The Art of the Advocacy Petition
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.
There are several advantages to drafting an actual petition to send to an agency or elected official. The results are quick and the response rate is generally high because it is easier for advocates to sign than it is to write a letter.
It also humanizes the issue – this is not just another form letter – even as it carries a concise message that can be easily digested by busy staffers in Congress or elsewhere. It also costs very little time and money.
At the American Motorcyclist Association, we recently launched a petition (using CQ Roll Call’s Engage platform) that has collected more than 20,000 signatures in only a few weeks, which is a new record for rapid accumulation of signatures on a petition for us. The petition will accompany our organization’s comments on the Renewable Fuel Standard that are due to the EPA on July 27th.
It makes sense for member associations like the AMA to use petitions because the impact is large and the amount of effort is manageable.
Tips for Better Petitions
The increase in online petition platforms and resources have made it easier than ever for government relations teams and grassroots professionals to use petitions.
Of course, there are also some things you can do to improve the results and effectiveness of a petition campaign. Here are a few ideas:
- To get the word out, strategically place petition links in informational content, such as blogs or white papers. You can deploy offline materials, such as QR codes in newspaper advertisements or posters at events, as well.
- Coordinate with departments outside government relations. If your membership or events departments are communicating with members regularly, have them reinforce the petition campaign.
- Post petition links on social media routinely and encourage people to share them. Create accompanying graphics that grab the attention of your audience.
- Develop a posting schedule or calendar that is linked to a set goal. Then, track progress to that goal and share it with your community.
- Tie your petition in with your organization’s position or formal comments on an issue.
Joshua Habursky is the Grassroots Manager for the American Motorcyclist Association.