Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

Advocacy is about Action, which means it's really about Marketing!

Posted by Brent Willis on 12/7/15 12:40 PM

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How can your members know your organization is involved in advocacy and what advocacy actions to take unless you tell them?  The answer is, they can't.  That's why an advocacy marketing plan is critical to your grassroots advocacy efforts BEFORE you launch your advocacy campaigns.


We speak with government relations staff and grassroots advocacy coordinators daily and, without fail, the one thing they ask is, "How can we get our members more engaged in advocacy?" The  conversations usually go something like this:

Advocacy Staff:  "How can we better engage our member's in grassroots advocacy?"

Answer:  "It all starts with Marketing". Let's take a look at your marketing plan...

Advocacy Staff:  "Huh?  Marketing? No, no, I'm talking about public policy advocacy and taking action on the organization's behalf so we can address pending legislation."

Answer: "Yes, we understand the result you're looking for but how can you hope to achieve high advocacy participation rates if your members don't really know what you want them to do and they have no simple way to do it?"

Advocacy Staff:  "HMMM.  Marketing, you say?  We're government relations folks, not marketing people.  So, how do we market to them? How can we construct a marketing plan?"

Answer: " Well, it starts with telling your members that you are putting in place online tools for their benefit and explaining what actions they will be able to take, how simple it will be for them and that you all need to work together to make real change happen., i.e..., marketing."

A legitimate plan looks like this:

  1. Purchase your advocacy software and position this as a member benefit.
  2. Construct an advocacy marketing plan to make your members aware of your needs and the actions you want them to take. This plan should cover:
  • The decision you made to purchase online software as a member benefit and why.  Basically, because you value their opinion and you need their voice to represent a 'show of force'.
  • The new advocacy actions they will now be able to take; include screen shots so they can see what's coming their way when you finally launch the system.  As the saying goes... a picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Consistency is critical in your marketing plan. If you're using email, be consistent with your advocacy messages, the timing of the message to them and tell them what's coming next in the series of emails so they can be on the look out for it.  Prepare them.
  • Segment your member lists so you know who you're going to target with your advocacy marketing, when they go out and what message each should receive etc...

If you've executed your advocacy marketing plan correctly, you should have a number of advocates waiting to sign up and/or participate on your behalf.

         3.   Once you launch the advocacy platform, you're ready for your first Action Alerts.  These will educate and drive folks to action. (Remember, the 3 C's of writing: Clear, Concise and Compelling)  Your members need to clearly understand the issue and, without a doubt, what you're asking them to do. 

         Marketing consistency, with highly relevant content, is a critical factor. Remember, they're business people, too. Let them know you are on the public policy case, that you need their help to assert your organizatoon's position, and that they MUST join the advocacy effort as their voice does count.

        Lastly, if your advocacy effort is for the public and not a private, members only effort, make sure your website includes all active Action Alerts. Making your website interactive so your members can easily take action with 1 click of a mouse is critical to higher engagement rates. Remember, to be effective in advocacy someone MUST BE TAKING ACTION.  Information on your website is a good start, but advocacy is centered around action.

        Have one specific and easily identifiable area on your website for ACTION. Most of the groups we come in contact with, who are seeing poor participation rates in their advocacy campaigns, mistake activity for productivity. There is a HUGE difference. One is well meaning and the other gets RESULTS, and that's the name of the game, right?

Don't confuse infomational posts on the website (activity) with thinking you're giving something of value with which your members can use to take ACTION (productivity). The information (activity) may be valuable but if the organization can't track, measure and report on success (productivity), how does the organization know it's doing any good for the cause, much less its members who are paying dues with an expectation that the organization is advocating on their behalf? 

Short Answer: They don't. They can't, without a plan.

If you'd like to start an advocacy effort or just to tighten up your advocacy game, give us a call.  Here's to your success.

Brent Willis

Written by Brent Willis

People want to be heard other then just voting every 2,4, or 6 years. Groups that engage them and measure it are positioned to win the public policy battles of the future. My vision and mission is to revive the civic engagement of the American citizen in government relations; at the federal, state, and local level.

Topics: membership marketing