Webster’s definition of advocacy is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.”
That all sounds so simplistic—–You and I support a political policy change on healthcare, particular reforms to higher education that will cost more money, a change in tax regulations on e-commerce businesses. We voice our opinion to lawmakers, the media or the constituency concerned about the political issue. We make the erroneous assumption that our opinion should carry the day when in reality there are usually conflicting views and positions from public officials, the media, and opposition groups.
Like everything else in life, advocacy is complicated. Policy advocates and lobbyists hired by opposing sides work tirelessly to communicate their case. Op-eds take the counter position of your organization and today’s social media channels allow your opposition to organize quickly to define the issue on their terms. Having a clear and well thought out advocacy communications strategy is paramount to prevailing in advocacy challenges.
What are the elements of an effective issue advocacy communications campaign? An effective campaign starts with public opinion research whether it is a ballot campaign, a legislative fight, or simply an organization wanting to advance its business goals—–it could be a change in policy, legislation or seeking more money for a cause from a state legislature or Congress.
You need to know where you start in the battle, what advocacy arguments cut your way, the strongest assets of your opponents, and understand what the public knows and what the public will never know or understand about your issue.
Next is the investigative services component. Who is your opposition, what advocacy tools are they using, and what assets do they possess that can impede your chances for success? We strongly believe it is critically important that you know more about your opponents than they know about themselves. A good investigative and security firm does their work out of sight and under strict rules of confidentiality. Knowing what your opponent is likely to do before they do it is critical to a successful advocacy strategy.
How you communicate is the next set of challenges. Do you have a dark microsite that has all your public positions clearly spelled out—the likely questions your cause will get and carefully drafted answers that have been reviewed and approved by corporate counsel and your outside communications consultant? If you are in a fight that may become contentious, ensuring that your primary website is not overrun with controversial dialogue protects the core brand by directing online search to the microsite.
You should understand that original content, spread across hundreds of social channels by credible messengers is another part of successful advocacy communications. Video content and data analytics- knowing who is watching or listening to your communications needs to inform your audience and maximize cost efficiency. The days of telling your story on three networks and placing a full-page ad in your local paper are truly yesterday’s news.
Finally, being able to develop and execute the optimum advocacy strategy is always the highest hurdle for any advocacy project. Some mistake tactics for strategy in advocacy communications campaigns. That mistake can be fatal in advocacy challenges. Great strategy gives an organization a roadmap for the advocacy campaign as well as provides the tactical steps involved in a comprehensive advocacy plan.
At Baerlein & Partners, we have all the experts you need to win your advocacy challenges.