Posts Tagged ‘communication’

K.I.T!: Communication Techniques with Advocates

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Brittany

Just like in high school when we encouraged our friends to “K.I.T.” (“keep in touch”) with us during the summer months when signing yearbooks, organizations should be engaged in keeping in touch with their advocates on a year-round basis. However, there is a strategic element to the types of messages that are sent out to particular advocates…

Advocate leaders will need to communicate with a variety of audiences within the advocate network, including:

  • Existing or potential grassroots network members
  • Existing or potential grasstops network members
  • Existing or potential coalition members

Within these broad categories, an understanding of the following details about advocates will be essential to effective communications.

  • State / District of residency or work:  In order to facilitate effective advocate actions based on constituency, advocate leaders must be able to match members of the advocate network with their relevant policymakers. This includes, where possible, both residency connections as well as corporate connections.
  • Connections to legislators:  In addition, the work done in early network development stages to identify “grasstops”-style connections (i.e., that an advocate has a friendship or business relationship with an elected official) will be helpful in better targeting messages to relevant advocates.
  • Expertise / anecdotal connections to issues:  Advocate leaders should also be able to identify quickly and easily those advocates with a compelling story to tell and/or those with a strong expertise in the issues.  This information can be used to identify potential grasstops advocates and/or advocates that can testify in front of committees or help draft responses to regulatory rulemakings.

The effectiveness of the communications can be further improved by segmenting the audience based on the following measures:

  • Level of interest / involvement in the advocacy effort:  Advocates that are more active may be more willing to receive multiple communications.
  • Topics of interest:  If an organization manages a wide range of policy issues, it may be appropriate to ask advocates what topics they are most interested in hearing about.

In short, different audiences may receive different types of communications (for example, potential members of the network will receive recruitment communications whereas existing members will not).  In addition, certain strategies may work with one type of audience, but not another (for example, grasstops members may be far more receptive to a “pull” approach, such as a social network).  Having a strong understanding of the audience will enhance the advocate leader’s success in communicating messages.

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.

Spreading Holiday Advocacy Cheer through Social Networking

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Brittany

Social networks (or “socnets”), such as Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or the many social networks developed for specific organizations, are useful tools for associations to connect active individuals with the policy and personal interests that concern them most. 

Tips for Social Networks

For organizations unfamiliar with social networks, either in the advocacy environment or in general, following are some ideas for getting started.  In addition, note that the considerations outlined above under “Considerations for Effective Pull Communications” are particularly pertinent for the social networking environment.

  1. Getting started: Advocate leaders can start getting familiar with social networking ideas and approaches by registering on a couple of the most popular sites like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, the latter of which is specifically oriented toward business networking. It is important to gain familiarity with the site’s privacy settings and posting structure in order to understand how these policies might apply to any group or association advocacy-related profile.
  2. Identify existing groups and related organizations:  Take steps to identify related organizations by running a search on the organization’s name and key topic areas.  In addition, most elected officials (often the targets of an advocacy campaign) have pages on these networks.  Take a moment to review the pages of the champions and detractors of your policy issues.  These profiles can offer valuable insights that will enhance the organization’s advocacy efforts.
  3. Assess potential downsides:  For many organizations, there are very few downsides to participating in an online social network.  In most cases, the policy issues with which the organization is most concerned are already being discussed by others.  In a sense, it may be more disadvantageous for the organization NOT to be involved in social network sites.  However, there are a couple of points to keep in mind when using these sites.
    • Legal implications:  Organizations with a concern about liability for potential libelous or slanderous messages posted by others on a social networking site should check with legal counsel before establishing a page.  In many cases, these concerns can be addressed by establishing a strict posting policy.
    • Tax implications:  Certain communications that can be viewed by the general public will be viewed as “grassroots lobbying” under IRS definitions, and, depending on the amount spent on these communications, may impact an organization’s 501c3 status
  4. Set up a page and/or group for your association on an existing network: Once the organization is familiar with the sites and comfortable with any potential downsides, it is time to consider establishing an identity on one or all of these sites. Many organizations have groups and profiles on all the major sites. In addition to reaching a wider audience, this approach allows the organization to protect its brand and be part of policy discussions wherever they occur. If that approach is too broad, the advocate leader can prioritize based on a couple criteria, including a) which sites members or like-minded individuals are already patronizing and b) which sites the organization is most comfortable working with.
  5. Consider starting your own network:  Organizations with a large network might want to consider starting a “niche” network not associated with one of the major networking sites. This would serve not just as an individual page on a site, but as a “hub” where everyone associated with the campaign can gather, post comments, photos, information and the like. Larger organizations with IT departments can consider creating their own social networking tools or working with an outside vendor. Free networking tools like Ning.com should also be considered (organizations using the free option will have to accept Google banner ads on your site). Through Ning, an organization can set up its own page that includes a variety of tools (blogs, forums, photo sharing, etc.).  Network members can be invited and then, once they join, can participate in forums, post materials and download whatever advocacy resources are made available at the site.
  6. Explore outreach options: Social network sites offer tremendous opportunities for reaching out to like-minded individuals and organizations. Facebook, for example, has started offering users the ability to create banner ads targeted toward members expressing interest in a specific issue.  On LinkedIn, the advocate leader can ask a network- or group-wide question about its issues as a way of introducing the organization. 

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.