Mastering the Ladder of Engagement Strategy

Key Highlights

  • The Ladder of Engagement is a powerful framework for public affairs professionals and grassroots organizers to find, cultivate, and grow support for their cause.
  • Understanding the levels of interest and participation among supporters is key to effective communication.
  • Supporters can enter the Ladder of Engagement at different stages, from following social media accounts to making donations.
  • Motivating supporters to move up the Ladder of Engagement is essential for grassroots advocacy.
  • Creating audience personas and setting organizational goals are effective strategies for increasing engagement.
  • Tools and technologies, such as automation platforms and analytics, can enhance engagement strategies.

Introduction

In today’s digital age, public affairs professionals face the challenge of engaging their audience in a virtual landscape. With limited attention spans and competition for online attention, it has become crucial to find innovative ways not just to keep supporters engaged, but also to cultivate and grow their engagement to successfully achieve advocacy goals . One of the most effective tools for achieving this is the Ladder of Engagement Framework.

This blog will explore the Ladder of Engagement Framework and how public affairs professionals can use it to effectively engage their audience. We will also dive into the steps of the Ladder of Engagement and strategies for moving supporters up the ladder. Finally, we will explore the tools and technologies that can enhance engagement strategies. 

Understanding the Ladder of Engagement

The Ladder of Engagement is a term used to describe the levels of interest and participation among a group of people. It consists of multiple rungs, with each rung representing a different level of engagement. At the lowest rung of the ladder, supporters may have little knowledge about the organization. As they move up the ladder, their level of participation and engagement increases. The Ladder of Engagement helps organizations visualize their relationships with supporters, and to further cultivate and grow these relationships.

The Ladder of Engagement is a critical tool for public affairs professionals. It allows them to understand the different levels of interest and participation among their supporters. By visualizing this relationship, organizations can effectively communicate with their audience and tailor their engagement strategies accordingly. 

How the Ladder of Engagement Works

The Ladder of Engagement works by providing a framework for supporters to move from one level of engagement to the next. Supporters can enter the Ladder of Engagement at different stages, depending on their initial level of interest and participation. Each rung represents a specific action or level of engagement, and the goal is to motivate supporters to move up the ladder.

For example, supporters may initially follow the organization on social media or visit its website, which represents the lowest rung. Through digital communications and word of mouth, supporters may become advocates for the organization, sharing valuable information with their social network. As they continue to engage with the organization through fundraising and volunteer opportunities, they move up the ladder. The highest rung represents the most active level of engagement, such as joining the organization on a trip to advocate in person.

The Steps of the Ladder of Engagement

The Ladder of Engagement consists of several steps, each representing a different level of engagement. At the top of the ladder is the highest rung, where supporters are the most engaged with the organization. Moving supporters up the ladder is crucial for the success of an organization’s engagement strategy. In the following sections, we will explore each step of the Ladder of Engagement in detail and discuss strategies for moving supporters to the next rung.

Rung 1: Grassroots Supporters

The first step of the Ladder of Engagement is attracting and engaging supporters. Supporters can enter the ladder through various channels, such as following the organization on social media, visiting its website, or attending events. Digital communications play a crucial role in reaching supporters, as they provide an opportunity to share valuable information and engage with the audience.

Word of mouth also plays a significant role in attracting supporters. By creating compelling content and encouraging supporters to share it with their social network, public affairs professionals can reach a wider audience and attract more supporters to the Ladder of Engagement. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are powerful tools for spreading the word and engaging with supporters. Using these platforms effectively can help public affairs professionals attract and retain supporters at the first rung of the ladder.

Rung 2: Grassroots Advocates

Once Grassroots Supporters have entered the Ladder of Engagement, the next step is to turn them into Grassroots Advocates. Grassroots Advocates actively promote the organization’s cause and engage with their social channels to spread the word. They play a crucial role in expanding the reach of the organization and attracting new supporters.

To move supporters from the first rung to the second, public affairs professionals can leverage advocacy efforts. By providing opportunities for supporters to get involved in fundraising, volunteer work, or other initiatives, organizations can deepen their engagement and turn them into advocates. Local leaders and influencers can also play a significant role in advocating for the organization. Collaborating with these individuals can help public affairs professionals reach a wider audience and build a stronger network of advocates.

Rung 3: Super Advocates

The next step on the Ladder of Engagement is to cultivate super advocates. Super Advocates are highly engaged supporters who go above and beyond to promote the organization and its cause. They may actively participate in community organizing efforts, organize events, or lead initiatives to raise awareness and support.

To move supporters from the second rung to the third, organizations should focus on community organizing and creating opportunities for supporters to take on leadership roles. By providing training, resources, and support, public affairs professionals can empower super advocates to make a significant impact on the organization’s goals. Super Advocates can play a crucial role in organizing campaigns, mobilizing supporters, and building a strong network of engaged individuals.

Rung 4: Grasstop Advocates

The final step on the Ladder of Engagement is to transform supporters into Grasstop Advocates. for the organization. These are usually high-profile people who’ve shown interest in advocacy and have close relationships with policymakers and legislators, people who, once you share impactful information with them, can help boost campaign performance. They are highly influential individuals who have the power to make a direct impact on public opinion and policy. They use their influence to advocate for the cause and engage with public officials and decision-makers.

To move supporters from the third rung to the fourth, public affairs professionals should focus on engaging Grasstop Advocates in activities that have a direct impact on public policy. For example, Grasstop Advocates can be encouraged to make phone calls to public officials, participate in public hearings, or support advocacy efforts through their networks. By leveraging their influence and connections, grasstop advocates can help drive advocacy goals in a lasting way.

Strategies for Moving Supporters Up the Ladder

Moving supporters up the Ladder of Engagement requires different strategies and approaches at each step. Public affairs professionals must find effective ways to encourage supporters to take the next step and deepen their engagement with the organization. In the following sections, we will explore some strategies for moving supporters up the ladder and increasing their level of engagement.

Personalized Communication Techniques

Personalized communication is key to moving supporters up the Ladder of Engagement. By tailoring messages to individual supporters and addressing their specific interests and concerns, public affairs professionals can create a more meaningful and engaging experience. Here are some techniques for personalized communication:

  • Email campaigns: Sending targeted emails to specific segments of supporters based on their previous interactions with the organization.
  • Communicate with your supporters through the social media where THEY spend the most time online. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer powerful tools for sharing content and engaging with supporters. Make sure to choose the right platform.
  • Persona-based messaging: Creating personas that represent different supporter profiles and tailoring messages accordingly.

Creating Engaging Content That Resonates

Creating engaging content is crucial for moving supporters up the Ladder of Engagement. Public affairs professionals should focus on producing high-quality content that resonates with their audience and sparks their interest. Here are some tips for creating engaging content:

  • Know your constituents: Understanding the interests and preferences of your audience can help you create content that resonates with them. People don’t act unless they’re connected to an issue. Whether enlisting advocates, sharing info, or reaching out to policymakers, make the message relatable. How does an issue affect them? Why would a change benefit them?
  • Educate your audience. Messaging should include links to appropriate resources, like studies and data backing up your assertions. It may also include links to personal stories and your campaign page, where they can find out more or sign up for notifications.
  • Use apps and interactive tools: Explore the use of apps and interactive tools to create engaging content that encourages supporters to take action.

Overcoming Engagement Plateaus in Advocacy

Advocacy campaigns often run into challenges while trying to progress supporters up the Ladder of Engagement. To address these “engagement plateaus”, public affairs professionals can implement strategies to re-engage supporters and provide new opportunities for involvement. This can include introducing new initiatives, offering additional resources, and creating personalized communication tailored to the specific interests and needs of supporters. Continuously evaluating and adjusting engagement strategies can help overcome plateaus and keep supporters moving up the ladder.

Leveraging Social Proof and Community

Leveraging social proof and community can also be effective in moving supporters up the Ladder of Engagement. Social proof refers to the influence that others have on our behavior and decisions. By showcasing the engagement, public affairs professionals can encourage supporters to take the next step. Similarly, building a strong community around the organization can create a sense of belonging and motivate supporters to deepen their engagement. Here are some ways to leverage social proof:

  • Understanding the psychology behind motivation and behavior can propel advocacy efforts to new heights, amplifying impact and outreach in the digital landscape. What is the core value or need that is being fed by involvement with your campaign.
  • Gamification is a powerful tool that leverages social proof in order to energize engagement from supporters. By integrating game mechanics into campaigns, organizations can motivate supporters to ascend the engagement ladder. Assigning points or rewards for interactions encourages sustained participation and fosters a sense of achievement. Know what drives your supporters.

Importance of Authenticity: The Human Connection

Sometimes engagement challenges simply have a human solution. Supporters want to feel a genuine connection with the organization and its cause. Public affairs professionals should focus on building relationships, fostering trust, and creating opportunities for supporters to engage on a personal level. This can include hosting events, organizing small group discussions, or providing personalized communication. By prioritizing authenticity and human connection, public affairs professionals can build a strong and loyal supporter base.

Conclusion

In the dynamic realm of public affairs and grassroots advocacy, mastering the Ladder of Engagement strategy is paramount for fostering meaningful connections. By understanding the steps – from Grassroots Supporters to Grasstop Advocates, and leveraging personalized communication, engaging content, and social proof – public affairs professionals can enhance engagement from supporters. Overcoming challenges like engagement plateaus and adapting to digital trends are key for sustained and successful advocacy. 

 

Chazz Clevinger Joins Who’s Who

And the hits just keep on coming.

A few months back, we shared the news about CiviClick being featured on three prominent news websites, including USA Today, roughly a year after we’d been founded. Well, we recently got notice that our founder, Chazz Clevinger, has also been chosen for the 2024 Marquis Who’s Who, an annual biographical compendium of the top movers and shakers in fields ranging from business to entertainment to politics.

