4 Tactics for Influencing Policy on a Crowded Issue


President Trump’s multi-faceted infrastructure plan, released last week, is anticipated to foster a lively debate from members of Congress and their many constituents. From federal funding vs. state and local funding vs. private investment; the proposed gas tax; the Federal permit process; environmental impacts; selling Federal assets to private, state and local entities; and the reduction of funding for certain existing infrastructure programs, there will be many battles before the bill makes it to the President’s desk for signature.

With so many voices in the conversation, many companies and organizations are wondering—how can we make our issue stand out? Here are some of our best bets for breaking through the noise to make your voice heard on this crowded issue.

Stop Buying Lists: Acquire Supporters through More Effective Channels

If you are launching a grassroots coalition or looking to quickly augment your database, buying lists can be an alluring tactic. However, these lists can be expensive and generally garner high bounce rates and limited results. Instead, focus your efforts on activities where you can attract new supporters who are specifically interested in your cause – live events and digital advertising.

Lobby Days, Hill Days, live events, and rallies are great tactics for engaging current advocates as well as acquiring new ones. Promote your event broadly to attract the widest audience possible. Then, at the event, ask the crowd to text a keyword to a shortcode (think “text ‘ACT’ to 52886”) and instantaneously opt them in to your texting program. This way, you can capture new supporters’ contact details and begin to formulate a relationship with them so that when the time comes, you can call them to action.

Another way to gain new supporters is through digital advertising, specifically Facebook Lead Ads. Facebook provides the ability to micro-target people based on a number of factors – gender, age, interests, etc. Develop a precise audience using these targeting tools, and then serve them Lead Ads. Users can click on your ads and fill in their contact information directly within the app, reducing the amount of churn you’d experience if you made them click to a campaign page to enter their details. Take it one step further with Phone2Action’s integration with Lead Ads, which lets your advocates sign up for your organization’s email updates and contact their legislators in one click.

Know Your Allies: Mobilize All Your Constituencies

Don’t be hampered by the size of your advocate database. Take time and think more broadly to other stakeholder groups that you can leverage to drive home your public policy stances.

Running a campaign on behalf of your company? Seek support from fellow employees. They can be your organization’s biggest cheerleaders and have a vested interest in seeing your company succeed on the Hill, as this often equates to positive returns to the bottom line.

Doing policy work for a trade association? Consider not only your member companies as go-to advocates, but also their employees and their networks. Leveraging this extended network is one of the easiest ways to swiftly get an influx of supporters into your campaign.

Already have an engaged network of supporters? Look to your institutional allies. These are organizations, companies and coalitions who share the same political position as your organization’s. Share lists, partner up and build a plan of attack with others who are gearing up for the same fight.

Move Your Digital In-House & Be More Proactive with Your Data

Agencies are a great resource for amplifying your grassroots program. However, outsourcing your digital efforts often forfeits owning your own data, not to mention the steep costs associated with a retainer, and the nickel-and-diming for out-of-scope services.

Most advocacy leaders don’t realize what a sacrifice they are making when handing over the digital reins to an agency. By giving up ownership of advocate data, organizations lose the ability to take their data with them should the relationship with their agency sour. This means they are unable to leverage historical insights on supporters’ activities to iterate and innovate on future campaigns.

In addition to owning your data, by moving your digital shop in-house, you’ll be able to analyze your results in order to garner a better understanding of your support base, and use that insight to be more proactive. Did a large network of your advocates sign a petition? Ask them to email their lawmakers or donate further to your cause. Not seeing ROI on your Facebook ads? Try using LinkedIn or Twitter, and see where your supporters congregate online.

Execute with Precision Targeting

The first steps to launching a successful advocacy campaign are to understand your target audience, craft messaging that will resonate with that audience, and put that message in channels that are sure to reach the individuals you want to reach. Targeting is critical. We don’t need to look any further than the most recent healthcare vote in Congress, where the decision to overturn the repeal of Obamacare came down to just one or two Senators, to understand the importance that targeting plays in advocacy campaign strategy. To convince those key decision makers to vote against the repeal, grassroots organizations expertly crafted and executed their campaigns to micro-target the right people.

So how can you replicate that? Learn from their example. The next time you launch a campaign, ensure you are completely aware of the main decision makers that need to be influenced. This will be helpful in a few ways. On one hand, this information allows you to geo-target any digital advertising to those members’ specific districts. On the other hand, when mobilizing your current supporters to action, instead of connecting them with their own elected officials, send all their communications to the specific lawmakers or members of a certain committee that you have identified.

While emails from out-of-district advocates may be filtered out so that lawmakers can focus exclusively on their own constituents, this gives you the opportunity to utilize social media advocacy as a way to break through the noise. An overwhelming majority of lawmakers have a communications staffer monitoring their mentions on social media, and if an issue begins to inundate their feeds, they certainly take note of it when formulating their decisions.

Famously bipartisan, infrastructure is an issue where Congress can come together and find compromise. So, if your industry has a stake in the proposed plan, there is a lot riding on making your agenda prioritized. Many stakeholders are hoping to get a W from this bill, and you’ll need to overcome the many voices involved to make yours stand out. Leverage the tips above to position yourself to be the most effective in what is sure to be a lengthy and highly watched debate.

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