Nurses were the first line of defense in America’s response to the pandemic. They cared for the sickest COVID patients as emergency rooms filled, often without proper gear. When nurses from New York to San Francisco began wearing trash bags to protect themselves, it made headlines nationwide.
So it was no surprise that the American Nurses Association, a voice for the profession for more than 100 years, immediately began pressing Congress to protect the country’s 4 million registered nurses. What was surprising is how effectively the organization could elevate its voice.
The American Nurses Association didn’t just have right on their side, they also had the right tools. Using text messaging to activate their members, one campaign urged them to “tell Congress to focus on public health.” The conversion rate was 29 percent.
Stop and think about that: almost one third of those who received the alert took action.
At a time when conversion for the average advocacy email is in the low single digits, the power of text is clear. The organization mobilized more than 137,000 people in the first half of 2020 and gained more than 100,000 new advocates. Text helped drive those numbers.
“It was literally a matter of life and death,” said Erik Koeppen, assistant director of policy and government affairs. “Ensuring nurses and other health care providers had adequate personal protective equipment was essential to keeping them safe as they dealt with victims of the pandemic. Providing an avenue for nurses and the broader nurse advocate community to communicate with Congress was essential. Time was of the essence.”
Under those conditions, text messaging was the right tool. The truth is that it often is. While the average advocacy email has an open rate in the teens, the open rate for text messaging is 99 percent. Sending a message to your most loyal supporters—a message that reaches them right in their pocket—is a powerful capability.
During the height of the advocacy boom caused by the pandemic, when 52,000 people were taking action on the Phone2Action platform every day, text continued to cut through the noise. Conversion rates almost tripled, growing from an average of 6 percent to an average of 16 percent, according to Phone2Action’s State of Advocacy data.
Even without the boom, the metrics for text regularly beat those for email. Text programs often have a conversion rate (defined as the percentage who take action on an advocacy request) that is two or three times higher than email. Double-digit conversion rates are routine.
While few organizations are ready to abandon email, text is taking its place as an potent augmentation as organizations modernize. Care must be taken to allow people to opt into a list—this is mandatory, not optional—because texting is federally regulated. But even a small list can produce big results.
“When we see organizations have policy victories, text is often part of the mix,” said Will Lopez, vice president for customer success at Phone2Action. “It is a major driver behind a lot of success stories.”
Text is not just a solid way to energize existing supporters. It can also help recruit new supporters.
Combining text messaging with keywords and shortcodes, such as “Text SOA2020 to 52886” (the combination used to promote Phone2Action’s State of Advocacy 2020 report) allows an organization to reach beyond its list. Some organizations have used this tactic at walk-a-thons, fundraisers and other events to mobilize people and acquire new advocates. But the real impact is seen when it is combined with social media.
Social media allows advocates to share your campaigns and tap new pockets of support using only their phone and a short, memorable call to action. How does that work? The American Nurses Association provides a good example. When the association asked a member to contact Congress and support protective equipment for nurses, that member would often share the advocacy request with their network. The people in that network—parents, siblings, friends and colleagues—want nurses to have protection and so they reached out to Congress, too. When this happens, the advocacy campaign grows—and so does the association’s list.
During the pandemic advocacy boom in 2020, acquisition among associations using this approach grew by an average of 533 percent. The average number of new supporters per campaign grew from 40 to 260.
“Texting with keywords and shortcodes enables incredible expansion,” Lopez said. “For organizations looking to increase their reach, this is a great way to do it.”
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