Part 4: Engaging Your Audiences
June 22, 2016
Shannon Manning, Vice President, Advocate Engagement
Establishing a robust, sustainable program enables you to leverage support across multiple issues, unite audiences to extend your reach, and provide significant value for legislative advocacy, regulatory challenges, marketing, and brand awareness. But how do you encourage ongoing participation from your audiences?
Over the past several weeks, we’ve examined 12 different strategies needed to set up a successful public affairs campaign. Establishing objectives, defining your audience, and outlining paths of communication all help build a foundation for your campaign; sustained engagement is the key to making interested supporters effective advocates for your cause.
Most people don’t live and breathe advocacy on a daily basis. The worlds of policymaking and issue marketing are foreign to them. Few of them really speak your language. Engagement helps people not only understand your issues, but also how to advocate—how to become active participants in the debate in ways that move your issues forward instead of just creating more noise. Engagement helps you fan interest and concern into real passion for an issue, and then channel that passion into meaningful action.
Part 4: Engaging Your Audiences
1. Substance Is Fundamental
People get involved in issue campaigns because they care about issues. They become the most effective as advocates when you provide them a foundation of knowledge to stand on. That doesn’t mean they need to know all the minutia of the regulatory process or all the statistics that an industry expert would—but they do need to be able to discuss issues accurately in their own words. Give them interesting information in manageable chunks that makes them feel empowered to participate in a conversation, and they’ll carry your messages far and wide.
2. Active Participation Is Essential
Someone sees an ad or responds to an email that motivates them, and they sign up because they’re excited to engage with you. Maintaining that excitement is key to creating a successful, long-term advocacy campaign. Make sure your program follows through on the initial promise of recruitment by providing multiple, varied opportunities for advocates to participate. Establish participation as part of the culture of your campaign. Active involvement should be at its heart, and that involvement should extend beyond responding to action alerts. From social sharing to quizzes and surveys to petitions, letters, emails, calls, rallies, and meetings, a range of tactics can create a robust advocate experience that holds people’s attention over time and moves your most ardent supporters up the engagement ladder to higher levels and more intensive kinds of advocacy.
3. Understanding and Recognition Lead to Loyalty
As your advocates engage with you, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what really motivates them. You should engage in return. Acknowledge advocates who consistently respond to your calls to action. Speak directly to what they tell you matters to them. Ask them to ask questions—and answer those questions clearly and authentically. Over time, you’ll build real relationships with your advocates because they trust that you know them and recognize the value of their contributions to your program. The result will be a lasting connection between your advocates and your organization’s goals. These relationships create the foundation of effective, agile, and lasting advocacy, providing a consistent return for both you and your stakeholders.
4. Your Champions Are the True Faces of Your Issues
Champions—advocates with compelling personal stories and a dedication to your issues—can add a powerful dimension to your advocacy efforts, putting real human faces and voices on the messages your campaign is trying to convey to decision-makers. Your champions are the individuals you know firmly believe in your cause and can be trusted to speak out publicly on your campaign’s behalf. If you’ve been engaging your advocates effectively, you’ll know who these people are because they will, essentially, self-identify. They can take part in a number of high-impact activities, including meeting with legislators, participating in ad campaigns, giving testimony or product endorsements, or joining in press conferences or fly-ins. Given the right support from you, a single champion can have greater, more targeted impact than a hundred form emails from regular advocates. A broad advocate base for volume spearheaded by a layer of highly engaged, articulate champions gives you a resource that can truly cut through the clutter and drive your message home.
Engagement is all about effective communication—it draws audiences to your cause and motivates them to take ownership of issues, creating a greater sense of responsibility for their outcomes. A calibrated strategic plan will enable you to engage your audiences successfully and keep them engaged over the long term.
No matter the size or scale of your campaign, building and sustaining relationships with the right audiences will ultimately generate higher-impact advocacy for your issues. And an engaged base of supporters provides a dependable resource as issues arise and you need advocates to move to action quickly.
Don’t forget to tune in next Wednesday as we conclude our series by exploring what establishing your objectives, defining your audiences, staging your conversation, and engaging your advocates has all been leading up to: mobilizing advocates to take action when you need them. See you then!