Friday, July 08, 2011

Back to Basics: Old-Fashioned, But Very Effective, Approaches to Advocacy

When faced with the daunting task of creating a strong grass roots campaign, I found that many people are unsure of where to start. The task seems more overwhelming when looking at large grassroots campaigns implemented by groups such as the AARP or the Tea Party activists.

Many of my fellow generation y-ers often start with a Facebook page and invite all their friends, who in turn invite all their friends to join the group. I am a strong believer that the social media tools that exist today are game changers in contemporary politics, i.e. Arab Spring Revolutions. Unfortunately, a large Facebook group, frequent tweets, and entertaining YouTube videos aren’t enough to mobilize the effort you need to be successful in your campaign to influence legislators. So in addition to the new technologies that are available, let’s turn to some classic advocacy strategies that we have refined based on our work with our clients.

1. Information Gathering- Perhaps the foundation of any campaign. It’s not enough to get a large quantity or the obvious, but you need to get the RIGHT information. This information should enlighten what the situation is across groups, organizations, and activists involved in the process. Questions may include: frequency of outreach to legislators or public, who has done outreach, what methods have been used in the outreach, and what research has been done (such as looking at FEC reports).

2. Organization- After deciding what information needs to be gathered, the organization of that data is the next step. Being one of the young guns at Advocacy Associates, I prefer to use online contact forms to complete this. Websites such as will allow you to build a form that has the questions needed to capture the information that you will synthesize later either into charts, graphs, or statistics. Remember: “The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.” -Marcus Aurelius

3. Old-Fashioned Phone Calls – Even with all the tools at our disposal to communicate with others, sometimes a phone call is the best way to reach out. I found this to be true working on a political campaign as well as with our clients. First, it’s much more difficult to blow someone off on a phone call vs. an email, Facebook message, or general tweet. Also, believe it or not, people appreciate the gesture of making a personal phone call to reach out. Who doesn’t like to feel special enough for a phone call? A corollary to this, ALWAYS return a phone call and ALWAYS call when you schedule a call. Not doing either will convey a message that you are either lazy or unreliable.

Apply these three strategies in the beginning of your campaign and I promise that you will have the solid foundation needed to have a strong influence over legislation.

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