Writing for action is one of the most important skills for advocacy professionals across any issue area. Whatever the format the content takes, swaying hearts and minds requires the ability to turn mundane topics into captivating stories.
The copy should invoke emotion, and the willingness to do something more than just read and process the information. So how do you craft a story that’s engaging and laden with the policy points you want to hit?
Think action words. Verbs should be used frequently and the reader should be rooting for your cause or organization to win its objective. Legislators and staff should recognize your advocates as individual protagonists aiming to find the strength and courage to seek a solution to a problem.
Their stories should flow from one goal to the next with mounting anticipation along with wonder and awe at the desired outcome. There’s a time and place to be informative in public policy, but grassroots activism is more about the art of persuasion and seeking action — even in the face of impasse.
Moreover, advocate stories should appeal to the senses with sights, sounds, smell, taste, and touch being induced throughout the story leaving the reader with a purpose to act upon what they felt. The reader should be left rooting for the cause and/or cause champion that presented the story.
Whether your advocates are seeking funding for CHIP reauthorization at the federal level or fighting to save a local historic building from demolition, their stories, experiences, and sentiments are key elements of at the overall story. As the grassroots or communication professional, you have literary discretion to help your advocates tell this story using adjectives and verbs that should live on in memory for days and months after the meeting, call, social media post, or email action letter. You must write for action and encourage your advocates to do the same.
Sustaining a movement and sustaining momentum in long, drawn-out policy fights can be a challenge. Making the issues enlightening and entertaining can be even more difficult. Don’t let your advocates get discouraged about telling their stories. Not every fight will result in a climactic victory or wallowing defeat.
Sometimes getting your cause to fight another day is a victory in itself. Craft stories that are impactful and draw strength in the numbers generated from the willingness to act upon the messaging. Don’t let your advocates get discouraged and/or yourself when the first few drafts are subpar. Revise, edit, and stay persistent trusting the process of communicating action.
Joshua Habursky is assistant vice president of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, contributing editor to Campaigns & Elections and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.