At the heart of every advocacy organization is one very important skill: the ability to get your messaging to the right audience at the right time and in the right format—and to have confidence that they will respond.
It’s easy to describe and difficult to perform. Most organizations do it every week, if not more frequently, with varying degrees of skill. But next year’s election will test those capabilities like few other events.
With thousands of candidates spending billions of dollars at the federal, state and local level—and advocacy groups adding their voices—the competition for voter attention will be intense. The organizations that prevail will be the ones that have the right processes and systems in place to communicate effectively before the primaries heat up in early February. Being ready in December is a solid goal.
To help you prepare, Phone2Action has created a free 12-page guide called How to Sharpen Your Advocacy in an Election Year. Written by experts with decades of experience, the guide covers the items to consider as your organization plans to get active in a very important, very noisy election year.
Assess Your Communications Capabilities
One great place to start is to take a long, hard look at how your communications are performing now and identify areas for improvement.
Begin by looking at engagement. How does your audience respond to your communications? Do they share your stuff? Do they comment? Most importantly, do they do the things you ask them to do? An effective advocacy shop can get large numbers of people to sign a petition, answer a survey, tweet their lawmaker and perform other vital tasks. All of these are good indicators. If your audience is responding to your communiques now, they are likely to do so during the election.
Here are some other areas that deserve a skeptical eye in the name of improvement:
- Email Lists. Email is the workhorse tool powering most advocacy shops, and it has to be healthy. Yet list maintenance is something many organizations ignore. How is your list performing? Do you have solid open and click-through rates? Are bounce and unsubscribe rates low? Is your list growing? If not, there’s work ahead. An old and tired list can be purged and revitalized. A small organic list can be augmented.
- Texting. Are you deploying text messaging? Short code texting (e.g. text INFO to 52886) is growing in popularity, and has the added benefit of allowing for widespread broadcast. Peer-to-peer texting is popular, but likely to face regulatory hurdles that will reduce its efficacy in the near future.
- Messaging. Is the messaging that you send vital and fresh, or is it uninspiring material written by committee? Is it crafted with care, or is it an afterthought that happens at the last minute? Writing matters in a world where your audience wakes up each day to an overfull inbox. If your current staff cannot produce solid material for lack of time or ability, take steps to hire a solid writer, either in-house or on contract.
- Social Channels. Are your channels vital, growing regularly and filled with back-and-forth communications? Or are they a one-way broadcast run by an intern. Like email, these channels should be healthy. If they are not, this is a good time to take a more sophisticated approach to social media, perhaps even hiring an expert to ensure you are making good use of these hard-working, low-cost channels.
Level Up Your Technology
This is also a good time to pay attention to systems. If your organization is getting by on free tools, consider some changes before the primary season heats up.
- Professional Advocacy Software. Advocacy automation software is a great first step for organizations functioning without it. Professional software is designed to easily produce professional communications across channels—email, text social and more—that are optimized to maximize engagement. It also simplifies program management, tracking the right metrics across a broad range of activity. It’s the right tool for serious advocacy programs, and a must-have for election-year advocacy.
- Advocate Acquisition. Programs to grow audience organically have their place, but there are also more advanced tools. Facebook Lead Ads are a good example. Harnessing the platform’s powerful targeting capabilities, the ads ask people to take action and collect information from Facebook’s user profile at the same time, all without requiring the person to leave Facebook or fill out a form.
- Stakeholder Management. Everyone on your list is important, but not all have equal value to your organization. Some may be more active and enthusiastic. Some may have better connections. A stakeholder management system allows your organization to collect detailed information on individuals in your audience, identify those who can help most and practice sophisticated segmentation that drives up efficacy. It’s a powerful tool in an election year.
- Artificial Intelligence. The best way to build audience is to interact directly with new people as they discover your organization. But that can be labor intensive and tough on staff. AI “chatbots” are now advanced enough to hold written conversations with your audience at any time of day, answering questions or directing them to information about your organization and issues. It’s like having an “always on” staffer.
To learn more about how to evaluate your program and get ready for the election, download How to Sharpen Your Advocacy in an Election Year. To learn more about how technology can help you cut through the noise, engage your advocates and move them to action, book a consultation with a Phone2Action. It’s free of charge—an it could help change your game.
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