The idea of leading a cause is inspiring — we are able to make an impact on the world and create a better life for others. This is also known as advocacy! Advocacy is about solving issues, affecting change and uniting a group around a common cause. To successfully lead any cause, the art of influence must be used.
A strategy that influences people usually consists of both grassroots and grasstops advocacy. Let’s dive into what differentiates these two tactics:
With the Constitution addressing the right to petition, this secured the protection of the American public to participate in government. That right has allowed grassroots advocacy to be one of the most utilized forms of political movement by citizens taking collective action to make a local, regional, national or global impact. This is also known as a bottom-up approach. For an effective grassroots campaign, follow these three steps:
- Engage – To engage a group of people, start with the core – your advocates. Get to know them. Walk in their shoes and take a genuine interest in their life. Henry Ford once said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” As your core becomes established, continue to expand by leveraging your advocates to engage a larger population to join the effort.
- Educate – Keeping your advocates informed is key to maintaining campaign momentum. Deliver a clear vision of what success looks like at the onset of the campaign, and as it unfolds. Be sure to provide them information that supports the mission, as well as keeping them informed of the progress you’re making. They are working hard for an effort and by keeping them in-the-know, you can keep them motivated – and they will want to know how they can continue to play a role.
- Follow-up – Whether it’s a law maker or influencer, if we are unsuccessful in our first attempt of engagement, we need to follow-up. The rule of seven states that someone needs to see your message at least seven times before they buy into it. Don’t be uncomfortable delivering the same message, just be creative in the methods of communication you are using: email, social media, letter, e-newsletter, in-person meetings and phone calls.
This is when your focus is more specific on a group of people who have connections with elected officials or those who are trusted opinion leaders. Grasstops goes back to “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Social influence is a key component here. People are easily influenced by individuals and brands they respect – and they reinforce the message from your grassroots efforts. Grasstop advocates take your message from the public and straight to the desk of your targeted decision makers. Here are a few tips for a successful grasstops campaign:
- Advocates – Instead of trying to recreate the wheel to find grasstop advocates, use the team you have already built through grassroots. Ask your grassroots advocates to reach out to their contacts for potential leads.
- Persuasive – Once your grasstops advocates are in the door, it is crucial that they can be persuasive. Their initial touch with the targeted decision makers is going to weigh heavier than any other touch point. The best way to deliver your message is through storytelling. Sharing stories of real people or businesses that have been impacted or will be impacted by the legislation in discussion. Psychologists say that our brains are more receptive to information when it is in story form.
- Follow-up – This follow-up is more personal than the follow-up in grassroots, and should not focus on the rule of seven. If your grasstops target has a personal connection, send the target a handwritten thank you note. Our eyes are still drawn to handwritten mail, so your letter will stand out from all others.