For 125 years, Marquis’ directories have been sharing profiles of people selected for extraordinary contributions to their fields, which, in Chazz’s case, includes both advocacy and public affairs. Among the factors considered are accomplishments, career progression, position, visibility and prominence.  

“I am honored and humbled to be included in the Marquis Who’s Who, which, for more than a century, has focused on people who not only excel at their jobs but strive to serve their communities,” Chazz says. “Recognized in this way, just as CiviClick is hitting its stride—well, it’s more than words can express.”

Maybe, but we’ll try.

What is Who’s Who?

First, a word about Marquis Who’s Who. While many have heard the term “who’s who,” and perhaps even used it without thinking— e.g., “a veritable who’s who of…”—it’s been around so long, not many know its origin story.

The Who’s Who concept kicked off in London, England, back in 1849, when a handbook simply listing the names of high-society folks was distributed to help social circles keep up with whom it was wise to know while hobnobbing. Over time, the format was changed to include people in business and politics—and not just their names, but biographical information as well.

In 1899, the Ohio-born, Chicago-based Albert Nelson Marquis, founder of the publishing house A.N. Marquis and Company, debuted a stateside version, calling it Who’s Who in America. Featuring more than 8,600 entries, it was edited by Marquis, who established strict standards for inclusion. The honorees, he insisted, had to be cream-of-the-crop professionals, and the annual publication was eventually regarded as the authoritative work of contemporary biography. By the early 21st century, it included more than 100,000 entries.

Today, Marquis Who’s Who puts out multiple publications covering various industries and parts of the world. “Marquis’ products and services,” its website states, “have become dependable resources for in-depth biographical information. Professionals from fields such as law, medicine, academia, and science rely on Marquis’ customized services and comprehensive data in its print and online publications in order to obtain accurate industry information, foster important connections, and share their accomplishments with the world.”

And, now, Chazz Clevinger is one of those professionals.

Why Chazz?

While many know Chazz as the founder and CEO of CiviClick, a super-innovative digital advocacy and public affairs tech company based in D.C., there’s much more to his story. Born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, he’s also CEO of Superior Campaign Solutions, a provider of case acquisition services for mass torts law firms, and a partner of Advocators, an influencer-marketing platform focused on campaigns.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he double-majored in political science and ancient history, Chazz honed his expertise in grassroots advocacy and communications management. Among his early-career employers were CQ Roll Call, Prison Fellowship Ministries and The White House, where he served in the Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Always looking for new challenges while helping organizations advocate for change, Chazz then moved on to business development, marketing and campaign services, which led him to the civic technology space, his focus for the past 15 years. He’s been an executive at four public affairs and government relations tech companies, among them Phone2Action and One Click Politics.

Chazz has also consulted on more than 100 local, state, federal and international campaigns of all kinds, including digital advocacy, for a variety of companies and associations. Among them: DraftKings, Reynolds American, FreedomWorks, Yamaha, the American Pharmacists Association and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

As an expert in his fields, Chazz has authored such works as “How Strategic Planning Can Help You Win” and “Machiavelli, Livy, and the Political Uses of Religion.” As mentioned above, his accomplishments have led not only to inclusion in Marquis Who’s Who but also to articles on his work with CiviClick in the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Caller and USA Today.

Looking Forward

Chazz’s multiple experiences led him to found CiviClick in February of 2023, kickstarting a new era in advocacy and public affairs. His goal: disrupt traditional, often ineffective advocacy methods by leveraging AI-powered technological tools. CiviClick provides a wide range of clients, from companies to nonprofits, with a platform featuring state-of-the-art technology, which revs up connections with decision-makers, influences policy and improves communities faster and more effectively than ever.

As Chazz told USA Today, “I wanted to do something different that focused on not only the most innovative and creative ways that technology can impact public policy discussions, but also had a distinctly universal focus on being supportive of everyone’s voice.” 

CiviClick does just that. Its incredibly talented team of campaign, tech and public affairs experts offer its clientele an incredible range of solutions, including digital advocacy, performance marketing, campaign management and lobbyist referrals.

Chazz, who’s received numerous awards, including the “40 Under 40 Award” in 2022 from the American Association of Political Consultants, says that he’s not satisfied just to sit back on his and the team’s laurels. “I founded CiviClick,” he told the Daily Caller, “because I wanted to do something different that wasn’t just purely mechanical. I focused on the most innovative and creative ways that technology can impact public policy dialogue, as well as the distinctly universal goal of being supportive of everyone’s right to free speech.”

With that in mind, he’s truly appreciative to be included in Marquis Who’s Who. It’s a signifier of what he’s achieved thus far and what he hopes to accomplish down the road.

“Being in Who’s Who is humbling,” he says. “These are people at the top of their game, and they got there because they’re never satisfied—there’s always another mountain to conquer, another solution to a problem, another campaign to help improve the way we all live. So I’m inspired to be included.”

Grassroots Advocacy Software + Performance Marketing

While CiviClick offers many services—from campaign management to lobbying to marketing—there’s one constant in everything we do: advocacy. We muster our considerable forces, our tools and expertise, to help each client amplify their cause, educate target audiences and make their case to decision-makers.

And when it comes to advocacy, there’s nothing quite like a grassroots, or bottom-up, approach. It’s where you’ll find advocates who are truly dedicated to a cause and willing to do just about whatever is needed to ensure success.

But recognizing the power of grassroots advocacy is not the same as knowing, and truly appreciating, the many ways it can be practiced. There are almost as many methods of, and tools for, grassroots advocacy as there are the types of people, businesses and organizations that employ it.

So, let us break it down for you.

Grassroots Advocacy

“Grassroots,” in the context of public affairs, pretty much means what it says. Operating from the ground up, it’s usually a social or political movement fueled by ordinary people, those who, one way or another, will be directly affected by its results. “Grassroots advocacy” is the process of communicating the many nuances of a specific issue or cause to a target audience, whether it’s a community, the general public, lawmakers or all three. And as part of the grassroots advocacy process, advocates usually reach out to local, state or federal officials, hoping to convince them to vote their way.

But make no mistake: Grassroots advocacy is not lobbying. Yes, lobbyists advocate on behalf of their clients, but their one-on-one sessions with lawmakers and their staffs are paid-for, professional undertakings. Not so with grassroots advocacy; it’s citizen-based, real people fighting for a cause.  

If done correctly, grassroots advocacy is also a complicated process. In the early stages, advocates plant seeds; they make a target audience aware of an issue, then educate the audience about it—whether it concerns the climate, healthcare, small businesses, social justice or any other topic. And if you plant seeds, then water and care for them just right, grass is going to grow.  

These days, grassroots advocacy isn’t just for citizens. Businesses and trade associations now utilize it. Why? Because some causes are closely related to business outcomes. Others aren’t but involve social or political issues a company’s employees are passionate about. Some causes combine the two. For these reasons, grassroots advocacy is being practiced by many parties, including:

  • Civic group
  • Nonprofits 
  • Trade associations
  • Companies 
  • Chambers of commerce

As you might guess, they approach grassroots advocacy in very different ways. But they have two things in common: their end game, which is to affect policy; and the reason they’re all on board—technology.

Advocacy Software

In-person advocacy, which we’ll discuss below, will never go away. It’s especially vital for public affairs and government relations efforts. But digital advocacy enables organizations to create compelling grassroots advocacy campaigns that reach more people, drive more action and collect more data than traditional forms of advocacy ever could.

Digital advocates have a wealth of tools at their disposal, among them emails, text messages, online petitions, social media, websites and virtual-event platforms. In fact, some organizations are digital-advocacy-only, covering issues that appeal to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of advocates worldwide. But, mostly, digital advocacy is a companion to traditional advocacy, enabling digital tool users to amplify their commitment to a cause.

The best way to manage these tools—and ensure an organized, centralized effort—is to employ advocacy software. With the right kind of user-friendly software, including our own CiviClick, there are myriad ways advocates can, among other things, engage with elected officials. For example, advocacy software facilitates email advocacy, patch-through phone calls and social-media and video messaging—all effective, measurable methods that help drive political change. 

Pioneering advocacy software, like ours, is also designed to manage supporter relationships and keep track of which advocates are best-suited for specific efforts. You can quickly share targeted campaigns with advocates, embed action centers on your website and share campaigns via social media. Every action taken via advocacy software strengthens your cause and your grassroots advocacy network. 

Last but not least, advocacy software captures and records all of the data related to your efforts. It tracks the issues your supporters are most engaged in, the campaigns that draw the most supporters and the number of messages you managed to send to targeted audiences, including, of course, elected officials. All of this is only possible using advocacy software.

Performance Marketing

The last piece of the puzzle, before we discuss how to effectively campaign, is performance marketing. The definition is pretty much in the title. It’s a digital marketing strategy driven by performance, or results. And it’s ideal for anyone—business, nonprofit or association—reaching out to advocacy audiences at scale. Why? Because you only pay based on how users interact with the content.

For example, our performance marketing solution is CiviBoost, which we’ve used to send customized emails, petitions, phone calls and videos to decision-makers at every level of government, from local to federal. In fact, using CiviBoost, we’ve helped more than 50 clients discard harmful legislation and pass new laws in 2024 alone.

That’s because with CiviBoost, you can market your policy initiatives to our database of 28 million-plus people across the United States. We have one of the biggest databases of activists in the country, which helps to ensure our clients have access to an almost limitless network.

Via CiviBoost, we also help with email list acquisition, legislative advocacy campaigns, ballot initiatives and referendums, to name just a few campaign-related tools. CiviBoost has roughly 90 policy-interest tags and tracks age, gender, party and religious affiliations and dozens of other data points, helping to target the best advocates for campaigns.

