When people think of corporate advocacy, many imagine it’s all about powerful lobbyists in Washington courting lawmakers and other beltway insiders in backroom deals. Grassroots advocacy, or mobilizing a large group of regular people to voice their opinion on an issue, isn’t associated with corporations. That’s just for nonprofits and special interest groups, right?
While it’s true that grassroots advocacy isn’t part of the traditional corporate advocacy playbook, some forward-thinking, mission-driven companies are breaking the mold and beginning to use grassroots advocacy to not only connect with their customers by doing good in the world, but also to support their business.
So why aren’t more companies using grassroots advocacy to their advantage? In many cases, it’s because they’re working with long-held misconceptions. Here we’ll clear up three of those misconceptions to show you the power of this new kind of corporate advocacy.
Let’s start with the biggest one.
1. Grassroots advocacy is only for non-profits
Nonprofit organizations often focus on a particular cause, so it makes sense that they engage in a lot of advocacy. But not all mission-driven companies are nonprofits—many for-profit organizations have engaged in grassroots advocacy as well.
For-profit companies might use advocacy to support causes they care about purely for social good. But mobilizing their customers around a cause can also serve business initiatives. Many companies have marshaled their customers to advocate for legislative change, build community, and create strong ties with their brand.
Of course, many for-profit companies also encourage their users to advocate for causes that aren’t connected to their business model. But even then, they solidify their brand image with customers who now associate the company name with causes they care about. Patagonia serves as a great example—they’re known for global environmental advocacy, and their customers love them for it.
2. Corporate advocacy is only about CSR
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has recently become a ubiquitous phrase. Companies of all types are taking responsibility for their actions and trying to minimize the negative effects they have on the environment and the people who make and use their products.
CSR is often about the greater good. And advocacy plays a big role in that. Influencing legislation, educating the public, and gathering people to take action on important causes has undoubtedly made the world a better place.
But properly executed corporate advocacy can also drive business initiatives. LimeBike, for example, put corporate advocacy to use to expand its offerings to new locations. If local councils aren’t receptive to the idea of dockless bike sharing, fans of the brand are mobilized to change their minds.
Sounds great . . . but doesn’t that require a huge amount of work?
3. Corporate advocacy is time-consuming and difficult to do
It can be hard to get customers to take an online survey. Isn’t it going to be even harder to convince them to take a stand on a public policy issue?
With the right issue that matters to your customers and the right digital tools, it doesn’t have to be hard. You’ll still have to spend the time to craft a compelling message, but when it’s ready, you can send it out immediately and seamlessly with email, text messaging, and social media.
Digital communication tools mean your message gets to your users almost instantly, and with the right call to action, they can take action in minutes. In one instructive example, a short-term rental company messaged users, telling them to get in touch with their city council members to express their opposition to a new law that would ban short-term rentals. The company had one day to generate momentum.
And it worked. The city council postponed the vote. Years ago, this company would have had no chance of marshaling customers so quickly. But with modern tools, they were able to delay a vote that would have hurt their business. With a single, central advocacy platform, companies can contact their user base quickly and more effectively than ever. We’ve worked with companies around the United States to help them do exactly that.
Want to learn more?
If your company is interested in getting involved in a social cause or shaping the laws and regulations that affect your ability to do business, we have examples of companies doing both efficiently and effectively using digital grassroots advocacy tools.
Download the whitepaper with five mini-case studies: 5 Ways Mission-Driven Companies Use Advocacy to Effect Change
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