Everyone wants to feel included as part of their social identity. The advocacy space is no different. People not only want to be included, but they want to feel recognized, important or special.
As practitioners, we have awards, lists of top performers, mentions in well-read public policy publications, invitations to be presenters at industry or professional development sessions, and a myriad of other tokens of appreciation that showcase involvement in the upper echelon of the advocacy community. Advocates also seek that inclusion and praise for their efforts.
The best advocacy programs not only recognize their rising advocates, but they build an infrastructure around them to support personal growth and the depth of their collective grassroots movement. If you don’t perform specific tasks such as answering calls to action or making a PAC contribution, you may be on the outside looking in. Here are a few tips and tricks to leverage exclusivity for advocacy to entice involvement in grassroots programs:
Create a tiered structure.
The concept of an engagement ladder isn’t anything new but needs to be emphasized here. It’s important to create a transparent system that outlines the different activities and tiers of involvement for your program.
Make sure you adhere to that structure and incentivize upward mobility. How can you get an advocate to do more? What are quantifiable metrics that improve your advocacy program? Make sure that you’re cognizant of the time that it takes to perform each task and create a structure that reflects the level of commitment or investment in the advocacy program. Your top tier shouldn’t be filled with hundreds or thousands of advocates. It should be exclusive.
Create competition and gamification.
Competition is human nature. Not everyone should get a trophy and your program should award and reward advance advocacy participation. Local, state or regional competition works well in federated organizations. If donors in Montana contribute more to the PAC than Wyoming, they might be featured in the association magazine. If the Northeast beats the Southwest in grassroots letter writing to Congress, they might get a grassroots award at your next trade show.
Create exclusive content and insider tracks.
Any organization should create free content to attract new members or passive advocates that may only get involved in one issue. But you should also tier content levels.
Many software programs and apps will have different levels of service. Your mid-level advocates may only get a special monthly newsletter or have access to a webinar bank. Your top advocates may get an exclusive quarterly call with the head of government relations. Leveraging high-profile staff and leadership in an organization to engage with advocates provides that exclusivity function. Not everyone is going to get to talk to the CEO and give their views.
Create a feedback loop.
Being included as an insider in an advocacy program should also feature some component of feedback. Participation and involvement at the most advanced levels should provide actionable input into the operations and functions of your grassroots program. If your top advocates don’t want to receive email and prefer text message alerts, you may want to consider shifting your tools and technology to meet their needs. Simple surveys or brainstorming sessions can further amplify the sense of community that you’re ultimately trying to build.
A lot of advocacy organizations strive to build a pyramid of advocate profiles that correlate with participation and action. In order to effectively build that pyramid, exclusivity needs to be leveraged appropriately and a concerted effort placed on building the infrastructure around these groups through the overall structure, competition, content, and feedback provided by advocates.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.