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Mastering the Ladder of Engagement Strategy

June 039 minutes to read
Ladder representing ladder of engagement

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.


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.


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.