Wednesday, July 09, 2008

It's what you say...

... not how you say it. Recent reports from the Congressional Management Foundation, Public Affairs Council (Grassroots Benchmarking Report) and others have many in the Association community a little "freaked-out" about the effectiveness of their grassroots advocacy communications with elected officials.

Why? Many groups spent thousands of dollars on advocacy tools designed specifically to send hundreds of form e-mails to an elected official's e-mail in-box. Turns out, these form communications are not really all that influential. These recent reports (and years of anecdotal evidence) suggest that personalized communications are the way to capture the hearts and minds of any legislative audience.

I hate to say "I told you so", but if you've attended any one of my advocacy training sessions or read anything on my site, including:

I, well, told you so!

The important point here is that this isn't to say that e-mail in and of itself is ineffective. It can be a terrific means of getting a message across -- but only so long as the content is personal, relevant and timely. Moreover, even form communications can have their place as a means of learning more about the advocate network. People who are willing to send a form e-mail are great targets for personalized follow-up communications.

Association and grassroots leaders should be looking at what seems like "dire news" about their past efforts in this context, and I have three suggestions for anyone seeking to be more effective in this brave new world:

  • Use what we've learned about form communications to inform future efforts. Consider ways to offer all advocates the opportunity to be involved at whatever level they deem appropriate
  • Identify and motivate advocates who have been willing to send form communications in the past. Train them in more personalized (and more powerful) advocacy techniques
  • Establish metrics (and expectations) that focus less on the quantity of communications and more on the quality

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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