From a financial standpoint, performance marketing is incredibly cost-effective. Clients don’t have to pay set-up or ad creative fees, project retainers or charges for what may turn out to be unproductive activities. With CiviBoost, you only pay for actual conversions, which helps maximize your ROAS (return on ad spend) and increases an advocacy campaign’s effectiveness.

Which begs the question: What do we mean by “effective”?

Effective Campaigns

As mentioned above, effective grassroots advocacy often requires a two-pronged approach: in-person and digital.

When it comes to the in-person part, the first step is to enlist support by recruiting advocates and raising funds. With any advocacy effort, it’s always good to keep in mind that collective action is much more powerful than an individual’s efforts. You fight with an army, not just one soldier.

Here are a few ways to get things started:

  • Put together a petition and gather signatures, either in person or online. 
  • Engage with community members by canvassing door-to-door.
  • Use social media to share information and mobilize supporters.
  • Put up posters, hand out flyers and distribute educational materials to spread awareness.
  • Create a user-friendly website that serves as a hub of information and resources.
  • Organize marches and/or rallies to show support and visibility.

Another great way to get people involved is to host a lobby day. At the state and federal levels, lobby days enable a company, association or nonprofit to gather a core group of supporters together to meet with elected officials for conversations about crucial issues and legislation.

It’s best, of course, to be prepared. We advise clients to meet the day or morning before the actual event to choose the primary speakers, talk about how it’s best to conduct themselves and ensure everyone is fully educated on the topics that will be discussed. This is where talking points come in handy. And if there’s literature or any other relevant materials to be shared with the officials, this is the time to gather those together. These efforts help to ensure that lobby day conversations stay policy-focused and that a cohesive message is being delivered across all fronts.

Just as important is keeping track of everything, ideally by making use of advocacy software. Post lobby day, supporters should report on how the meetings with the officials went, which issues seemed to grab them, and which didn’t. This can all be recorded so that, going forward, the organization can fine-tune its messaging.  

Assuming that you’ve taken most, if not all, of these steps and that your grassroots advocacy campaign, now backed by advocates and supporters, is ready to move forward, it’s time to activate the army, by providing them with tools, resources and strategies. These include:

  • Setting up digital systems enabling advocates to make phone calls, text or email elected officials.
  • Drafting talking points and elevator speeches clearly communicating the goals of the campaign.
  • Making use of advocacy software to help build strong relationships with constituents and more effectively mobilize supporters. 
  • Identifying policymakers and other stakeholders relevant to the campaign’s goals and building relationships or partnerships with them. 

It’s also best to ensure you have a well-designed website or microsite, which is typically a one-to-three-page website focused specifically on an issue, cause or campaign. The goal is engagement. You want supporters to proactively interact with the site while you map out their journeys, ensuring they become educated, take action, then share with folks who, ideally, will sign up as new supporters.

Whether or not you’re currently running a campaign, you also want a solid email-marketing strategy, so as to leverage your grassroots advocacy. It keeps people engaged and educated about issues, and you can use it to promote your organization’s events, education efforts and more.

Finally, keep in mind that storytelling is one of grassroots advocacy’s most powerful tools. Elected officials, especially those at the local and state levels, love to hear personal stories from constituents. Just one poignant, truly moving tale from an advocate or supporter can leave a lasting impact.                                             

Just make sure those stories work in tandem with your talking points. The balancing act can be challenging, but if you have lots of personal stories available, you can tailor them to specific talking points. That way, your messaging won’t look or sound too uniform. 

Where Advocacy Takes Place

When it comes to grassroots advocacy, whether you’re a business, chamber, association or nonprofit, you have to know exactly who your audience is. Nine times out of 10, it’s at one of three levels:

  • Local—zoning or planning boards, town or city councils, mayors, school boards. You know the saying: “All politics is local.” For the most part, it’s true. Grassroots advocacy at this level can be supremely effective. Why? Because local policy impacts the lives and livelihoods of every resident, business and association in your town, city or county.
  • State—where most grassroots advocacy occurs. Once again, direct impact is a big plus, but so is the productivity of state legislatures. Compared to the U.S. Congress, they introduce 20 times more bills during a legislative session and, in turn, pass more laws. And they’re much more accessible than members of Congress and grapple with far less gridlock, seeing as they need to tend to the immediate needs of constituents. So, as legislation moves between committees and legislative bodies, advocating at the state level requires highly engaged supporters and a well-managed campaign.
  • Federal—regulatory bodies, Congress, the President. Not easy to access, these folks. Which is why technology is so important. Using optimal advocacy software, it’s relatively easy to drive grassroots action by creating scalable campaigns that enable advocates and their many supporters to, first, raise awareness; second, educate; and, finally, reach out to decision-makers about issues with far-reaching ramifications.  

When Advocacy Takes Place

Once you know your audience, you need to know the best time to strike. If it’s a local-, state- or federal-level cause you’re promoting, you do it when the iron’s hot—when it’s being debated and/or voted on during a city council meeting. Or a state legislative or Congressional session. Just make sure your advocacy team is prepared, that it’s worked out the messaging and modes of delivery ahead of time.  

The best way to do that is to launch a full-fledged advocacy campaign days, weeks, maybe even months before a vote, depending on how complicated the issue is. When it comes to raising awareness, advocacy and education go hand-in-hand. If you want to educate the general public and/or as many supporters for your cause as possible, a well-coordinated digital campaign is essential.

One last thing: expect the unexpected. We’ve all experienced it—a Congressional vote that didn’t go our way, a natural disaster, a virus outbreak, an economic snafu. If it demands a rapid response to ensure your organization’s safety and security, you’d better hope your advocacy or public affairs team is “always on.”

CiviClick’s is a year-round approach. Because we’re constantly upgrading our advocacy programs, we can be counted upon to launch a highly effective advocacy campaign on command. That allows our clients to spring into action as bills and issues pop up. They’ll be able to leverage members, supporters and the general public to use their voices and take action.

Conclusion

We’ve shared a lot of information in this post, for good reason. Grassroots advocacy, one of the most powerful arrows in a company’s or organization’s quiver, is a complicated process. Most of the time, it demands both in-person and digital efforts carried out by scores of people. And when it comes to the digital part of the process, performance marketing and well-designed advocacy software are indispensable.

So, lots of working parts and lots of advocates and supporters, each with an important role to play. This is the way we get things done. Ours is a participatory democracy, not a passive one. And the best way to ensure our legislators are listening, and to remind them how they ended up in office in the first place, is to work with them. Grassroots advocacy backed by just the right software is one of the best ways to get that job done. 

How Old is Congress?

Usually, whether the conversation is casual or formal, it’s impolite to ask someone, “How old are you?” But when it comes to the U.S. Congress, that question is not only relevant; the answer is important for a multitude of reasons.

Among the many services CiviClick offers its clients is a pipeline to the country’s premiere decision-makers, the 535 members of what constitutes our bicameral form of legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives. And because lawmakers are people, not bots, it’s advantageous to know as much about them as possible—their backgrounds, interests, hobbies, networks and, yes, their age.

All these factors influence how congresspeople vote on issues ranging from healthcare to immigration to tax reform. So the more homework we do, the more we leverage ourselves for success.

With that in mind, and because we’re in the middle of the 118th Congress—which began January 3, 2023, and ends on the same day in 2025—it’s good to know how old that Congress is. Here’s a glimpse: the average age in the House is 58; in the Senate it’s a bit older, 64.

But before we slice and dice the numbers, and what they mean, let’s take a look at the age of the institution itself.

Two Centuries-Plus and Counting

The U.S. Congress is 235 years old. Established via Article 1 of the Constitution in 1788, it first convened on March 4, 1789. Then, as now, it consisted of two houses: the Senate, where each state, regardless of size, is represented by two senators, and the House of Representatives, whose members are elected based on population. That’s 100 senators, 435 representatives.

The many joint powers of Congress include collecting taxes, regulating commerce, coining money, declaring war, supporting the military and making all the laws needed to execute those powers. While the two chambers are separate, they pretty much have equal say in enacting legislation. Each Congressional term lasts two years, starting every other January of odd-numbered years. And elections, as we all know, take place every even-numbered year, with senators serving six-year terms, representatives for two years.  

From the very start, the Constitution required House members to be at least 25 years of age, those in the Senate at least 30. And while there’s no legal mandate, and have been exceptions, congresspeople are usually affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party.

So, now that we’re up to speed on Congress, the institution, let’s look at the 118th.

The Numbers

When it kicked off a little over a year ago, the 118th Congress was showing signs of moving in the direction of diversity. For example, Congress’ very first member of Generation Z (1997-2013), then-26-year-old Maxwell Frost, a Democrat representing the 10th district of Florida, joined the House. And, overall, the 118th began with an average age of 58, three years younger than the previous Congress.

Still, that’s about 20 years above the average age of Americans, which is 39 years old.

Looking at the House’s 435 members in particular, where the average age is about equal to all of Congress, 64 of its members were born in the 1980s — almost twice that of the previous Congress — and one was born in the 1990s. The age group with the biggest gain compared to the 117th Congress is the 40-to-49-year-olds, while those between 60 and 69 experienced the biggest losses.

The Senate, as mentioned above, is a bit older on average, at 64 years.

It’s worth noting that the oldest members of the 118th were born in the early 1930s, most of them Democrats. The three oldest are:

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, 90 (R-Iowa)
  • Rep. Grace Napolitano, 87 (D-California)
  • Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., 87 (D-New Jersey)

Three of the youngest members of Congress, aside from Rep. Frost, are:

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 34 (D-New York)
  • Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, 34 (R-Florida), the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress from that state
  • Rep. Greg Casar, 34 (D-Texas)

Overall, the Democrats in Congress are slightly older than their Republican counterparts. The average age for House Republicans is 56 versus 58 for the Dems. And in the Senate, the average is 62 for Republicans, 65 for Democrats.

