For the first time in U.S. history, all 50 states are under a major disaster declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move through our sixth week in a work-at-home world, a clearer picture is emerging of how the next few months may look.
With more than 200 million Zoom meetings taking place daily, it’s obvious that Americans are adjusting to a digital, remote way of life. Organizations and professionals in the association arena are adapting too, turning meetings into calls and taking lobbying online.
Advocacy is going completely digital—and engagement is increasing. That’s a strong opportunity for associations to show their value.
Engagement is Up 10X
Data from the Phone2Action platform shows a significant increase in mobilization and advocacy actions triggered by trade association campaigns. In March, this engagement reached its historical peak, growing almost 10-fold over the previous month.
Many associations are seeing their COVID-19 campaigns become the best-performing action alerts in their “call-to-action” history, drawing major attention and feedback from members.
Before the pandemic, people were commuting, shuffling kids and leading a more mobile lifestyle. They did not always have time to write a thoughtful, customized email to lawmakers. Now, they have more time and many are more willing to act during a crisis. Those who are financially impacted may feel an even greater sense of urgency.
For trade associations, now is a very good time to engage members and demonstrate first-hand how you are representing their interests, what you are doing to address the crisis and how they can get involved.
Make Your Issues a Priority
Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has people engaging as never before and many associations are channeling that enthusiasm to weigh in on economic programs, regulatory relief and other policy priorities.
The National Restaurant Association was able to get major wins, including several of their top priorities, because they persuaded members to send more than 100,000 personal emails to lawmakers during consideration of the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Sharing stories from your organization about higher engagement, the number of messages sent to Congress, legislative and regulatory wins and positive responses from your membership are all good content to get people active.
Sometimes, they can be more. Many organizations, particularly those involved in healthcare, have received substantial earned media attention as they advance their issues. The American Nurses Association, for example, has been cited on CNN, NBC, MSNBC and other news outlets.
Build Your Advocacy Database
Many associations are using the current climate to engage advocates with an eye to the future. Engaging members now can grow your list, which will enhance every campaign you conduct moving forward.
The Associated General Contractors of America is a good example. Its Campaign to have construction workers declared essential moved roughly 13,000 members to action, about half of whom are new to their advocacy efforts. That’s a big jump.
If you are not harnessing the energy of your members now, then when? Having a voice as important legislation and regs unfold in the coming months will be critical, and having a strong grassroots presence will give you greater influence.
This is also a good time to rethink how you engage with members. For example, email is always important and perhaps this is a good time to improve your program. Conducting list maintenance, improving deliverability and other best practices can shine up open and click rates.
Many associations are using text messaging to augment their email programs and cut through the noise more easily (text has a 99-percent open rate). Acquiring mobile numbers from your supporters and them people opted in now is a strong way to harness member enthusiasm and build a channel that will work well in years ahead.
Now more than ever, members want to see their associations active. They want to see updates on your COVID-19 response and alerts on your issues. They are signing up for calls-to-action and taking pledges to act in the future. They are open to experiments and new ways of communicating. Seize the opportunity to get as many people engaged as you can, while digital engagement is at its peak, and talk to your members often. It’s what they’re expecting.
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