For many years, digital grassroots advocacy was heavy on form letters. Flooding congressional offices or regulatory agencies with cookie-cutter communiques was how business got done. And it worked. For a while.
Today, as advocacy professionals know, performance is hard won. The landscape is noisy. People are busy. Email is tired. In that environment, large numbers of impersonal letters are increasingly seen as a blunt tool. There’s a much better strategy.
Personalizing your messaging can move the needle. It works when communicating with advocates. It works when communicating with public officials. It works when raising money. Personalization improves response because it adds a compelling element to your argument: authenticity.
“In the past, as many organizations did, we would send large-volume, templated email messages,” said Christopher Masak, senior associate director for advocacy at the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement. “Those templated messages really weren’t conveying the voices of our advocates.”
To learn more about how organizations are personalizing their stories and seeing results, contact our team now.
Personalization is Growing
Authentic, personal stories connect with people. They inspire, outrage and motivate. They generate the type of emotional response that moves people to action, whether the people are your advocates or a group of senators.
Indeed, real constituent stories are appreciated in Congress. Managing constituent communications is a major task in every congressional office, part of the responsibility of representation. In some cases, congressional staff are gauging constituent sentiment on an issue. In others, they are looking for material to support the boss’s position. In all cases, real stories are the ones that tend to get lifted from the inbox and given attention.
At Phone2Action, which powers advocacy at hundreds of organizations, we’ve seen personalization increase dramatically in the last year. Personalized messages on the platform grew by 60 percent, from 11 percent in 2018 to 17 percent in 2018. And that growth is expected to continue.
“We created letter-writing tools to help people share their own, personal stories years ago because we knew that the volume of personal messages would continue to increase,” said Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2Action. “Now, that trend is really growing, and the reason is simple: personalization works. It’s a much better way to communicate a story. I’m certain we’ll see these percentages grow every year.”
‘A Tremendous Opportunity’
Of course, the trend makes immediate sense when viewed through our own experiences. How often do you act on a form letter? Would you respond differently if you received a bunch of them? Most of us are far more likely to engage after hearing a relatable tale.
The trend is also seen in the marketing world, where personalizing the customer experience has been an important strategy in recent years. A study by Epsilon last year showed 80 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.
“Companies have a tremendous opportunity to distinguish themselves with a more personal touch,” a report by Accenture in 2017 said, adding that “as customer expectations evolve, so must the experiences that … companies deliver.”
‘A Real Human Voice’
Personalization does not just apply to the messaging sent to lawmakers and regulators. It works on the house file, too. When you are contacting your advocates, personal messages can be highly effective at moving them to action.
The National Parks Conservation Association had a great example earlier this year. For the organization’s 100-year anniversary, it flew advocates to Washington to visit members of Congress. One young advocate, who was heading to Capitol Hill for the first time, recorded a short message that was sent to other NPCA advocates using the organization’s text messaging program.
“The message was, ‘please support me by making a phone call to your Congressperson,’” Zach Ragbourn, director of digital communications, said in a recent webinar. “It was a real human voice, giving real instructions with real advocacy opportunities.”
The result was a 7 percent conversion rate on a call to action that involved taking the time to make a phone call. “I think that’s astonishingly high,” Ragbourn said.
NPCA runs a successful program that generated more than 100,000 connections with public officials since last year. They routinely use personalized messaging, both with their own advocates and with lawmakers and regulators. As Ragbourn put it, “that’s been huge for us.”
To learn more about how organizations are personalizing their stories and seeing results, speak with an expert at 202.888.7439.
Subscribe for Updates
Get the latest civic engagement trends, best practices, and news, right in your inbox.