One other way to look at age trends is by generation. Overall, 54 percent of Congress are from older generations – Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) and the Silent Generation (1928-45). They have a slight edge over the youngsters. Gen Z, Millennials (1981-96) and Gen X (1965-80) make up 46 percent of Congress.

But the Boomers’ share of the House is declining. It’s at 45 percent, down from 53 percent in the 117th Congress, which is still enough to make it the largest of any generation represented in the chamber. As for Silent Gen members, their ranks are shrinking: Just 21 remain in the House, or 5 percent of the whole chamber – down from 27, or 6 percent, in the previous Congress.

What’s It All Mean?

Numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story, and age is not the defining factor in how lawmakers vote. They have lots on their plates—the needs of constituents, regional and state issues, party loyalty. But age is part of what defines individuals. Your age and the generation you belong to influence how you view everything from current events to health to technology.

So it’s worth recognizing that, even as the younger generations enter politics, Boomers are still the biggest presence, for good reason. Between 1946 and 1964, 76 million of them were born, far exceeding the Silent Generation and Gen X while just a bit ahead of the millennials. In Congress, they make up almost 49 percent of the federal legislature, even though they only represent about 21 percent of the population. In addition, the Congressional Research Service reports that members of the House and Senate are more likely to serve longer tenures today than they did 70-plus years ago because they’re more likely to seek reelection and win additional terms.

Taking this into account, it’s good to have in mind that, at least for the 118th, older members may be more attuned to the concerns of older Americans. For example, political scientists recently found that they are more likely to introduce legislation addressing senior issues, like long-term care and prescription drugs. They’re also not as focused on issues important to younger Americans, including climate change. And while the young and old alike are concerned about housing, the former are struggling to afford buying a home while the latter worry about access to assisted living or staying in their homes.

Conclusion

When it comes to the U.S. Congress, age does matter, but it’s not the end-all and be-all. The last few years have shown that the age demographics in our most hallowed of legislative halls are starting to shift, but that members of the House and Senate still skew older than average Americans.

For anyone meeting, negotiating or lobbying with congresspeople, this is useful background information. Senators and representatives may inherently see eye-to-eye with you on certain issues, but may need convincing, backed by persuasive reasoning, on others.

Either way, when you walk into a room to chat with someone of a certain age, from a certain generation, it’s good to know who your audience is.

CiviClick and Its One-of-a-Kind Services

At the risk of sounding immodest, when we launched CiviClick this past year, it signaled a new era in advocacy and public affairs. Our aim was, and still is, to disrupt traditional, and often ineffective, advocacy methods by leveraging revolutionary, AI-powered technological tools. What may have seemed like a lark is now a revolutionary way to conduct business, as many of our clients will attest.

There are a few reasons for our success. First, we have an incredibly talented and creative team—former political consultants, campaign veterans and public affairs practitioners with decades of first-hand experience in technology, politics and government relations.

Second, we continually develop our technological tools with input and feedback from our frontline partners, people working in both the public and private sectors: CEOs, executive directors, Hill staffers, campaign operatives, lobbyists and grassroots advocates.

Third, we operate a platform featuring state-of-the-art technology. No more useless form letters, bad legislative data, confusing analytics or slow customer service. We’ve helped clients connect with decision-makers, influence policy and improve their communities faster and more effectively than ever.

And we’re just getting started. With that mind, we’d like to share with anyone not acquainted with CiviClick information on the many services we offer.

Advocacy Software

Our AI-powered advocacy software is ground-breaking. It allows us to deliver forward-thinking, easy-to-use technology to a wide variety of clients, among them companies, digital advocates, government relations professionals, nonprofits and trade associations. With CiviClick’s tech tools, which include gamification modules, clients create customized advocacy that perpetually ramps up engagement and rewards participation.

We also help them optimize their messaging, by pinpointing only relevant supporters and decision-makers. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. So here’s what else CiviClick’s AI-powered advocacy software is capable of:

  • Omni-channel engagement with all levels of lawmakers and regulators—local, state, federal and international.
  • Reports on advocate activities using advanced filtering options, including policy interests, custom tags, past engagement and advocate scoring.
  • Segmenting lawmakers into customized audiences for thank-and-spank campaigns and targeting by party affiliation or voting history.
  • A/B testing of machine learning modules and survey tools to accurately identify a client’s best messaging strategy.
  • Connecting clients with lawmakers and regulators via phone calls, emails, texts, videos, photos and social media.

Pay-for-Performance Marketing

Our clients are passionate about their causes. But if their messaging isn’t reaching the right people—be it advocates, tree-shakers, lawmakers or all three—few, if any, will hear what they have to say. Which is why CiviClick offers “pay-for-performance” data and advertising solutions, to help clients expand their reach by attracting the right advocates to generate momentum for their campaigns.

One big arrow in our quiver is an owned audience of more than 85 million activists in both the United States and Canada. This gives us the ability to advertise any grassroots advocacy campaign to a vast pool of potential advocates focused on 40-plus policy issues.

CiviClick’s pay-for-performance program also enables clients to customize and target their audiences through emails, text messages, phone calls, direct mail, social media ads, display ads, and hundreds of web properties in our partner network. It’s a service that benefits the client in many ways, ranging from email list acquisition to ballot initiatives to regulatory advocacy campaigns.

And what we call our Guaranteed Response Program, ensures the following:

  • A locked-in price on a “cost per conversion” basis. Clients only pay for the people who convert.
  • The modality of channel conversion, such as a phone call or an email from a constituent to an elected official, is selected by the client.
  • Conversions occur within a predetermined time frame during a campaign’s scheduled flight dates.
  • Secure tracking of the timestamp, physical address and IP address of each action-taker to prove the conversion is real and valid.
  • Each person who converts resides in a geographic region and matches a demographic profile chosen by the client.

Campaign Management

When a campaign is up and running, there’s no time to worry about whether you have all your ducks in a row. Which is why CiviClick offers a tailored service that helps clients manage their campaign and methodically, not haphazardly, execute the tasks critical to success.

Our talented team of campaign veterans knows from experience that you need quite a few crucial items to win a legislative advocacy campaign: data, planning, strong messaging and omni-channel engagement, covering the grassroots and the grasstops. Those same vets guide clients through the whole process, from budgeting to hiring vendors to deploying data solutions.

They’re the campaign operatives you want on your side to build an audience and execute integrated public affairs campaigns. And they handle it all: copywriting, messaging, strategy, audience segmentation, campaign planning, legislative research and more. They really are a dream team: seasoned advocacy professionals who are also digital advocacy practitioners.

State & Local Lobbyist Referrals

There’s one other service not everyone needs, but it’s certainly advisable in some cases—lobbyists. And if a client isn’t sure who’s the best to hire for local, state or federal policy issues, CiviClick can help, from coast to coast.

We have extensive relationships with lobbying firms in all 50 states, and can make recommendations based on political connections, policy issue areas, region of influence, retainer fee costs, roster of past/present customers and size/reach of the firm.

Here’s what clients receive as part of the service:

  • A database of the most trusted and successful local, state, and federal lobbyists in the United States and Canada.
  • Unique survey tools to match organizations with the best lobbyist for specific policy issues.
  • Testimonials, biographies, client registrations and “top lobbyist” badges—reserved for the top 10% in our database.
  • A call with the lobbyist of the client’s choice to discuss policy issues.

Conclusion

While we’ve presented you with an overview of the services CiviClick offers, we’d like to add that, as a disruptor in the public affairs and advocacy space, we tailor those services to the needs of each client. And in every case, we leverage ground-breaking AI and gamification technology to modernize the ways in which advocates communicate with lawmakers. 

As effective as that advocacy is, we also ensure that it’s fun, engaging and highly interactive. Plus, we enable our clients to grow their advocate communities via technology, surveys, social listening, community-building activities and access to our vast database of online activists.

Anyone working with CiviClick not only possesses the best technological tools available; they’re backed by in-depth expertise and an army’s worth of advocates. Working with CiviClick is like tapping a bottomless well of water that will help grow and sustain your organization for however long it takes to realize your goals. 

Making the Most of State Legislative Sessions

While the origin of the term “all politics is local” is up for debate, it was the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill — first a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress — who turned it into a household phrase decades ago. He even included it as part of the title of a memoir he co-authored. Why? Because he knew, probably more than anyone, the difference between legislating at the state and federal levels.

At the state level, legislation has more of a direct impact on people. And, accordingly, their legislatures are far more productive than the one in the U.S. Capitol. On average, they introduce roughly 20 times the amount of bills proposed by Congress during a legislative session and, in turn, pass many more laws.

Once again, we ask, “Why?” Well, for one, state legislators are never far, literally, from their constituents, and their relatively narrow focus allows them to tackle multiple local issues, resulting in more bills. They also grapple with far less partisan gridlock and because of the immediate—and, in some cases, basic—needs of their constituents, place a premium on efficiency.  

For these reasons and more, it’s important for all of CiviClick’s clients—businesses, trade associations, nonprofits and advocacy groups—to know what’s cooking at the state level, where, as 2024 gets underway, legislative sessions are kicking into gear. In fact, you can check your state’s schedule here as we share, below, the best ways to ensure your voice is heard in state legislative halls.

Prepping for State Sessions: The Basics

While most legislative sessions have already begun, it doesn’t hurt to know how to prepare for them—so that either this time around or during the next session your organization’s efforts can help influence how policies and laws are shaped.

First, a primer. Bills are introduced between January and October, depending on the state. Usually, pre-filed bills are introduced earliest. These are bills from previous sessions that haven’t yet been voted through, and they reflect what’s top of mind among the political parties and leading legislators. Which means you should keep an eye on them.

