Messaging Can Drive or Sink a Movement

Messaging Can Drive or Sink a Movement

By Patrick Haines

Patrick Haines was a 2019 Civic Tech Fellow at Phone2Action, working on the Customer Success Team.

How much time does your organization spend crafting your message?

After working for months helping organizations create campaigns on Phone2Action’s Customer Success team, I can say without hesitation that how well you craft a message can determine how many advocates you motivate to action and, consequently, how far your cause can be heard across the wider American electorate. 

In a world where millions of voices are loudly proclaiming their opinions and advocating for causes, only a calculated and powerful messaging campaign can cut through the noise and reach a wide audience. 

Having experience with successful and unsuccessful political movements prior to my fellowship, I have seen first-hand how good messaging can be a driver of political change and, perhaps more importantly, how bad messaging can prevent your movement from getting off the ground. 

My experiences with both sides of the coin have left me with three key lessons about what distinguishes an effective messaging campaign:

  • Message segmentation. Not every person is the same. We’re all motivated to act by something different. A common mistake is sending out one universal message and expecting a wide array of advocates to show up to take action. An effective campaign will have multiple, targeted messages directed at a diverse array of potential supporters
  • Don’t assume. A Trump supporter who gives to the ACLU. A liberal supporting pro-life causes. These are real instances of voters defying stereotypes and being personally motivated to take action on issues that one might assume they would not support. The lesson is to avoid assumptions about a particular group and try to message to many different audiences. While you don’t want to waste resources targeting individuals who are strongly opposed to your work, narrowing your audience too much can also hurt engagement.

  • Channels matter. Not everyone responds to a particular campaign the same way. It’s vital to use many approaches to engagement. Some advocates might be motivated to act based on the one-click convenience of Phone2Action’s Aero template. Some might appreciate the ability to customize and send personal messages through the Convo template. And others might be motivational by videos and personal stories shared through social campaigns. Create a wide net of campaign types to motivate as many people to take action as you can and put them in an embedded Action Center, so advocates can choose the medium that suits them best.  

The bottom line is that campaign messaging is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The effort to find the most effective pitch to the most diverse array of advocates is never ending.  From my vantage point, campaigns can succeed if they find the right ways to motivate ordinary people to take action. And that means trying different approaches.

Messaging done right is the sail that moves the ship forward. Poor messaging, however, can be the hole in the bow that sinks your entire operation. When the choice between proper and improper messaging is the difference between success and failure, having the right tools and skills to craft compelling messages can be a game changer. 

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