Much will be decided as America goes to the polls to elect several thousand state lawmakers, 435 representatives, 34 senators, 11 governors and a president next year.
Strategic direction will be set on gun control, immigration, healthcare, education, environmental policy and many other issues. For associations, nonprofits and companies, it’s an important time to speak out—and that means you need a communications plan.
In many organizations, the communications plan is the centerpiece of election-year strategy, the document that answers the simple yet vital question: what will we actually do? The answers will vary by organization, but they will guide a great deal of your team’s actions in the coming months. That means the plan is worth some thought.
To help that process, Phone2Action is offering a free 12-page guide called How to Sharpen Your Advocacy in an Election Year. The guide covers how to assess your current capabilities, set election-year goals, and create a plan to protect and advance your interests as candidates move to full volume in the months ahead.
A Successful Communications Plan
The communications plan for next year’s election will look different at every organization, because issues, priorities and resources vary. But there are some common elements. Here are some important items to consider with your team as you build your plan:
- Education. How will your organization educate your audience? Regular communications on the election are a good idea, but how that looks will differ according to the needs and capabilities of your organization and the appetite of your audience. It may be a weekly email update or a regular monthly newsletter. It may be a slide deck or a video. Whatever you decide, be consistent. The idea is to become a trusted and reliable resource.
- Response. Candidates are going to be addressing your issues. Will you respond? If so, under what conditions will you respond and how will you do so? Take the time to set some policy parameters so that your team knows what warrants a response and what can be ignored. Be judicious. You want your communiques to have impact.
- Readiness. Many election-year events can be anticipated right now. The democratic debates, the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, the State of the Union address and the two party conventions are just a few. Create a calendar and start planning now for how your organization will communicate around events that are known months in advance.
Of course, the election will produce surprises. They almost always do. But understanding in advance how you will educate your audience, how you will respond on your specific issues and how you will treat major events can dramatically reduce the number of adrenaline moments.
The Importance of Voice
Here’s another important item worthy of discussion in an election-year communications plan, and it is something that few organizations consider carefully: who is your messenger and what is their voice?
It’s an important question. Is your organization best served by communicating directly from the brand or should it have a face, such as an employee, a subject-matter expert or even the CEO? The answer can have a major impact on how you relate to your audience and how they respond.
The question is so important that sophisticated organizations often test it, using polling, survey questions and interviews to learn who their audience wants to hear from and what the best way is to communicate with them. With months to go before the primary season, this is a good time to undertake such an exercise.
When considering this question, be sure to do so through the prism of the election. This is not a traditional marketing or branding exercise. The face of your organization must be able to convey information credibly about issues and electoral politics. It’s not a job for the mascot.
Of course, there is much more that goes into an election-year communications plan, from earned media efforts to the role of live events. To learn more about how to create a complete election-year plan, download How to Sharpen Your Advocacy in an Election Year and begin talking with your team.
And remember this: no communications plan is perfect and none survives its first encounter with the real world. Your plan is going to change, and that’s just fine. What’s important is that your team be as ready as they can be. As coaches tell their athletes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
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