After a bill is introduced, it’s time for committee assignments, which are related to the bills’ topics of focus as well as the approvals required for each. The committee’s chair decides whether a bill will be heard and debated, a process that can include public testimony for and against the bill. If a bill doesn’t make it out of committee, it won’t be voted on. Otherwise, it heads to the floor for debate and voting.

There are two key aspects to preparing for state sessions: knowing your state’s policy trends and putting together a bill-tracking process. CiviClick helps its clients with the latter, but you can also invest in bill-tracking software or keep tabs via the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Included in the tracking process is the monitoring of bills, press releases and social media posts relevant to your organization’s interests. It’s also important to be aware of the discussions taking place between legislators and others at official meetings and events. This is why it’s important, if possible, to have a solid government relations strategy, which also helps with following what’s become increasingly important during legislative sessions: online discussions.

The point is, the more prepared you are going into a state legislative session, the better your chances of knowing when and where to speak up.

The Arrows in Your Quiver

Once a session is underway, and if you know how you’re going to approach it — via a campaign, advocacy, lobbying or maybe all three — it’s wise to be prepared in other ways.  

Craft a mission statement. The statement should share the following: why your organization is advocating for specific legislation and why it matters; the policy objectives you’re hoping to achieve; and how you plan to achieve your goals.

Whip up a foolproof communications plan. Maybe your business or organization has a communications director or just a one-person staff who might need help from CiviClick. Whatever your situation, you’ll need to know how you’ll communicate with your employees, members, supporters and fellow advocates during a legislative session.

Ensure that your digital presence reflects your mission. Update your social media profiles—on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and LinkedIn—regularly. Use video and other visuals to continually engage and educate supporters before and during sessions. And update your website, so that it, too, reflects your policy goals for the session.

Set a legislative timeline. If you know which bill or bills your organization is focused on, find out when they’ll be discussed, debated and/or testified about in committee and, if they go this far, on the floor. A timeline will help ensure that your people are prepared when policy issues officially pop up for discussion.

Arrange a lobby day. Lobby days are an essential part of any organization’s advocacy efforts. It provides you and your supporters with face-to-face time with legislators, so that you can share well-rehearsed, poignant stories and talking points with them as they prepare to discuss a bill in committee or on the floor. There is no substitute for a human connection.  

During the Sessions

If you’ve put most, if not all, of the pieces mentioned above into place, you should be as prepared as possible for your state’s legislative session. You should also be thinking about a few other things.

The news cycle is 24/7, which means responses to legislative maneuvers need to be perfectly timed. In this context, researching, focusing on constituent concerns and setting legislative goals is crucial. So it behooves any business or organization to connect with key legislators and their staff to advocate for your concerns ahead of the news cycle. That way, when an issue arises publicly, you can elevate your position to the forefront of the conversation.

Hearings are also essential. They can be informal, a meeting between interested constituents and elected officials, or formal—e.g., committee hearings. Whatever the format, hearings allow for experts in your corner to provide legislators, their staff and the public with essential information. And they examine the legislation’s positive and negative impacts.

For these reasons, it’s absolutely crucial to pay attention to legislator and staff data while planning for and participating in a legislative session. Because the session is the busiest time of year for legislators, staff may be the main point of contact. And staffers provide legislators with information, research and news on the bills at hand.

Conclusion

Now that state legislative sessions are well underway, it’s best to be mindful of the many ways your business or organization can prepare itself to have a say on which way votes for laws you either favor or dislike go. Know which bills are up for debate, where legislators stand on them and your best opportunities for sharing your expertise and/or opinion.

And marshal your own forces to help them exert pressure. At the state level especially, lawmakers are virtually face-to-face with their constituents, so your organization’s communications plan, which should include a healthy digital component, is crucial both before and during sessions. Ours is, after all, a participatory democracy, and the best, most effective way to participate is to remember what Tip O’Neill once preached: “All politics is local.”

CiviClick Amplified

It’s been about a year since we “opened our doors,” making CiviClick’s unmatched advocacy campaign expertise and avant-garde technology available to clients. And what a year it’s been. Utilizing the latest in AI-driven technology; we’ve helped companies, nonprofits, trade associations and advocates achieve and, in many cases, exceed their goals.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Over the last couple of months, the story of CiviClick’s founding and its unparalleled services have been shared on a few high-profile websites: the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Caller and USA Today   

Why? Because what we’re doing in the public affairs space, and the ways in which we’re enabling clients to amplify their voices and influence policymaking, is revolutionary. So it’s news that should be shared. Which we’re more than happy to do.

‘A More Inclusive and Representative Approach’

One of our favorite quotes from the USA Today piece is one that sums up our inimitable, brand-new-way-of-thinking approach: “Launched in February 2023 by founder Chazz Clevinger, CiviClick aims to create a space for everyday individuals to connect with elected and regulatory officials at various levels, from local, state, and federal to international, influencing countless policy debates along the way.”

We’ll focus on Chazz later, but, first, we want to dig into what motivated him to start up CiviClick. Once upon a time, outfits like the Lions and Rotary clubs served as means for like-minded citizens to gather, discuss their concerns and pass them along to local change-makers. But as technology became more sophisticated, public affairs firms stepped in, leveraging what were then brand-new tools like email and the internet to influence legislators.

It didn’t take long for those tools to go stale. Citing one example, Chazz, a public affairs veteran, told USA Today, that the form-letter version of an advocacy email—where you fill in the blanks, then send it off to a legislator—falls on relatively deaf ears. “One thing that I hear when I meet with lawmakers and their staff is that they don’t particularly want to just see messages that are pre-written,” Chazz explained. “They really want to hear the unique, authentic voices of their constituents.’”

Enter CiviClick, which uses advanced AI to help clients craft highly personalized messages—via text, photos, audio and/or video, each tailored to make a specific request or share a unique viewpoint. It’s a method that “ensures a more inclusive and representative approach,” Chazz told USA Today, adding: “Lawmakers and their staff really like it because they know it’s a real person who cares about the issue and who is speaking to them in their own voice.” 

But Chazz had more than just personalized messaging up his sleeve. “I wanted to do something different that focused on not only the most innovative and creative ways that technology can impact public policy discussions,” he said, “but also had a distinctly universal focus on being supportive of everyone’s voice.” 

‘The Most Innovative and Creative Ways’

As the Daily Caller piece makes clear, CiviClick offers its clients a wide variety of AI-facilitated tools—for instance, the use of QR codes, meaning advocacy isn’t limited to web-based communications. Calls to action can be accessed via leaflets, pamphlets and billboards, spreading the message more efficiently. And with CiviClick’s tools, public affairs campaigns can cover multiple topics, anything from cancer research and police reform to regulatory initiatives and increasing government funds for foreign aid. 

We also help C-level execs and public affairs pros broadcast their messages by designing campaigns that activate advocacy via email, phone, websites and social media, providing omni-channel engagement. 

Here are a few other CiviClick services and features:

  • automated and personally tailored thank you messages
  • staggered communication schedules, so as not to overwhelm lawmakers and their staff
  • a database featuring millions of contacts CiviClick can reach via email, texting, phone calls, field canvassing, social media and digital ads
  • in-house experts who provide strategy, segmentation and campaign planning

“I founded CiviClick,” Chazz told the Daily Caller, “because I wanted to do something different that wasn’t just purely mechanical. I focused on the most innovative and creative ways that technology can impact public policy dialogue, as well as the distinctly universal goal of being supportive of everyone’s right to free speech.”

Other CiviClick innovations include: AI-generated emails that target lawmakers based on voting history, party affiliation and other factors; and gamification modules enabling advocacy clients to create fun and engaging ways to become more involved in supporting a cause.

The programmers at CiviClick employ a hybrid approach to coding, combining traditional tech with a cutting-edge SaaS platform called Bubble, which allows them to design and build new tools at three times the speed of conventional coding. This cost-effective blend enables CiviClick to offer its clients a robust set of tools at very competitive prices.

So, who’s the guy behind all this?

Meet Chazz Clevinger

Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, Chazz was raised to believe in hard work, family values and community. “The beauty of youth is the belief that you can change the world,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “That belief never really left me. I think most young people suffer from a certain degree of naiveté, and I was no different. But I remember back when I was in college that I was full of hopes and dreams.”

He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he double-majored in political science and ancient history. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa, he worked in the White House’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, conducting research for the George W. Bush administration. Chazz then went on to run political and public affairs campaigns at the local, state and national levels.

His goal was to get a law degree and eventually run for Congress. But just as he was getting ready to attend the University of Michigan Law School, the opportunity to found a brand-new kind of public affairs firm presented itself.

Making what he told the Tribune was “one of the toughest decisions of my life,” he decide to stay in advocacy technolgy, which he considers “a public good, to enable groups from the largest corporations to the smallest mom-and-pop nonprofits to make their voices heard by lawmakers.”

As head of an incredible team of public affairs experts, Chazz brings many qualifications to the table. Involved in the advocacy and civic technology space for the last decade and a half, he’s been an executive at four public affairs and government relations technology companies, among them Phone2Action and One Click Politics. He’s also earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious “40 Under 40 Award” from the American Association of Political Consultants.

As for choosing entrepreneurship over politics, Chazz doesn’t quite see it that way. CiviClick, he told the Tribune, “enables people of all races, creeds, genders and ideas to have their voice heard.” And AI-fueled tech, like civic engagement, “has the power to shape every aspect of daily life,” he added. “Our proprietary blend of human-driven content, which provides a structured learning model for AI, is keeping us on the cutting edge of our industry.”

Ready-to-Go Advocacy

While you can control plenty of things in life, there are just as many that you can’t. A Congressional vote that didn’t go your way, a natural disaster, a virus outbreak, an economic snafu—if it demands a rapid response to ensure your organization’s safety and security, you’d better hope your advocacy or public affairs team is ready.  

