Steven Cruz, Strategic Partner at RedEdge, works with organizations and political campaigns to develop strategies for issue advocacy and communications. We recently spoke with Steven about the digital tools he uses in his work, trends he sees in advocacy campaigns today, and the future of grassroots advocacy.
Tell us about your professional background and how you got into advocacy.
I started my career with The LIBRE Initiative, which is the nation’s largest conservative Hispanic advocacy group. During my tenure at the Koch Network I had the opportunity to work on outreach to millennials, business leaders, and veterans through our organizations Generation Opportunity, Freedom Partners, and Concerned Veterans for America.
What are you doing in your current role?
My current role with Red Edge is to expand the firm’s industry-leading creative, advertising, and development services to premiere national and international clientele in politics, advocacy, issue education, and corporate communications.
What role do digital tools play in your work? How do you integrate digital tools into advocacy programs that are largely not digital?
Technology is at the core of what we do at Red Edge, and in our space, innovation means turning big ideas into actionable steps that lead to policy change. Our team has generated first-of-their-kind apps for Facebook, Google Glass, web, and iPhone/Android. We’ve used platforms like Phone2Action to create an integrated advocacy experience that allows our clients to rally support from their constituents and translate that into targeted policy initiatives.
When I ran the digital operations for The LIBRE Initiative, we partnered with both Red Edge and Phone2Action to create our integrated action center, which allowed us to convert the power of their supporters into action at the legislative and agency level not only in Washington but across state and local governments. One of the first big campaigns that we ran together was in support of school choice legislation in Florida and we used Phone2Action because their streamlined user experience and Red Edge’s customization work enabled us to deliver pointed and relevant messages to our champions, collecting thousands of petitions across the state and ultimately resulted in success at the state capitol.
How do you keep up with trends in government relations and advocacy?
One of the best parts of living in D.C. is that there’s always someone trying to change how the game is played and no lack of opportunity to talk about those innovations. So whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook groups or IRL meet-ups, I’m keeping my finger on the pulse of the industry by interacting with others.
What’s one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in your grassroots advocacy work?
Endurance is the name of the game. By that I mean that you have to be willing to put in the work to reach people and tell them why their engagement is so important. The beauty of technology in the public interest space is that it helps to serve as a resource multiplier and that’s why we keep pushing forward and innovating at Red Edge.
What’s one thing you see is lacking from many advocacy campaigns?
Honestly, a real integrated approach. Advocacy has to recognize that digital no longer needs a seat at the table, it is the table. So if you start with that mentality, you’ll quickly adjust your social media content and advertising to drive to your website, which would feed your email list and generate genuine growth. When we start thinking of digital as what it is, an extension of our target audiences reality, practitioners will start to “warm-up” an area with light advertising before door-knocking gets underway and they’ll use data collected online to develop walkbooks and mobile-phone based polling to cut down on costs and increase their sample size.
What trends to expect to emerge in grassroots advocacy in the next 1 – 2 years?
I think text messaging is going to facilitate the peer-to-peer connection and be a big boon for advocacy. People are bombarded with a lot of information and every cause is clamoring for attention. We’ll have the most success at breaking through the noise by aligning digital advocacy with its grassroots origins and making it about the connecting between individuals.
About GrassScoops: An Interview Series. We chat with grassroots advocacy changemakers from leading associations, nonprofits, and corporations each month. We highlight the challenges they encountered, lessons learned, and best practices they recommend, so that others may learn from their experiences.
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