Improve Your Grassroots Communication: Q&A With Mark Reilly
Today’s audiences are bombarded with messages on multiple channels and platforms. So how can you ensure your grassroots communication is making an impact?
At their webinar, “Are Your Grassroots Efforts Generating Enough Buzz?” on Wednesday, June 15 at 2 p.m. ET Cision’s Mark Reilly and public affairs campaign strategist Mike Panetta of Beekeeper Group will discuss how to not only reach your audience, but motivate them to take action.
Here, Mark gives us a sneak peek at what you’ll learn at the webinar and answers a few of our questions:
Q: There’s been a lot of talk about influencers lately. How do you determine who would be the right influencers for your grassroots efforts and what should you do once you find ones that fit the bill?
A: Generally speaking, you can identify influencers in two main ways: individuals who support your cause with their own voice, and those who respond to your “calls to action” within the context of your campaign on a very consistent basis. Of course, there will likely be overlap between these groups as well.
Influencers who support your cause with their own voice are the believers in your cause/campaign who would exist whether your campaign existed or not. These influencers take action on their own and likely are active on issues important to them in their own communities both online and offline. These influencers are a great resource to tap into because they are self-motivated and likely have a network of “followers” on the issue already. However, you should remember they may want to say and support your campaign in their own way, so try not to be heavy-handed when dealing with them.
The second group of influencers are those who respond to your calls to action quickly and consistently. They send the emails to targeted legislators when asked, attend meetings when asked, etc. The trick is to identify which of these folks you can engage at a deeper level and ask them to do heavier lifts such as meet with members of Congress, donate, make phone calls, join your PAC (if eligible), etc.
In our webinar, Mike and I will talk about specific ways to identify influencers using both passive and active monitoring tools. Once you have data on your supporters and understand more about them, it becomes easier to identify your influencers and decide how to move them up the ladder of engagement with the context of your campaign.
Q: What are the biggest problems grassroots organizations face today? What can they do to overcome them?
A: Breaking through the noise and distractions of our daily lives is the biggest challenge. While many of us care about issues, few of us take the next step to contact our elected officials and ask them to support issues we care about as part of a grassroots campaign. So having a message and content that sparks emotion and is easily understood is key to grabbing your potential supporters’ attention.
It’s for this reason that grassroots campaign managers need to understand their supporters, why they care about the issue and what motivates them to take action. It’s hard to create content that will motivate people to act if you don’t know much about them to begin with.
The good news is that there are lots of tools for grassroots managers to use to effectively target likely supporters. So again, the more you know about the likely supporters of your issue, the easier it is to use the tools that let you target those kinds of people.
For grassroots managers working with a corporate or association environment, finding your supporters is the easier part, but motivating them to take action, and often competing with the other messages your organization is sending out, makes it tough to grab your employees or members attention.
The elephant in the room, and one of the biggest hurdles grassroots campaigns face today, at least at the Federal level is the lack of legislation that is actually passing through Congress, and the general negative attitude toward Washington but that’s a topic of discussion for another day.
Q: What can organizations do to track and build better relationships with their supporters?
A: The simple answer is you need two things: online tools and good content.
For content, it needs to be compelling, short, visual and shareable. In the webinar, Mike and I will provide a number of examples of “good” and “not so good” grassroots content to explain what to do and what not to do.
For tracking tools, you need tools that can track the behavior and actions of your supporters in regards to your campaign. Once you have the data, you can begin to test messaging to attract new supporters and mobilize your existing supporters to take action to get the higher conversion rates, meaning more messages to the targeted elected officials.
For your website, you need to track where your supporters are coming from with a website analytics package like Google Analytics. It’s free and since a lot of your traffic is probably coming from Google searches to begin with, it’s extremely useful for SEO.
It will also be very helpful to have a CRM designed for grassroots that matches supporters to political districts and tracks the actions taken by your supporters online. Find one that can send emails, track open and click-through rates, engage your supporters as well as promote and track their activity on social media.
Q: Two-thirds of American adults use social media. What can grassroots organizations do to reach their supporters on those platforms? Contrarily, what should they avoid doing?
A: You need to monitor and listen first, before you engage. Get a sense of what supporters and detractors of your issue are saying on Twitter, Facebook, maybe even on LinkedIn or Pinterest, depending on your issue. Then you need to consider whether having your own voice on social media makes sense for your campaign; generally the answer should be yes.
The exception may be in a closed universe, like a corporate environment or association, where you are only targeting your employees or members. Then a Twitter account may make less sense.
What you should avoid doing on social media depends on your campaign and its culture. I would avoid being inconsistent, use common sense and probably think twice before you post anything incendiary or controversial. However, for some issues being controversial comes with the territory so it’s hard to provide strict rules that work for every campaign.
Q: Why are real-life interactions just as important as engaging with supporters on social media?
A: What takes more effort, sending an email by clicking a button on a website or showing up to a meeting in person? The level of commitment of showing up in the real world shows real commitment.
Mike and I 100 percent believe in using email. Use grassroots websites, databases and social media as tools to run effective grassroots campaigns. However, when it comes to making real change, if you can’t get people to show up and demonstrate or meet with a Member of Congress to express their opinions in the flesh, how real is your campaign? At some point, to effect real change you will likely need to have real people show up to take real action. Like Woody Allen said, “90 percent of life is showing up.”
For most grassroots campaigns the end game is legislation being passed or stopping legislation. Members of Congress are certainly carefully monitoring social media and the messaging they receive via email at the Hill offices.
But legislators are humans and are moved by personal stories and real world interactions with real people, especially when they are real voters in their district or state. While it’s hard to prove empirically, I believe that a legislator who is undecided on an issue, who meets with a committed group of supporters is more impacted by that real-world meeting than receiving 500 form emails sent on the issue. It’s human nature.
Q: In what ways can organizations improve their content strategy to meet their supporters’ needs?
A: Design your content to have some emotion, to be shareable and to quickly convey your message with a visual component. During the webinar, we will show some examples and answer questions about what good content is, how to test it and how to ensure it is shared and consumed.
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