The advent of Coronavirus is changing how business gets done in Washington. Fly-ins are postponed. Meetings are cancelled. People are working from home.
In the weeks ahead, digital advocacy will be increasingly vital.
That’s why Phone2Action is sharing its technology with the public for a first-of-its-kind effort to promote the nationwide discussion over the response to COVID-19. The #HearUsOut initiative enables anyone who lives or votes in the United States to easily contact elected officials to ask questions, offer help or describe the situation in their community.
“We are stronger as a country if we work together to get through this crisis and help people in need,” said Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and chief operating officer of Phone2Action. “We hope people will use our tools to share concerns, needs and ideas directly with their lawmakers. Members of Congress are back in their districts. We want to help them communicate with constituents in need, such as seniors, people at risk and those with economic concerns.”
‘Ramping Up Digital Communications’
Indeed, many organizations will continue to advocate even as the response to the virus limits public events and face-to-face meetings.
While the virus understandably dominates the news, the issues that are important to your organization will endure. Conversations will take place on immigration, trade, taxes and other topics in the weeks ahead. The arrival of a public health crisis will introduce new issues, and the 2020 election will certainly be affected in one way or another.
Savvy organizations will remain involved, using text messaging, email, virtual events and other digital tools to carry their message.
“This is a tough time for everyone, but taking proper safety precautions does not mean halting your advocacy program,” said Will Lopez, VP of Customer Success at Phone2Action. “Many organizations we work with are ramping up digital communications to compensate. We think it is not only smart, but necessary for the sustainability of any program.”
While facetime is always important, especially in a program designed to foster relationships, there are many ways companies, nonprofits and associations can engage in the weeks ahead.
Organizations can increase communications with their own audience and, though government employees will work from home and lawmakers will operate from their districts, the government will be open and operating.
For many organizations, that means they too will be up and running. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue said earlier this month, “We’re going to run business as usual with a little higher heartbeat and get it done.”
How do you adjust? There are several ideas that can help your team continue its work. While the response will be different in every organization, here are some tactics worth evaluating.
- Head-On Approach. No matter what the issue, campaigns to your audience can reference the Coronavirus situation directly, and explain both what you are doing to adjust and what they can do to advance your issues. A direct approach is often well received.
- Webinars and Virtual Events. Just because you cannot meet face-to-face does not mean you cannot meet at all. This may be a good time to employ webinars and other virtual meeting tools that allow people to connect in personal ways without being in the same room.
- Education. Organizations that have cancelled fly-ins and other events are faced with a special challenge: a group of energized supporters who are all charged up with nowhere to go. One strategy is to give them a program that replaces their meetings with education. Perhaps all that enthusiasm can be channeled into learning more about your organization, it’s policy positions and how the system works in Washington.
Phone2Action itself is adjusting. Our staff began working remotely March 13, but we will maintain our trademark round-the-clock support for clients who need help with text, email and social media campaigns; civic engagement and election efforts; and any other aspect of digital advocacy.
Events are uncertain right now, and health and safety are the most important priorities. But every organization still has a mission to carry out, and we will always be there to support that mission.
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