The world of digital advocacy has exploded in the last few years. Beyond email, there’s text message broadcasting, SMS keywords, live maps, social media, and even specialized Facebook lead generation ads. The number of channels that are used for advocacy today—and the many ways that each channel can be used—can be daunting.
Yet the truth is that, with the right program and platform, the ability to communicate on multiple channels gives advocacy professionals great flexibility in how they go about engaging advocates. Used correctly, these channels often complement and reinforce one another.
The latest Phone2Action webinar addressed that very issue: how to integrate your digital advocacy strategy to get the most out of the available technology and increase the impact of your mission.
“It comes down to the same things it always has,” said Andy Stanley, vice president of product management at Phone2Action. “It comes down to the issue, really good messaging and effective execution. If you identify and empower influential advocates, you can achieve really great things no matter what communication method.”
Top Channels for Mobilization
There are many channels advocacy organizations use to reach their constituencies, from text messaging and email to social posts and social advertising. One key to running a multi-channel program is to understand where each channel fits into your overall strategy.
For example, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) uses text messaging for very specific reasons. Jayni Rasmussen, the association’s advocacy and outreach manager, explains that the organization aims many different offerings at its 60,000 members. A great deal of email goes out.
“That’s the number-one thing that I hear from my advocates when I’m asking them how I can better engage them,” Rasmussen said. “They get so many emails from NRPA that sometimes our messages get lost in the chatter.”
Text messaging allows her department to “cut through some of the noise of our own offerings” and get people focused on policy and advocacy.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) also uses text to stand out, but in a different way.
“We think of them as our most rapid response items and our highest priority items,” said Greg Waples, the association’s senior manager for state engagement and outreach. “We view it as a highly valuable tool so we don’t want to oversaturate our advocates so that they are getting text messages too often. We really try to save it for when our highest priority items come up.”
One example was an effort by the Department of Education last year to allow education funding to be spent on firearms in an effort to combat school shootings. The association opposed the effort and used text messaging to engage its members.
“We were able to activate everybody really quickly, in a matter of a couple of hours,” Waples said. “It allows us to be really flexible and to respond quickly when we need to.”
Top Channels for Constituent Advocacy
While advocacy organizations use many channels to reach their audience, most advocates use only a few when contacting elected officials: email, Twitter and phone calls. But the three are not mutually exclusive.
For example, the NASSP offered advocates all three options in its campaign to persuade Congress to renew federal education funding last year. The organization launched its campaign at its annual conference, where it was able to give its members live demonstrations on how to email, tweet or call elected officials.
The campaign worked and, indeed, it is still running almost a year later. “It’s something that has had longevity for us in terms of being able to continually use it to get our advocates to contact their officials,” Waples said.
Singer Crawford, a client success manager at Phone2Action, said that advocacy organizations should consider carefully what they ask when they give advocates multiple options. “They are more likely to take action on a policy that going to affect them,” she said. She also recommended, “thinking through what the easiest ask is the first time you roll out something like this.”
Waples said that training advocates how to take action—including demonstrations—is a vital part of success. This is especially true when asking advocates to call their elected officials, which is more complicated than writing an email or sending a tweet.
“It can be intimidating for people who haven’t done it before to think about actually calling a congressional office and talking about a policy that they may not consider themselves an expert on,” he said.
At last year’s conference, he got on stage and called a representative live to offer advocates a first-hand demonstration.
“They saw how that call worked,” Waples said. “For people who haven’t made these calls before, I think it helped make it a little less intimidating.”
Download the full webinar: How to Integrate Your Advocacy Program (Email, Social, and Mobile)
Subscribe for Updates
Get the latest civic engagement trends, best practices, and news, right in your inbox.