The New Issue Advocacy Professional
Gerry Gunster had a brilliant post recently on Connectivity on the alchemy of issue advocacy, Advocacy Campaigns: Mad Scientist at Work. His point was simple, there is no one standard mix of advocacy “ingredients” that leads to a campaign’s success. You can’t simply walk through a checklist of tactics and expect results. Instead, it takes an understanding of the issue, the landscape and the tools available to achieve your goals.
With the ever-changing world of issue advocacy – shifting from a reliance on one-size-fits-all calls to action to a more personalized and genuine interaction – the question then is, what qualifications does this “mad scientist” need to be have to be successful? Let’s take a look.
In today’s environment, the modern issue advocacy professional or “IAP” must be:
- A Policy Wonk:
The issue advocacy professional must continue to be a valuable resource of information on the legislation, regulations and other pitfalls that may challenge the organization’s interests. There’s no getting around it. The new IAP must have an in-depth knowledge of the issue and, more importantly, its effects on the industry, the organization and its members.
- A Communicator / Marketer:
At the same time, an IAP’s knowledge of an issue is only as useful as his or her ability to communicate that expertise to others. The new IAP will need a marketer’s mind, one that can help dissect the issue and its intricacies and be able to deliver that information to various groups. Whether it be Twitter followers, Facebook Fans, LinkedIn users or others, the new IAP will need to push the right message at the right time to the right users through the right medium.
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- A Sales Person:
Going hand-in-hand with being a good communicator or marketer, the new IAP must also be able to “close.” What I mean by that is simply that the new IAP has to be able to convey their message and, more importantly, the experience of participating to actually get people to sign on the dotted line (take action).
- A Data Junkie:
As discussed in 5 Reasons to Add Engagement Data to Your CRM, every advocacy interaction generates a data point. And it is in these data points that your issue advocacy efforts can find success. By diving into the data and understanding what messages work best, what sites drive the most referrals, what time of day generates the most responses, what congressional districts are most active and more, the new IAP will find success segmenting their audiences and addressing these groups on a more personal level.
- A Collaborator:
Above all else, the new IAP needs to be an expert collaborator. As issue advocacy continues to evolve, so will its role within each organization. To that end, the IAP needs to continue to be able to show the value of their effort. That will become easier as the IAP can apply the data points they’ve gathered and share them with an organization’s content creation team, membership team, sales team, marketing team and more.
Issue advocacy, branding, marketing, sales and data analysis are all coming together in the changing advocacy landscape. Like the old mass-mailed messages to legislators and one-size-fits-all messaging to your stakeholders, traditional definitions of issue advocacy no longer apply — nor should they. The “industry” is changing, and as the combination of elements to achieve success continues to evolve, so must the issue advocacy professional.
One note: This article isn’t intended to say that all of these skills need to be honed and present in a single person or resource. No, instead it is simply that when executing an issue advocacy strategy, we build the right skills in a team and deploy them as needed when the time is right.
Issue advocacy success is indeed alchemy. And, as Gunster said, these new issue advocacy professionals are the scientists.