Many are not. Whether they’ve failed to segment their lists properly, send personalized emails in a timely fashion or educate lawmakers about your organization’s value, the result could be disastrous.

That’s not the case with CiviClick. Our battle-tested advocacy experience, fueled by next-level technology and backed by an owned-audience database of millions of activists, ensures that we are “always on.” Ours is a year-round approach designed to ensure that your company, nonprofit or trade association is constantly upgrading its advocacy program. Like us, we want you to be second-to-none, the A team that can be counted upon to launch, in needed, a highly effective advocacy campaign on command.

Here’s how we do it:

Always Be Educating

At the top of the list is ABE—Always Be Educating. The best advocacy teams maintain a steady flow of communication that explains client-relevant issues and why they matter. Materials cover the gamut—an email listing “5 Things You Should Know,” a short video, a white paper. The point is to keep the folks on your list continually informed so that when you do hit them with a call to action, they’re primed.

For example, Edutopia, a nonprofit focused on improving pre-K-12 education, has a vast video bank on its website covering teaching from every angle, including 60-second strategies. Likewise, the Manufacturers Alliance website offers an in-depth research and insights page, providing its members with industry news and trends and expert opinions.

Get a Jump on Messaging

If you’re continually educating supporters, that means you’re staying fresh in-house and can create messaging on any issue in advance. You have the time to craft it, check the language with leadership and, as soon as it’s needed, ship it out. Here’s what that messaging can include:

  • Talking points about your company or organization
  •  A detailed description of your position on a news event, trend or specific issue
  • Statements from your CEO or executive director or a subject-matter expert
  • Content for emails and website pages
  • Drafts of press releases

While it’s true that you can’t predict everything that might happen, having these materials in the hopper will help ensure your team is prepared whenever rapid-response advocacy needs arise.

An Evergreen Acquisition Strategy

If your advocacy list isn’t growing, it’s probably shrinking. Advocates move and change jobs, some even disengage. We believe in year-round acquisition. Using multiple channels—from text to email to social—every organization should always be looking to grow its support base.

Events offering education or other content, whether virtual or in-person, tend to attract new supporters because they offer something of value, such as learning or community. And don’t just ask for support—text messaging with shortcodes (e.g. text “action” to 56789) puts the power to join in everyone’s hands. And shortcodes can be shared anywhere, from a poster to a bus stop to a billboard.

These kinds of tactics have all kinds of potential. The point is that, with CiviClick’s help, you can design an acquisition strategy that can be used any day at any time, including when something pops up unexpectedly and you have to move quickly to motivate people to support your cause.

A Well-Stocked Story Bank

We all hear it all the time—how important storytelling is. While facts and figures certainly land, and are important parts of messaging, a story showing how an issue affects a human being wins hearts and minds.

These stories can be shared by CEOs, communications directors and lawmakers who have to justify and explain their positions to constituents. There’s a reason, for example, that so many speeches on the floors of the U.S. Congress reference someone back home in the district: These real, human stories need to be told.

By asking supporters to share their tales, you can develop what every highly effective organization has, a story bank brimming with assets that can be used at just the right moment—in a digital campaign, during a meeting between your lobbyist and a lawmaker, or in an earned media opportunity.

For example, the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation’s website features an Our Why page with both heartbreaking and inspirational stories about kids who’ve been challenged by cancer, and why research for cures and treatments is so important. On the corporate side, Patagonia offers a huge bank of stories linking the company’s brand with tales of adventure, entrepreneurship and environmentalism.

Practice List Segmentation

You also don’t want to undervalue your advocacy lists. Segmenting advocates into groups—by issue, level of activity, location, etc.—enables you to pinpoint targeting and, in turn, take a more personalized approach. And the more you connect with advocates personally, the more likely they are to take action.

One travel tech company, for example, segments its list, appropriately enough, by geography, then identifies the most active advocates within a specific locale. These motivated supporters—some call them “super advocates”—often take action at a much higher rate.

While we’re all busy just about all of the time, every once a while, we do have some down time. That’s when you can think through how best to segment your list for maximum impact. Then, when a rapid-response event arises, you’ll be ready to go.

Recruiting and Training Grasstops Advocates

Last, but not least, make sure that your grasstops advocates are ready for action. As explained in another post, they’re the opposite of your “grassroots,” or from-the-ground-up, advocates. They’re established experts, leaders, politicians, or celebrities—or a combination of all four—who wield influence in places where decisions get made.

And they’re able to take action beyond standard email and phone call outreach, whether that means interacting with the media or meeting in person with public officials. If you want that kind of power, you’ll need to find these supporters and offer them special training.

One way to do that is to gather a group of them on a call to start to ramp up their involvement. You can then begin to phase them in, via education and training. Using down time to build an ambassador program makes your organization stronger when the time comes to get active.

Many of the most effective organizations have developed recruitment-and-training programs, among them the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which calls its grasstops folks envoys, and the American Society of Association Executives, which offers a very detailed training program.

Conclusion

Many other components can help prepare for rapid-response advocacy: monitoring the media, both mainstream and social, for example, and tracking legislation. An early-warning system that ensures a full view of your political landscape, and boosts your intelligence, enhances readiness.

Always-on, ready-to-go teams make the best use of so-called down time. They educate supporters, boost acquisition, build their story banks and recruit and train grasstops advocates. Bottom line: They’re always engaged in preparation and improvement, in making sure that advocacy is a year-round endeavor.

Advocacy in the Modern Era

Even though it wasn’t originally referred to as “advocacy,” the concept goes way back—to, at the very least, the mid-18th century. At the time, a British Parliamentarian named John Wilkes, a champion of individualism and free expression, publicly advocated for reform on a number of issues, among them the right to vote and religious tolerance. Years before the Revolutionary War began, he even supported and inspired the American colonists aspiring to independence.   

But it wasn’t until the 1960s, here in the U.S., that the term “advocacy” began to gain traction. Which makes sense. It was the decade when the civil, women’s and anti-war movements, among many others, took root. And now, more than 50 years later, an argument could be made that “advocacy” is an overused term.  

But it’s also more useful and, with help from technology, effective than ever—not just in the halls of legislature, but at the local, state and regional levels, in non- and for-profit communities. And it’s at the core of what CiviClick does for many clients. 

But what, exactly, is advocacy in the modern era? We have an answer to that question.

A Definition (or Two) and Advocacy’s Early Days

Advocacy,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal; the act or process of advocating something.” OK, so what does “advocate” mean? “[T]o support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.); to plead in favor of.” This makes sense, as the French word for “lawyer” is “avocat.” And legal advocacy goes back to ancient times, in Rome and Greece.

While the term’s exact origin is tough to nail down, in the mid-1960s a man named Paul Davidoff, a New York City activist and urban planner, penned an article in which he promoted “advocacy planning.” He felt that city government, represented by NYC’s planning commission, should not have the only and final say in how the neighborhoods of underrepresented residents are built and/or altered. The people themselves, he insisted, must have a voice in the process, with support from advocates.

“The advocate planner,” he wrote, would provide information, analyze trends and predict future conditions. “In addition,… he would be a proponent of specific substantive solutions.”

What followed, from the ’60s through the ’90s, was a succession of movements during which communities, supported by advocacy specialists, affected significant changes in a wide range of areas, from anti-nukes to education to veterans’ rights. Then, starting in the ’90s, advocacy was ratcheted up—first via email, then the internet, and, finally, social media. Today, we call it digital advocacy. And it enables just about anyone to advocate relatively easily at some level.

No matter what the means, however, there are a few basic reasons why advocacy is critical to reform.   

Why Advocacy is So Important

Whatever the movement may be, advocacy fosters communities of people who’ve come together to promote their cause in a number of ways, which include:

  • Empowering people and giving them a voice. On their own, people may be hesitant to advocate for issues near and dear to them. But backed by a support network, they’re more likely to speak out publicly. This attracts the attention of the media, politicians, and, in some cases, high-profile figures who can help spotlight the cause and, eventually, bring about change.
  • Influencing policies and educating potential allies. Provided with a platform, advocacy communities make lawmakers aware of previously little-known issues and, through networking, demonstrate ways in which new legislation can positively impact society. They can also educate potential allies—and, in many cases, the general public—about hardships and injustices specific groups face.
  • Promoting participation and problem-solving. Because advocacy at its best is a collaborative effort, advocates and their supporters find ways to solve problems together, through diligence and coordinated planning. Organizing protests, lobbying politicians, and engaging in digital advocacy, to name just a few tasks, require skills that ensure the smooth facilitation of advocacy efforts.
  • Highlighting available resources and services. Rarely does advocacy occur in a vacuum. Well-coordinated efforts make use of already available resources and services. They could be financial resources, the expertise of like-minded organizations, or governmental services. Advocacy enables people to utilize tools that were previously thought unattainable.
  • Fostering respect for a cause. In many cases, advocacy spotlights causes once thought to have little to no widespread relevance. The growth of environmentalist movements over the past century is the most obvious example. Fostering respect often helps propel an advocacy effort forward, enabling advocates and people in power to find common ground and solve problems civilly.

What Advocacy Looks (and Should Look) Like

Speaking of moving forward, where does advocacy’s history leave us today? What does advocacy look like, and what should it look like, in the modern era?

From 30,000 feet, it appears as if advocacy plays two roles: as a support system for those trying to affect change and a potential catalyst for that change. But, ironically, this view is shortsighted. More than ever, the people directly affected by adverse policies have the means at their disposal to do more than just participate in the rules-changing process. They can also proactively shape the lives they want to live.

