimate goal is persuading policymakers, you will want to place your policy ask in the digital ad itself.
#4: Increased Engagement with Employees, Members or Current Advocates
If your organization is struggling to cut through the email noise, then targeting your current advocates through digital advertising using email addresses may help increase your action alert participation rates. Digital ad companies now make it possible to target only the individuals already in your database, which reduces waste and the cost of running the ads for your organization. If you are targeting those already in your advocate base, then you may want to use language familiar to your audience and display your organization’s logo in the ad.
There is much to consider when deciding whether to use digital advertising as an advocacy tool, but developing concrete goals and objectives will greatly help in evaluating your organization’s options. You can then focus on developing a budget and implementation strategy, finding a digital advertising vendor and, ultimately, developing a digital ad.
At times, this may seem daunting, but there are numerous resources and vendors to help you through the process. For more information on digital advertising for public affairs and advocacy, including overviews of advertising offerings from companies such as CQ Roll Call, Facebook, Twitter and Google, check out the Public Affairs Council’s April 12 Digital Advertising Workshop.
Nick DeSarno is Manager for Grassroots and Communications with the Public Affairs Council.