Advocacy strategies and tactics developed

Advocacy strategies have changed over time

Advocacy strategies and advocacy campaign strategies will constantly change over time and so will we. When I was a chief of staff in the New York State Legislature, I don’t recall ever seeing a concerted public affairs campaign focusing on legislators to raise public support for an issue. The main way groups passed legislation was to hire a lobbyist, and that was it. There were occasional print ads and lobby days, but little daily mass communication from elements driven by member groups. Today, we spend a lot of time running advocacy campaigns at the state level. Issue advocacy techniques were once only used on large federal issues. Public affairs campaigns are now common on smaller federal issues as well as state and municipal issues.

Advocacy strategies are now targeted at the district level and focused on key state legislators — elected, appointed, or corporate. These campaigns use a combination of advocacy strategies and tactics, including digital advertising, patch through calls, direct mail, virtual lobby visits and more. This is a big change from ten or even five years ago.

Groups and organizations have used these publicity campaigns to build long-term power and achieve both their primary and secondary goals. Primary goals may be to remove or stop laws and policies Secondary goals may be the formation or empowerment of advocates in specific districts or areas.

The advocacy techniques we use today are much more sophisticated. We are able to use targeting and analytics to find people who can engage with an issue. Targeting will continue to become more sophisticated as models and technology improve.

Here’s a list of advocacy strategies that we think have grown out of innovation and necessity over the past years.

Advocacy Costs: State and local advocacy costs will continue to rise

We’ve seen advocacy spending grow exponentially over the years. As long as parties see the benefits of advocacy and public affairs campaigns in achieving their goals, we will continue to see growth.

Advocacy at the state level is where real, significant growth has occurred over the years. This increase is often due to a lack of movement at the federal level and more power and funding coming from state budgets. Advocacy funding will likely continue to grow at the municipal and county levels as well. Remember, many municipalities and counties have larger budgets than many states, and due to lack of funding, there will be more fighting for resources and advocacy campaigns around priorities.

How your advocacy organization threads the needle of partisan politics at the state and local level is different, but not different, than at the federal level. Advocacy groups must have friends on both sides of the aisle, and that goes beyond a paid lobbyist or operative.

Model Law: Not just for conservatives

Much has been said about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), but they are not the only group pushing model legislation. There are dozens of groups pushing model legislation to move issues to the state level across multiple states. Look for more of this at the municipal and county levels.

When it comes to winning advocacy strategies, relationships still matter. Regardless of strategy, relationships are the key to good advocacy strategies. You can make 1,000 calls from constituents, but the right call from someone influential to a legislator can have a stronger impact. This is nothing new, but what has changed is the length of this fight. There are battles that can go on for years and you have to have organizational relationships that hold up over time. It is long-range and multi-year. It’s hard to keep members and families focused on a legal battle that lasts six years or more, but it’s happening at both the federal and state levels. Make sure your advocacy strategies and tactics are sustainable.

Traditional Lobbying: Combining Old and New Advocacy Techniques

Traditional lobbying has been the same for a long time, but we are starting to see changes in the tactics of traditional lobbying firms. More sophisticated advocacy strategies from lobbying firms include integrated campaigns that use the best of old-school lobbying mixed with new-school targeting techniques and advocacy technology. Look for it to continue to evolve and change, although this movement has been slow in many places.

Grassroots Advocacy: Bridging the Engagement Gap

Grassroots advocacy strategies are an effective and efficient way to expand and engage the universe of constituents who care about an issue. If you can get enough material to get them to contact lawmakers and become active on an issue, your advocacy program’s chances of success will greatly increase. Engagement, however, remains a major issue for advocacy campaigns. Look for many people in the advocacy world, including us, to continue working on new ways to engage people on issues in the future If you don’t know your organization, think about how you want to be engaged and then build your engagement funnel accordingly.

Virtual Fly-ins: Take advantage of virtual opportunities

MLAs are now more accessible than in the past but MLAs are still difficult to reach. Holding a virtual meeting with constituents still takes planning, organization, clear messaging and defined goals Planning lobbying efforts and fitting them into the legislative calendar and a public affairs campaign is more important than ever.

Digital Advocacy: Mobile Matters

Digital advocacy has come a long way since I first started running digital advocacy campaigns in 2003. Email still plays an important role in advocacy and awareness While email isn’t going away, it’s no longer the only show in town. Mobile has become a major advocacy tool, be it old-school texting or mobile geo-fencing. The flexibility and scalability of mobile technology makes it a great support tool for the future. Find more advocacy tools that continue to engage users via smart phones and tablets.

List building and CPA campaigns: Bringing in people

Many groups are now publishing petitions, using organic petition tools or collecting sign-ups through digital advertising. Digital petitions can increase your power and connect you with new advocates in specific districts. List building takes time so make sure you plan ahead.

Content Marketing: Rethink the way you’re creating content

Actively answering questions is a great way to drive engagement. Search engines aren’t going away, yet there are fewer and fewer blogs and publications. Organizations that properly organize and reach their content can drive real traffic and make real connections with potential members and donors. Look for content marketing to expand into the nonprofit and advocacy world as it has with for-profit organizations. Mobile friendly forms and ongoing sign-ups make content marketing a good acquisition strategy

OTT and pre-roll for advocacy: Using video to engage

If you have video assets, pre-rolls are a great way to add content to awareness As we look to the future, it will likely include a smaller cable audience and a viewership that is more dependent on pre-rolls or ads within streaming services like Apple TV or Chromecast and Smart TV. For those connected to cable, this is still a viable option, but we can undoubtedly see a gradual shift. The shift away from cable in advocacy strategies is similar to the way people have moved away from landline phones.

For your advocacy strategies, the real question is: Will video content be a means to drive users to action? Video is great for moving people emotionally, but it doesn’t always close the deal or get people to take action. We’re now seeing user-generated content starting to come in and engage people in a significant way As we’ve seen in 2020, user-generated content has truly come of age with multiple platforms making it easier for groups and organizations to identify storytellers and build long-term engagement.

Native Advertising: Finding Fans Where They Are

Across the web, content is still the best, and will be for quite some time. However, fewer publications make a real impact, those that do get a lot of engagement and readership. Some of these better publications are allowing companies to buy long-form ads that actually link to content, known as native ads. Just be careful, as with any up-and-coming medium, there are good and bad ways to do it. Make sure native advertising works as part of an overall strategy We’ll likely see native ads become more common-place and, someday, even compete with display ads. Native ads can deliver more connections that will convert to action.

Phone: Making a connection

Patch-through calls, whether done with a platform like Phone Consultants or Phone2Action, can connect constituents with their lawmakers with quick and solid results. Patch-through programs can be expensive, but connecting with a lawmaker is worth the cost. Be sure to make this part of an overall advocacy strategy since patch-through calls are less sustainable than other strategies.

texting An effective way to reach supporters more instantly. Peer-to-peer texting platforms have moved into the advocacy space, and they’re here to stay. Broadcast texting is built on many platforms. Make sure you’re following the law and using the right texting tool for your audience. Building a real texting program takes time. Make sure you create extra time to ramp up your program.

The advocacy techniques we use today have grown and changed over the years and will continue to do so. As you develop your advocacy strategy, make sure you think about how you can change tactics so that you create a public affairs effort that will last.

Have questions about advocacy strategies and public affairs campaign plans? Drop us a note.