From the Jungle Gym to the Beltway: Cultivating Change through Advocacy

December 20, 2017
Jacqueline Plunkett, Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy

Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book, Lean In, that a career path these days should look more like a jungle gym rather than a ladder. I could not agree more. I spent four and half years at Google on the jungle gym. I managed healthcare clients in the London office learning digital strategies for lead generation and direct response. I managed a Top 50 US Advertiser in the packaged food industry building branding, content, and analytics strategies. And then I came to Washington, D.C. to manage political clients in what turned out to be one of the most historic election cycles ever seen.

So what does it take to lure a Googler away from the jungle gym to stay in the swamp? Change. At Google, a manager once told me that the only constant is change, and change brings opportunity. This was especially true at Google, and certainly true more than ever right now in politics and advocacy. People, organizations, and brands that embrace change are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. Change brings innovation. Change moves things forward. The last election cycle brought a level of disruptive change never before seen in the beltway.

As I worked with campaigns, PACs, and committees last election cycle, I saw an opportunity to change how the beltway thinks about engaging with voters and supporters digitally. Consider the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, which identifies the top ads consumers chose to engage with (as opposed to being forced to watch) on YouTube. Seven and a half million people chose to watch Geico’s He-Man vs. Skeletor commercial in October 2017. Do people choose to watch content that isn’t comedic? They sure do. Consider Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, a 3-minute video exploring the concepts of beauty, perspective, and self-worth. More than 67 million people chose to watch and engage with that message. Corporate consumer brands tap into consumer-inspired themes to create advertising that millions of people choose to watch.

Just as consumer brands tap into consumers’ emotions to build long-term love for their brands, advocacy and political brands can and should do the same to cultivate long-term relationships with constituents. Passions and emotions drive advocacy. Can we leverage the lessons of consumer marketing to drive engagement in the form of letters to Senators, participation at rallies, and education for those who may not understand why an issue is important, how it could impact their lives, and why they should care? The answer is emphatically, yes. Is it possible to create an advocacy campaign so powerful that it reaches the YouTube Ads Leaderboard? I certainly believe so. The issues that keep advocacy groups up at night are too important for anyone not to embrace change and try.


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