It’s our job as advocacy professionals to help them. Collectively, we should question whether the fundamental assumptions about advocacy serve people, organizations and businesses as well as they should. For example, while advocacy certainly empowers the individual, should it do so at the risk of alienating like-minded people or organizations that could help individuals achieve their goals?

We must find ways to enable people to express their full selves while, at the same time, involving others—like trade associations, fellow nonprofits and government agencies—who might be able to help them. We also need to transform short-term victories into the realization of long-term goals, so that people are empowered far into the future. Again, the ongoing battle against climate change comes to mind. 

Conclusion 

The bottom line is that, as we see from history, advocacy is ever-evolving, regardless of fancy new tools or methodologies. Positive change is best achieved through continual dialogue, collaboration, and a commitment to ensuring that the people suffering the most are heard from.

At CiviClick, we remain ever vigilant and always look forward to working with clients who appreciate the value of support services and the wisdom of advocacy experts across many different sectors, each with one goal in mind: to make positive change a reality.

What Does an Effective Grassroots Advocacy Campaign Look Like?

Each grassroots campaign, one that grows from the ground up, is pretty much what you’d imagine—a social or political movement driven by regular people, those who will be directly affected by its impacts. This means every campaign, focused on a specific goal, is different. Some strive to influence social justice issues, others policies affecting climate change, and still others the elections of political candidates.

For example, Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for U.S. president, wasn’t the establishment’s go-to choice that year. The Arizona senator earned his nomination after galvanizing a grassroots coalition of business folk, Southern and Midwestern conservatives, and libertarians disillusioned with the GOP party at the time. Decades later, Bernie Sanders, the progressive Democratic senator from Vermont, did the same for folks on the other side of the fence, by riding a grassroots wave of support during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.  

While neither gent won the presidency, grassroots efforts certainly bolstered their campaigns. And beginning with the 2016 election, many other groups and individuals turned to grassroots advocacy to raise their voices and promote their causes. By 2020, when COVID-19-related policies and social unrest were making headlines, grassroots advocacy at the local, state, and national levels was almost commonplace.

Therein lies the rub. Any grassroots marketing or advocacy conducted today—by a business, trade association or nonprofit—must rise above the din. Its participants have to work extra hard and be truly creative, to wage an effective advocacy campaign.

How Do You Measure a Successful Campaign?

While each campaign is different, and backed by an army of advocates striving for a unique goal, there are a few basic metrics that help determine whether it’s successful of not:

  • Increased awareness

Did your efforts—whether you’re a business bolstering your brand or a nonprofit seeking change—turn up the volume on your cause? Did it make headlines, draw legions of supporters, catch the attention of legislators? If the answer is “yes,” and you were able to keep track of what you’ve achieved, raising awareness is half the battle.

  • Impact on policy, legislation, or an election

 Even better is that your efforts resulted in a policy and/or legislation change—in your favor, of course—or the election of a political candidate whose presence in government will benefit you in the future. But this isn’t always easy to measure. Other people, groups or factors may have played a role in achieving such goals. At the very least, you’ve helped accomplish the change you lobbied for. And if you’re a business, you’ll know whether grassroots marketing has helped sell a product or service or expand your brand.

  • Growth

As in the growth of your company, association or nonprofit. By the end of a campaign, you can measure, again by keeping track of, the number of supporters and their engagement during the campaign.

With these metrics in mind, we’d like to share examples of successful grassroots advocacy campaigns, each with valuable lessons to impart.

The Power of Social Media and Storytelling

The first example takes us abroad, to Sweden, where, a decade ago, UNICEF Sweden, which provides humanitarian aid to families in developing countries, conducted what it called a “Likes Don’t Save Lives” campaign. Responding to the obsession with collecting likes on social media, the nonprofit wanted to make the point that likes alone don’t translate into change. So it created several YouTube videos addressing that very theme, each accompanied by a donation button.

The videos went viral worldwide and raised enough money to vaccinate more than 630,000 children against polio. So the campaign, leveraging digital technology, was bold, creative and beneficial to hundreds of thousands of the organization’s core constituents.

Closer to home, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently ramped up its advocacy efforts by providing farmers with opportunities to meet with legislators and their staffs in person. To ensure impact—which, in this case, means having legislators remember the farmers and their needs whenever relevant legislation comes up for a vote—the bureau trained its advocates in effective storytelling techniques. It worked. The AFBF reports that the storytellers, in particular, are often called by the staffs of Congresspeople to discuss upcoming legislation.

Storytelling is just one of the bureau’s methods. On its website is a page dedicated to grassroots advocacy as well as a toolkit providing a long list of ways “to increase your effectiveness as a champion advocate for agriculture.” Those ways include creating virtual farm tours, sending personalized emails to lawmakers, attending events and conducting year-round advocacy.  

Appealing to Lawmakers and Celebrating Real People

Another nonprofit that proactively reaches out to Congress is Save the Children, which, for more than a century, has championed the rights of kids worldwide. It, too, has an advocacy page and operates the Save the Children Action Network, which provides advocates with a host of options for getting the word out on specific issues, including a Take Action page enabling people to reach out to lawmakers. The script for each message states the purpose of the action and what a lawmaker can do to help.

Advocacy, of course, isn’t just reserved for nonprofits. One example of how a well-known company used grassroots marketing to burnish its brand took place during the height of the COVID pandemic. In the summer of 2020, Coca-Cola tapped into the widespread feeling of isolation by creating an ad titled “The Great Meal,” an homage, it said, “to the silver linings of a global pandemic.” Produced during the quarantine, the 90-second ad featured 13 real-life households in eight countries preparing, then eating home-cooked meals with Coke on the side.

The ad followed months of Coca-Cola refraining from marketing due to the pandemic. So this was its way of resuming advertising during what was then the new “normal,” living in COVID bubbles pre-vaccine. That normal ended up being temporary, of course, but the company successfully applied a grassroots method to bonding with its consumers during a difficult time.

Promoting Safety and Upping Your Game

Another food-related organization, this one a nonprofit promoting organic and sustainable alternatives to processed food, went the grassroots advocacy route to raise awareness about, of all things, popcorn. In 2015, the Center for Food Safety shared that 40 insecticides, including three that are bee-toxic, were being used in the processing of popcorn products. It created a campaign site that included a petition and social media instructions, with the intent of pressuring companies to pull back on the use of bee-toxic insecticides. And by the next year, it was reported that several big brands had removed them from the popcorn supply chain.

Other organizations, when they’re not launching specific campaigns, are simply looking to up their advocacy game, which is what Veterans for American Ideals (VFAI) recently did. For a long time, it managed grassroots campaigns with Excel spreadsheets and email marketing software. But it wanted to do a better job of activating supporters, so it invested in the kind of grassroots advocacy software CiviClick encourages and quickly realized the benefits of integrating its advocacy work into a digital platform. This enabled the VFAI to upgrade its advocacy page, which provides visitors with information on whom it works with, the help needed, and the ways in which advocates can get involved.

Conclusion

The forms of grassroots advocacy are as varied as the causes for which they are utilized. They range from ad campaigns to social media movements to training advocates on how to meet, greet, and influence lawmakers. For successful campaigns, like those shared above, the bottom line is that they’re bold, creative, and accessible, energizing advocates and enabling them to easily promote a cause.

These examples are meant to inspire and inform. But we also invite any company or organization that might be looking for extra help to reach out to the CiviClick team. We’d be more than happy to show you what we can do to help.

Digital Advocacy 101: How It’s Done

Whether you’re an organization or company engaged in a campaign, or in advocating for a specific policy or cause, there is rarely a break in the action these days. When it comes to “rallying the troops,” off-seasons no longer exist, which means your advocacy teams must be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to leverage digital space to spread the word and mobilize advocates.

Sending emails or text messages, making phone calls, creating social media campaigns — whatever it takes, organizations must be able to move quickly and efficiently to target their intended audiences in support of a campaign or cause.

With deep-bench expertise in advocacy, CiviClick knows just how important the digital component of any successful effort is. But we want everyone else to be aware of its import as well as what it takes to fully ramp up an advocacy campaign. You simply can’t do it without digital tools.

So, welcome to Digital Advocacy 101, complete with the details you’ll need to step up your game.  

What It Is, and Why It’s Important

As noted in an earlier post, digital advocacy, quite simply, is the use of technology to create, promote, and mobilize support for a cause or campaign. Those engaged in the practice employ a whole host of tools, including their own websites as well emails, text messages, online petitions, social media, and virtual events.

While traditional advocacy, including face-to-face meetings, is still highly effective and, indeed, crucial for campaigns, the digital component, over the past decade, has evolved into an indispensable means of bolstering campaigns. Why? Because it is:

  • Quicker than traditional advocacy, reaching more people in a relatively short span of time — especially considering the magnitude of leads and contacts on your advocacy list.
  • Scalable. One email or text can go out to an entire list, then be forwarded to others by supporters. And, on social media, a video can be shared — and potentially go viral — reaching well beyond your list. The same is true of digital narratives, which appeal to younger, highly active audiences prone to sharing on social media.
  • More efficient, thanks to digital advocacy software making it possible to store all in-house info in a central, searchable, and highly functional location. If you need to identify active supporters, or advocates in a certain location, it is relatively easy to do.

There’s a reason so many companies and organizations have made digital advocacy, via social media especially, a crucial part of their daily efforts. As a couple of examples, see what the American Childhood Cancer Association and the Red Cross are doing.

Depending on what you’re promoting, digital advocacy campaigns can be relatively simple or quite complicated, or somewhere in between. Whatever the goal, there are a handful of steps essential for carrying out a digital advocacy campaign.

Know What You Want

Planning is everything. House-builders need blueprints, triathletes need to know their routes. So make sure to take the time necessary to prepare for your campaign. Establish measurable goals, set a timeline, know exactly how you’ll communicate and meet all the requirements necessary to launch a campaign.

