Goal-setting around an advocacy campaign can be like hitting a moving target. There are dozens of factors that can change outcomes in the blink of an eye, including legislative calendars, media attention, political will, your ability to turnout enough supporters for an event or to raise enough money. And forget about any clear timelines – concrete political or social change can sometimes stretch on many, many, many years before there is any real change to speak of.
So how can any organization possibly plan around so much change? And why would any organization in their right mind want to start an online advocacy campaign in the first place?
The stakes in online organizing are certainly high but the consequence of doing nothing is even higher. Online advocacy is about changing the actions of those with power, and in that line of work you’ve got to not only be flexible but willing to take risks and able to learn (and re-act!) quickly to ever-changing circumstances.
Luckily for us, there are many talented people who have set the bar high for effective and impactful online organizing. One expert, Colin Delaney, founder of ePolitics.com, was on hand at Salsa’s FUSE conference this year to share his helpful - and practical - steps for crafting an online advocacy strategy. Here’s a short clip from Colin’s full presentation in which he describes the process for both short- and long-term agenda setting for an advocacy campaign:
Once you have your clearly defined goals in place, now it’s time for the fun part – strategy! Around 31:14 of the full video, Colin gives these three helpful tips for having a the most impact when planning your campaign:
1. Leverage existing narratives/conversations: It’s difficult to get a million people talking about something. Ride the wave of the conversations that are happening online organically, rather than trying to create your own. Figure out how to leverage content and connect the dots between your issue and related discussions in the public sphere. In his presentation slides (and at 34:09 of the video), Colin gives a few great examples of this, including the Grumpy Cat meme being used to change the dialogue around net neutrality.
2. Integrate your communications: We can’t stress this one enough. It is one of the most important and effective strategies you can use: integration – the synergy between all your communications (yes, that means offline too!)
3. Keep up the pressure: A steady flow of communications is a best practice and also necessary for long-term change. Building momentum requires keeping your support base fully informed throughout the entire campaign; not just bursts of activity when things are really moving.
As complex as online advocacy gets, Colin underscores that one of the key resources you’ll need for a successful advocacy campaign is time. Working with a strong team of organizers and planning ahead will put you well on your way to crafting your very own practical online advocacy strategy.