Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

Why is advocacy so important for businesses?

Posted by Brent Willis on 6/16/15 8:30 AM

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Many businesses face operational challenges due to legislation and regualtion on the local, state and national levels.   These are policies that affect their buisness operations, for sure BUT, the can also affect their employees and their families, the heart of their businesses.  At some level, we all know legislative issues are important to businesses who are looking to grow.... and what business isn’t?

But it is typically not until a regulation, law, or ordinance impedes that growth that most business owners start to see the need for grassroots advocacy and its importance to their bottom line.

Votility_helsp_nonprofits_growSimply put, Advocacy is important to your business.  Each day local and state policies are being decided.  Most businesses do not have the time or resources to advocate for themselves.  Does your business?  Many times, they hire lobbyists and pay tens of thousands to affect policy issues.  An important tool, yes but its not the only tool.  Your best, and most cost effective, tool to affect policy is your emplyees / stakeholders IF you see the importance of activating them, and then, know HOW to activate them to achieve the goal. 

How your business can get involved in advocacy.

1- Do it yourself. For example, a helicopter tour business may face legislation that affects fly zones, restriction of air space and noise violations.  In New York City, Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC), a local helicopter advocacy group, developed a plan along with the tour operators to address the issues.  In 2010, an agreement was made to alter routes, and fly times of the tour.  In the summer of 2014, Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) called for a legislative ban on tourist helicopter operations.  Helicopter operators, led by ERHC in a collaborative effort, addressed the community concerns.  They were able to report that the helicopter industry contributed more than $33 million in revenue to the economy and provided hundreds of jobs.   ERHC continues to advocate for the helicopter operators to find a solution.   The probem:  Most businesses do not have the time, nor the staff that can take on their advocacy campaigns.  Its not their core business and so, here are inefficiencies.  It is not easy for them to align operations and technology with creating a way to drive member/customer engagement with the issues that are affecting or could affect business.

2 - Hire a lobbyist or consultant. With the growing micro brew industry, many new brewers face many obstacles with local and state legislation.  Many state and local legislations prevent, prohibit and restrict certain,and impact how brewers can distribute, sell, whether they can hold tastings etc.  There are many associations that brewers can access.  One that is a central hub for advocacy is the Brewers Association.  They have a site where they are educating members on their local legislations, they have created a legislative action center for people who want to have a voice for craft beer.   The challenge with hiring someone outside your business is the cost.  Also, without a way to measure results you do not know if you are engaging your customers or members effectively.  There is little way to know if you are making an impact towards your advocacy campaigns or if your members can easily gain knowledge and engage with and for you.

3 - Join their chamber of commerce or trade association. Many chambers are an active voice of their members.  Involved chambers care about the direction of your local community, which includes helping businesses succeed.  Your chamber represents the interests of all businesses in your area, they provided a voice for local policy changes that can / will affect businesses.  They identify and review local, state and federal policy and advocate for your community and businesses' best interests.

The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) is the oldest, largest and most active non-profit association representing and assisting premium retail tobacconists and their suppliers.  Their members are retailer shop owners who sell premium tobacco porducts.  A local Washington, D.C. bill was proposing an 80% tax on premium cigars that threatened local tobacco shops. Can you imagine an 80% increase on your primary product?  What would that do to your company's sales?

IPCPR needed a way to ensure their advocacy efforts were timely, relevant and actionable so that members, and their customers, could easily become advocates.  You noticed I said, "and their cusomters", right?  Their grassroots advocacy strategy, the first of its kind in the country that we know of, was to have their members' customers engage their legislators to help defeat this proposed tax increase.  The Votility grassroots software helped them create a sophisticated and very unique, but simple to use, Point Of Sale advocacy system that produced real results.

In 30 seconds and 3 clicks, they, their members and their members' customers, helped defeat that tax.

Would you like the same results?  

Download the case study to learn more about the IPCPR strategy and discover how you can use these same strategies and tactcs for your business.  

Click for your free case study



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.