Advocacy Basics: 5 Crucial Steps to Planning Your Next Digital Advocacy Campaign

Digital Advocacy campaigns are essential to corporations, nonprofits, and trade groups. As you are getting ready to launch a campaign know that other advocacy professionals around the world are considering how to compete for the time and attention of people to amass political influence to compel action. As you approach this, task there are some simple steps that you should consider that are the bedrock of a successful campaign.

1. Know the audience for your digital advocacy campaign

To launch a digital advocacy campaign, you need to know your audience. What is your existing database look like? Is your audience compelled by statistics, infographics, human emotion, etc.? Is your campaign attempting to mobilize the existing database or are you trying to expand your grassroots army though this call to action? Knowing the profile and psychology of your audience is critical. Spend some time in the back end of your database looking at the analytics and trends on past campaigns. This will help shape realistic expectations for your campaign and will affect how you approach the other elements of the campaign.

Most advocacy campaigns should be segmented with multiple messages to sub-groups. We are no longer in a period where it is acceptable to blast out massive message after message. Running a successful campaign may involve creating multiple messages, action alerts, and incorporate real time feedback into those campaigns as the legislative or regulatory process moves. Some of your campaigns will not yield the results that you are expecting because there are a number of uncontrollable variables that may impact results and metrics. Your audience may neglect to respond to the first message but sending a slightly altered follow-up message can boost your results. By knowing your audience and being comfortable enough to call an audible when the first attempt does not work is a critical trait of a successful digital advocacy professional.

2. Consider your medium

Do your members and advocates prefer email, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.? Selecting the delivery medium or multiple mediums to contact your advocates is important. You may also want to bolster your numbers and results through paid acquisition. These guaranteed results can compliment an organic campaign and lead to a new pool of recruited advocates for future campaigns. You will need to appropriately tag new acquisitions, so you know what campaign and medium compelled them to act.

The appropriate medium you choose for delivery is also important to the results of your digital advocacy campaign. Are policymakers going to receive the constituent messages through email, phone calls, social media, or video message? If you are looking to drive up numbers, sending email messages is the easiest method and requires the least amount of advocate effort. If you want something more personal, you may want to consider driving phone calls or video testimonials. Many campaigns will use a combination of these mediums and select them based on audience sub-segments.

3. Creativity is key

Advocacy is inherently competitive and adversarial. You are not only competing against interest groups that don’t align with your organization’s position on an issue, but the larger advocacy community for the time and attention of lawmakers. Creativity and the ability to proactively capture the attention of both advocates and lawmakers is paramount to your success. Launching a full-scale digital advocacy campaign will require creative elements and may even require you to coordinate with marketing and communications teams in your organization.

Creativity doesn’t just apply to the subject line of an email, but the essence of a campaign. Leverage interactive content, images, video, infographics, and other elements to distill complex ideas into simple and easy to follow calls to action. No advocate should read a communication from an organization that does not 1) address a problem 2) post an applicable solution 3) provide a pathway for the advocate to address the problem and solution to a policymaker. Creative elements should always help facilitate that three-step process and should not overcomplicate things.

4. Timing is everything

Timing is tied to both your audience and medium. Digital advocacy professionals need to consider the timing of launching a campaign and factor in the time that it takes an advocate to act upon it. You can have your audience dialed in, select the appropriate medium, and have an abundance of creative support pieces ready to go, but if you miss the timing of your campaign, you can derail the whole operation. When sending messages on a topic that has already been addressed hurts the credibility of your organization and overall advocacy efforts, so it is important to scrub your website and communications mediums of old alerts.

5. Who are you targeting with your digital advocacy campaign?

In terms of the basic elements of launching a digital advocacy campaign, targeting is another essential ingredient. You should consider targeting in the pre-planning phase of launching a campaign. It is also fluid and can help drive results for future initiatives. When you are looking at an issue, select policymakers that consider an issue when it is ripe. As a professional, you need to be tuned to the legislative/regulatory process or consult with your lobbying/legal team. You may also want to incorporate custom targets or influencers outside of the lawmaking space. These may include specific commissions, corporate boards, or others that have influence on your issue area. When launching a local or state campaign, this targeting feature is an invaluable tool. If advocates contact the Appropriations Committee and the campaign moves to the full House, you know have a natural advocate base to launch a secondary action.

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