Planning Advocacy

6 Strategies and Techniques for Running an Advocacy Campaign

Whether you’re just ramping up an advocacy campaign, in the thick of it, or reflecting back on a recent effort, there’s value in evaluating your practices and seeing where you could improve your campaigns.

If you’re running an advocacy campaign, you’re clearly dedicated to the mission behind your goals. So logically, you’d want to do everything in your power to make the most of your work. 

Once you have your plan in place, you’ll need to employ a selection of best practices to maximize your efforts. 

There are numerous best practices for running an advocacy campaign because the campaigns can be so varied themselves.

To begin, try out these six best practices and see where they take your advocacy campaign.

  1. Remember the relationship between online and offline activities.
  2. Consider the impact.
  3. Ensure your action step is front and center.
  4. Contact in the best way possible.
  5. Keep your friends close.
  6. Be crystal clear.

You’ll have a full plate of best practices with these six!

1. Remember the relationship between online and offline activities.

The best advocacy campaigns combine the power of online activities with the potential of offline activities. Both are critical to the success of your organization’s efforts.

Your online actions won’t be enough to sustain an effective campaign. Likewise, running a campaign without online assistance is seriously not advised.

Strike a balance between the two mediums.

You can, for instance, coordinate most of your efforts virtually, but you might want to supplement your hard work online with an in-person step that could take your campaign to the next level.

Essentially, the point to emphasize here is that your online and offline advocacy actions should coexist. The better integrated your work is, the easier life will be for your team and your supporters.

2. Consider the impact.

If you don’t know the impact you’re aiming for, how can you expect supporters to get on board?

Think through the mission of your campaign, and if you’re asking for a specific action, make sure you know what that act will hopefully accomplish.

People invested in your cause will want to help, but they’re going to want to know what they’re doing and why. It’s not an unreasonable ask.

Evidencing the impact will be especially crucial if you’re asking for an online action. It’s far easier to convince someone to join in on your efforts when you can have a genuine face-to-face conversation with that person.

It’s far harder to establish that kind of credibility with the disconnect and relative anonymity that the internet culture fosters. That’s why it’s all the more important that you make your online requests more trustworthy. To build trust, be transparent about the exact impact you’re hoping to have.

If your organization has taken similar steps in the past, you can even bolster confidence with your previous success stories.

You’ll also need to be able to trace a line from the action itself to the fulfillment of your goal and the service of your cause. Give people a sample of the micro and the macro as you explain the purpose and decision behind choosing this particular action.

3. Ensure your action step is front and center.

Providing background information and context is important, but you also need to make sure you aren’t burying the lead, so to speak.

Give people a step to take.

Your messaging can get a supporter fired up to join in, so you should be providing a channel to funnel that enthusiasm — whether that channel is attending an organizer meeting or signing a petition.

Additionally, your messaging needs to be shareable. If you want your campaign to grow, it has to appeal to your contact list so much so that they:

  1. Complete your requested action.
  2. Pass the details on to their networks.

With the help of the internet, the physical act of spreading the word is easy-peasy. Don’t let the ease of sharing fool you, though. Your content has to be worth sharing in the first place. Your communications need to cut through the clutter that crowds social media and the internet in general. Reach out and grab the attention of your potential supporters!

4. Contact in the best way possible.

Part of cutting through the clutter is contacting in the best way possible. Make a go of reaching your supporters in the exact manner that they prefer to be reached, which is when they’re most likely to be responsive.

You can reach out:

  • Through email
  • On social media
  • In person
  • On the phone
  • Through direct mail

Don’t let all those options go to waste!

You can optimize your contact method on two fronts:

  1. Based on your previous advocacy campaign history.
  2. Based on your communication history with contacts.

Based on your Previous Advocacy Campaign History

If you keep track of your communication data, specifically response rates, you’ll be able to form educated generalizations about the means of communication that your average supporter responds best to.

For example, if your last campaign yielded tons of response from your email series, continue down that path the next time around. You can even dive further into the investigation and see what sorts of emails were most effective.

Based on your Communication History with Contacts 

This step will come with time. You can’t track communication history with contacts that you don’t have. So, as you build up your support base, make sure you’re proactive about using your CRM to keep records of key behaviors.

Then, when you have ample evidence to determine preferences, leverage that data! 

If you have a big supporter pool, you likely won’t be able to take an approach that is this customized with each contact. You can however, segment your supporters who share similar preferences and provide a reasonable level of personalization.

Additionally, you might want to give added attention to particular supporters who have the potential to have a major impact on your campaign, whether they could donate a significant amount or have connections with the policy makers you’re trying to reach.

For those supporters, you can segment them out and practice cultivation measures, like arranging an in-person meeting or hosting an informational luncheon.

Contacting in the best way possible comes down to getting to know your supporters better and maximizing your efforts.

5. Keep your friends close.

Usually when someone utters the phrase “keep your friends close,” it’s closely followed by, “and keep your enemies closer.”

This time around, there’s not the second half. Point five is solely about keeping your friends close. What does that mean for advocacy campaigns? It means you should be doing all you can to:

  • Engage your current supporters.
  • Grow your network of advocates.
  • Target the right people to help you in your efforts.

In this case, your friends are your supporters, your potential supporters, and the people you’ll be interacting with and relying on to help you effect change.

As far as keeping your supporters and potential supporters close, that will come down to acknowledging their work, giving them opportunities they can engage with, and keeping the lines of communication open.

For the third group, the people in power who can effect change, you’ll want to make sure you’re reaching out to the right targets and handling your interactions appropriately. The right target is someone who is in power and open to what you’re advocating for. If someone is firmly closed off to what you’re asking, you won’t get anywhere, and you’ll be wasting your time.

You want a target who can become an ally, not an immovable wall between your organization and your goal.

6. Be crystal clear. 

Transparency is key. You should: 

  • Emphasize exactly what the action will accomplish — People want to know what they’re being asked to get involved with, and they want to be able to evaluate the likelihood of their participation resulting in real, notable outcomes.
  • Draft direct messaging — If you’re asking someone to send an email to a member of Congress, make sure that the wording in the email is persuasive and straightforward. You’ll also want to ensure those sending the email can take your template and customize it. A personal touch can go a long way when it comes to getting through to recipients.
  • Give a concrete direction: The action you’re requesting of your advocates and the actions they’re requesting of their various power players have to both be reasonable and concrete. Someone receiving a request should be able to diagnose exactly what’s being asked of them.
  • Keep people updated: Supporters will want to know the results of their efforts. It’s human nature. Tell them what has occurred. Show your appreciation for their work. And, offer next steps if applicable.

Those are just four of the many ways you can be crystal clear. Think through what your group can do to be as transparent as possible.

Advocacy is rooted in an effort to effect change. Take that drive for change and look inward. Make your organization’s efforts better so that you can go out and make the world a better place.

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