First and foremost, do not have unrealistic expectations. And make sure that the team and tools at your disposal are sufficient to handle however long the campaign may take: a couple weeks, three months, or more. For longer-term goals, you may want to recruit a healthy number of advocates and/or reach out to those policymakers or legislators who can ultimately be of help.

Your Toolbox and Target Audience

Among the essential digital advocacy tools are: a database to maintain your list; email and text messengers to communicate; a website enabling advocates to take action; and an analytics suite to track progress and optimize performance. Advocacy software does all of those things in one place, and it is always the first step. A proven, reliable, easy-to-use system helps guarantee you have the capabilities you need. It also provides the technical support for success.

First, though, know your target audience. From the get-go, identify the advocates who will help spread the message. For some campaigns, you might send a call to action (CTA) to your entire list. For others, it might just be supporters in a single state or region. Choosing the right advocates is extremely important, seeing as you’ll be attempting to engage those most likely to take action. 

Also keep in mind that legislators, if they’re on your list, will listen to their constituents; so that’s who should be sending them emails or letters. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and energy.

Your Message and Advocacy Activities

Carefully craft your message. You need to know what you want to say and what imagery you will use when launching a campaign. And, again, plan ahead of time. If you know your organization’s position on an issue, creating messaging and having it approved in advance can speed up campaigns. Consider too what it will require to mobilize your audience. While some may respond to a simple request, others may need education to get up to speed on an issue.

If you do have to create messaging spur of the moment, you can still be proactive by setting up an approval process ahead of time, so that you can go from 0 to 60, draft to launch, expeditiously.

Once your team is in place, an audience established, and the messaging down, it’s time to launch your campaign’s advocacy activities. CTAs are guided by what works best for the situation and your audience. So they could include advocates signing a petition, sharing materials (such as videos), contacting legislators, or other requests.

Here are several additional ideas:

  • Host fundraising events via social media (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Instagram) and your website.
  • Offer webinars to raise awareness about your cause.
  • Conduct outreach activities, such as calling and texting supporters, donors, and other stakeholders to garner support.
  • Engage in texting and email campaigns to keep people updated about your campaign or cause.
  • On social media, conduct live sessions with experts.

Ups and Downs, and How to Handle Them

As with everything in life, digital advocacy comes with challenges. Your audience members, for example, may experience digital fatigue and, in turn, be difficult to mobilize. Some may engage on certain issues, not on others. The best campaigns successfully navigate obstacles and continually motivate advocates without being too aggressive.

The rhythm of a campaign is especially important. Email or text too often, advocates may ignore your messages. If you don’t do it enough, they may forget why your issues are important. A winning strategy focuses on specific channels and includes a timeline for what to post and when. These strategies also help boost performance:

  • Educate your audience. Messaging should include links to appropriate resources, like studies and data backing up your assertions. It may also include links to personal stories and your campaign page, where they can find out more or sign up for notifications.
  • Choose the correct channels by knowing where your target audience spends its time. Are emails or texts more effective? If social media is the way to go, which platforms?  You want to match your digital tools with the ways your audience communicates.
  • Send appropriate messages. People don’t act unless they’re connected to an issue. Whether enlisting advocates, sharing info, or reaching out to policymakers, make the message relatable. How does an issue affect them? Why would a change benefit them?
  • Recruit grasstops advocates. These are usually high-profile people who’ve shown interest in advocacy and have close relationships with policymakers and legislators, people who, once you share impactful information with them, can help boost campaign performance.
  • Re-engage advocates. By tracking campaign activity, you can find ways to reactivate advocates who haven’t taken action and increase their participation. See who’s acted the fewest number of times, then provide them with resources designed to energize them.

Assess Your Campaign

After your campaign is done (or is put on hold or is shifting gears), it’s important to evaluate its performance. If you have, indeed, set measurable goals from the outset, you can look back and assess whether or not the goals were or have been met. As mentioned above, with the right software, you’ll have insights into which efforts yielded the most impact so that you can optimize your strategy moving forward.

Conclusion

Digital advocacy is no longer a sidekick to traditional advocacy. It’s a crucial part of any advocacy efforts, so long as you employ the appropriate tools and set up teams able to handle them. While it doesn’t substitute for traditional advocacy, it hones, quickens and makes more effective those efforts.

But digital advocacy is not easy. You need a team focused on digital tools and how to use them, and your messaging, audience and ways of communicating must be mapped out ahead of time if you want to succeed. And always assess how the campaign is doing so that, afterward, you know what worked and didn’t work and can adjust for future campaigns.

Taking all these steps will help to ensure that your organization’s advocacy efforts are more efficient and effective than ever before. Don’t ignore digital advocacy; embrace it. 

What Is Public Affairs, and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re affiliated with a business or a nonprofit, you operate within an ecosystem where multiple entities—such as lawmakers, stakeholders, and, to some degree, the public—play vital roles. You do not, in other words, operate in a vacuum. 

And in that ecosystem, public relations, utilizing marketing and advertising techniques, helps to promote your brand or cause. But it’s public affairs that provides you with the means to communicate in nuanced ways with your various constituents and, in turn, to shape public debate around issues that directly impact your work.

“Nuanced” is key here, as public affairs, practiced effectively, is a long-term, multi-pronged effort. But before we get into details, it’s good to know what we mean, exactly, by “public affairs.”

What Public Affairs Is and Isn’t

Three terms that often get confused with each other are public relations, government relations and public affairs. This is, of course, understandable, so it’s worth distinguishing between the three.

The aim of public relations is to generate positive publicity, to help build loyalty for a company or organization and promote its brand. Government relations, meanwhile, serves as a branch of public relations, facilitating, in particular, communication between an organization and government officials. It’s the process of influencing public policy on various levels, from local to global, depending on the issue and who’s doing the influencing. The goal is to persuade government officials to change or maintain a policy, usually one that fits the needs of your organization.  

Public affairs extends far beyond the government. It’s a service that helps you interact with your stakeholders, legislators, and the media. Focused primarily on policy issues, public affairs experts, like those at CiviClick, concentrate on finding solutions to problems. They serve as a liaison between you and your community, the government, and the media, mostly by disseminating information intended to influence public policy and build support for your organization’s agenda.

One example of public affairs is the ways in which Walmart supports policies that positively impact not only its business, but the interests of its customers and other stakeholders. Among its activities are advocating for policies at various government levels; encouraging its employees to vote; and working with trade associations to advance issues that affect its stakeholders and business.

Why Public Affairs is So Important

Public affairs applies to trade associations and nonprofits as well. It provides a framework for guiding key advocacy activities with stakeholders, including allies, policy influencers, lawmakers, and government officials. These are people whose policy decisions extend far beyond business, affecting people, charities, and multiple organizations as well. By making stakeholders aware of your agenda, and your key “asks,” you ensure that your stand on issues are understood and help influence policy change.

Local and state governments throughout the country pass regulations and laws that touch multiple industries and communities. The way businesses are licensed to operate, the distribution of food and utilities—these are just a few examples of decisions made by governments at various levels. With this in mind, it’s imperative that the voices of an organization and its stakeholders are heard on regulations directly impacting day-to-day operations. Public affairs teams, employing a formal strategy, ensure that those voices are heard in the halls of power.

Public Affairs Strategies

Because what and who shapes policy is so important to organizations, government relations and public affairs often work hand-in-hand, providing a one-two punch, if you will. Ideally, teams working in both areas can craft a strategy that, first, defines an organization’s goals, then identifies important legislation and leverages relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers to achieve optimal results.

Here’s how it works. When proposed legislation is set to impact an organization, government relations specialists meet with and discuss the legislation with the appropriate decision-making parties while the public affairs team shares information about it with stakeholders, the media, and, if applicable, the general public. 

It can also work the other way. If a specific community expresses concern over an issue, one for which there is no existing rule or regulation, it’s the responsibility of the public affairs team to come up with possible solutions and, with help from the government relations team, convince government officials to act in a way that addresses the community’s concerns.

Advocacy: a Key Component

Public affairs, therefore, entails many responsibilities and demands that its experts specialize in a number of areas, including:

  • Lobbying local, state and national lawmakers on specific policies or legislation
  • Providing stakeholders with pertinent information, either directly or through the media
  • Monitoring political activity and information
  • Advising an organization’s leaders
  • Advocacy

The last one is especially important. As we’ve noted in previous posts, advocacy campaigns—whether legislative, grassroots or nonprofit in nature—are often vital to achieving the specific or overall goals of an organization, making advocacy a key aspect of a successful public affairs strategy. Developing and maintaining relationships that will benefit your industry or cause are vital to influencing government actions, including lawmaking.

For similar reasons, lobbying is important as well. Lobbyists, whose role is to take part in an organized attempt to influence legislators, are professional advocates for individuals and organizations. Any advocacy efforts they participate in can help introduce, shape, and support laws and regulations crucial to an organization’s cause.

Finally, public affairs teams must cultivate fruitful relationships with the media. All forms of media, from print to digital to social, serve not only as a means of sharing important information and issues with your stakeholders; they have the power to sway the general public as well. So building a healthy relationship with the media is key.

Conclusion

To reiterate, an effective public affairs strategy provides a business, trade association or nonprofit with a solid framework for guiding key advocacy activities. It combines stakeholder outreach with expertly handled government and media relations aimed at achieving an organization’s short- and long-term goals.

The most adroit public affairs experts, many of whom are employed by CiviClick, perform a variety of all-important tasks, including: maintaining ongoing relationships with lawmakers and government regulators; informing and reassuring stakeholders; monitoring policies relevant to a client’s industry; and leveraging media to help influence public policy.

If it sounds like a bit of a balancing act, it is. But the payoff—both protecting and bolstering a client’s work and well-being—is a huge one.