Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blogs Unite

"What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day?" - Blog Action Day

Good question! What would happen, I wonder, if everyone online focused their attention to a single issue? Would it force those offline to take action?

We'll find out on October 15th when Blog Action Day encourages all bloggers to talk about one thing: the environment. As of today, there are 3,137 blogs participating, with a combined rss reach of 3,051,176.

Blog Action Day is daring to connect the (often) solo blogging world in a shared intention. It's like an open protest, less concerned about the talking points than it is about the participation. And I think this organized conversation is bound to bring up some interesting perspectives. At least, it will gently force people who otherwise wouldn't write about the environment to give it some thought and some space in their blogs, and people who read those blogs to carry on the thought and maybe the conversation in person.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Opening Up Congress

If you haven't checked out the OpenCongress site lately, you really should. At this site, you can access information about all the thousands of bills that have been introduced in Congress. Unlike the simple search engine at Thomas, however (where you can do the same thing), the Open Congress site mashes up information from blogs, FEC reports and news stories to give you a more complete picture about what's going on.

The front page of the site highlights five things OpenCongress can do for you -- and it's pretty impressive. Well, OK, looking up your representatives maybe isn't so revolutionary. But being able to see what bills are "hot" (impeaching Dick Cheney and Children's Health Insurance are at the top of the list -- go figure) as well as subscribe to an RSS feed on your issue area could be of great value to any advocate seeking to stay on top of Congressional activity.

The site is a little heavy on the "let's keep an eye on those terrible people in Congress" message -- I'm not usually a fan of any approach that assumes many members of Congress are keeping terrible secrets (really, it's just a few :)), but the tools they've pulled together for monitoring not just the happenings in Congress but, more important, what other people think of the happenings in Congress is very valuable.

Go ahead, check it out!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why do we advocate?

Advocacy this, advocacy that -- sometimes I get caught up in all the details of HOW to be an effective advocate that I forget WHY we do it in the first place!

Fortunately I was reminded of this while in Minnesota this weekend at a family reunion / wedding. There wasn't any particular reason -- no one needed an "advocacy intervention" of any sort. Being around family (even the, umm, somewhat off-balance members of my own family) reminded me of a number of simple yet meaningful reasons why we advocate.

Why Advocate?

We advocate to protect our health, well-being and livelihood
We advocate to help those less fortunate, whether we know them or not
We advocate for the benefit of those who can't speak up for themselves
We advocate on behalf of loved ones both near and far, living and dead
We advocate to make the world a better place, according to our own definition of a "better place"

Hmm, makes advocacy sound not that terrible, right? And it really isn't. Just remember, every time you speak up for yourself, for others, for the environment, for animals, for business -- for whatever is important to you, you are advocating.

Although some in DC have turned advocacy and its sinisted step-sister "lobbying" into a dirty word, you can choose to use your advocacy power for good. So get out there and advocate!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Helping elected officials understand the area they represent

The Illinois Park and Recreation Association has a new, high tech, and better yet, free way of letting people know a little bit more about their park services. Ostensibly designed for the general public, their mapping approach has tremendous application in the advocacy arena. Why? I'm glad you asked. When dealing with elected officials and their staff, nothing is more powerful than actually showing them the facilities / businesses and people in the district that will be impacted by their policies.

The Illinois Park and Recreation Association and its LocateAPark site achieves this goal through a "mash up" of information about their member parks with Google Maps. And the coolest thing about it is that they just used their database information and two free online geocoding and mapping services, Geocoder and GoogleMaps. Sure, it took some time, but the basic tools are available to everyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Of course, the mapping service is only as good as the data that goes into it -- Google Maps will map whatever address you give it, even if it's wrong. Nevertheless, these tools have tremendous potential for any association or organization that wants to build a geographic representation of their members, products or services.

For more information about this cool site, check out the Associations Now article highlighting the IPRA's work

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blogging Webinar for Advocacy Roundtable Members

What: Blogging for Advocates

Where: Online

When: August 15th at 4:00pm

Why: Many organizations are beginning to use blogs as a means of attracting, and retaining, advocates. These online web logs serve as important conduits for disseminating information -- as well as for facilitating a conversation. If you're interested in the brave new world of blogging, but not sure how to get started, this is the session for you.

How: Register online

Monday, August 13, 2007

Using the Internet to Attract Voters

The data-based marketing company "Blue Lithium" is releasing a new service today called "Voter Network." The company's basic premise is that the techniques they've used to help businesses track down customers by knowing where their target market lurks on the web will also help political candidates get their message out to those audiences most likely to be won over.

The service will allow political campaigns to run ads on sites that are as narrowly targetted as women ages 18 to 34 with incomes over X amount who live in a certain city who are interested in a particular issue. The issue affiliation is of particularly interest to political campaigns as they seek to position themselves as the candidate with answers to 'fill in you policy issue here."

Campaigns will be able to use the service to get feed back on trial messages through instant survey responses, collect donations through links to donation centers and even get people to the polls through old-fashioned GOTV techniques like -- gasp -- the telephone.

Many are hailing this campaign as the year the Internet truly comes into its own as a legitimate and necessary means for candidates to reach voters. With debates on YouTube, early primaries in MySpace and the world of political blogging exploding, it seems to be well on its way.

To read more about the Blue Lithium service, see the Online Media story

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Webinars, webinars everywhere!

I'm offering up one of my "Advocacy Roundtable" webinars tomorrow, Wednesday August 8th at 4:00pm. The session, "Advocacy 101" will provide an overview of the principles of effective advocacy, from the factors that influence elected officials to the power of constituency. We will look at the four components of message development and delivery as well as the top 10 things that elected officials and staff HATE to hear.

If you'd like to join us, go to https://www.gotomeeting.com/register/969332444 and register!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Engaging Advocates (and their cash) at American Cancer Society

Many thanks to my friend Lisa Junker at Associations Now magazine for forwarding me this tid-bit about the American Cancer Society's online Relay for Life campaign. For those who don't know, several years ago ACS started offering a "Virtual Relay for Life" in Second Life as part of its efforts to raise funds for cancer research. The traditional relay for life campaign involves real people together coming together in real communities all across the nation and raises millions of the organization.

The online version is similar -- except that it's pixels coming together on computers across the nation. I first wrote about this in an Association's Now article titled "Breaking the Rules of Engagement." Well, ACS clearly continues to be an inspiring example of how to use the web effectively for fundraising and member involvement -- this recent article notes that during its recent Second Life effort, the organizaton raise $115,000, far exceeding its goal of $75,000.

Can anyone out there use $115,000? I thought so -- maybe something like this will work for you!