Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

Critical Do's and Dont's of Advocacy Action Alerts

Posted by Brent Willis on 11/16/15 3:45 PM

Find me on:

 So, you want to get your members engaged in advocacy, do you?  Well, there are some tricks of the trade you need to be aware of so your efforts don’t go in vain.

Being in the advocacy software business, we have customers, often donor / member-based organizations, who use our software to engage their members in grassroots advocacy—meaning, they want them to take some sort of action to help further a common cause. We have daily conversations about ‘best practices’ with the staff and leadership of these groups and the long and short of the story is: some get it and some don’t.

For those who have ears to hear, here are some Do's that will better ensure your advocacy success.

The bottom line: It all starts with a quality Action Alert.

Do's – Action Alerts MUST BE:

  1. Well written with a highly intriguing and compelling headline.

Why do you think the newspapers write so many bold, salacious headlines? Attention getters, right? Whether they’re accurate or not, they get the attention of many who are looking. We’re not advocating inaccurate or untruthful headline writing but we are telling you that if you have a boring headline, you’re as good as sunk. Your reader is likely time challenged and will likely go no further. Think about it, don’t you scan headlines? How about email subjects in your Inbox as the benchmark to opening them? Many do. Well, so do your members. Their time is valuable and they, like you, likely don’t have much of it to spare. Make that space count and you’ll be happy with your engagement rate numbers. Concentrate on what something will do TO THEM or FOR THEM and you're headed in the right direction.

  1. Accurate, Brief and Clear. (…harkens back to your English class, doesn’t it?)

Besides an eye-catching headline that evokes some kind of emotion, you must write a short, targeted message that tells the story, NOT the whole story, but enough of the story so your member will say, “I get it.  I get what’s going on here and I need to take this action.”

  1. Clear Calls To Action.

What action do you want your member to take? State clearly with the use of text or a graphic button that leads to some sort of action they can take. This action has to be simple, clear and targeted. If there are multiple ‘clicks’ before a member can take action, you’re losing them fast. 1-click advocacy is the standard. If you already have a software system, look and see how many clicks it takes for you to actually take action you’re asking your member to take. If they have to take multiple steps, your better look at another software.

Here are some DON’TS:

  1. It’s not about you and your expert knowledge.

We speak with many staffers of trade and professional associations, chambers of commerce and issue advocacy group each day about how to structure and execute successful advocacy campaigns. This rule is #1 for a reason. Your member understands clearly that you know the subject matter better than anyone else (they’re counting on it), however, some folks (not all) get hung up on writing ‘War and Peace’ and explaining things is excruciating detail. NO ONE has time for that in our fast paced society. (If you want to write that, fine but link to it.) For the purpose of getting them to take action, write a quick synopsis for your reader so they understand the issue and take the action. Use bullet points to explain main themes and broad points instead of wordy text and you'll get a better response.

  1.  Don’t use industry jargon and language.

 Don’t use complex sentence structures.   Write it as if you’re educating a new person on the issue.      If they’re reading your message and clicking through to be an advocate, they already want to take action—so let them without erecting any more barriers.

The last thing I will mention, and it's critical, is this:

Close the Loop. Communication is key.

If your members have taken action, you should do the following:

  • For starters, thank them. Write a personal thank you. Email is fine but make it personal.
  • Circle back after the campaign has concluded and let them know the results.
  • If your members are going to take the time to act, they will want to know that their actions weren’t in vain, so tell them. Relay the numbers; how many specific actions were taken, who received the messages, what was the elected official’s response to the messaging, etc...
  • If you were successful, tell them and tell them why so they will feel more apart of the team. If unsuccessful, tell them why and how you all must work together next time in order to improve your chances of success.

If you follow these simple rules, you will see your engagement rates go up and your success rate in the public policy arena follow suit.

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: Member Engagement