In The Circle
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In The Circle
Is Your Advocacy Focused on Washington? Then You Are Missing the Big Picture.
By Glen Justice
Is Your Advocacy Focused on Washington? Then You Are Missing the Big Picture.
I was teaching at an advocacy seminar this week, chatting with a group of attendees, when the subject of state legislation came up. I was struck by the fact that every one of the people in the little group was somehow involved at the state level.
And why not? That is, after all, where business gets done these days.
By way of example, look at the 113th Congress, which passed 352 bills and resolutions in 2013 and 2014, according to data from my colleagues at CQ Roll Call. That was utterly dwarfed by the 45,564 bills and resolutions passed by the legislative bodies in all 50 states and Washington DC during that same period.
Of course, much of that legislation never made it into law, state or federal. But for advocacy professionals, the message is clear: if you are focused rigidly on Washington, then you are missing a big part of the picture.
States have always been laboratories for policy and legislation, and they have often been a sound alternative for advocacy groups who cannot get what they want from Congress. But watching states grapple with a blizzard of issues -- and with Congressional productivity lagging -- its hard to argue that they are not playing a bigger role these days.
Sure, there are the everyday struggles with issues like budgets and education funding. But there are also huge issues, such as the massive changes brought about by shifts in the energy sector. In Alaska, which has been hit hard by low oil prices, there is talk about raising taxes -- a huge deal in a place where there’s no state income tax. In North Dakota, the center of the U.S. oil boom, there’s talk about dropping the state income tax to zero.
In many other states, low prices at the pump have put gas taxes on the table, in order to address crumbling infrastructure. The issue also ties directly to Washington, where many states are waiting for Congress to serve up a highway bill.
Advocating in the States
What does it all mean? It means that savvy companies, associations and advocacy groups will have eyes on the states -- and the capability to act.
Let’s start with tracking. How you go about it will largely depend on how much action you have to watch. If its just a few issues, you might get by with Google News and a spreadsheet. But any more than that and you’ll need professional tools, including a news outlet that watches state action and a state-level bill tracker. There are several options available, and you should shop around.
One great technique is to chat with someone who tracks state legislation for a living and to get them to walk you through the drill. If you know somebody, you are way ahead. Invite them for coffee and bring a notebook. If you don’t, track somebody down and introduce yourself. The effort you save will be well worth that awkward first phone call.
You should also have the ability to respond to issues that impact your organization, using digital advocacy campaigns -- responsive websites paired with email and social media powered by advocacy software -- to drive engagement and action on state issues. If the issue is important enough, you should also at least have a line on how to run a ground campaign should you need it.
Again, there are options on how to get there (naturally, I’m partial to solutions offered by SevenTwenty Strategies and CQ Roll Call), and you should investigate your options vis-a-vis your needs and your budget. Sure, this is all time consuming. But ask yourself how much time you put into monitoring and trying to sway Congress.
Then, let me remind you that fully 38 states and the District of Columbia passed more legislation than Congress did last session. Put another way, while Congress passed roughly 4 percent of the bills introduced, the states passed about 25 percent.
Watching what the states do -- and responding -- is clearly worth your time.
Glen Justice has been a journalist for more than 25 years. He is currently Managing Editor for Marketing at CQ Roll Call.
In The Circle
Which Way to Participatory Democracy?
By Francesco Calazzo
Every time an event concerning participatory democracy, eParticipation or just plain citizen engagement takes place in Brussels, it’s worth a bit of reflection.
The European Union has done a lot over the last 10-15 years to address the perceived gap between citizens and political institutions. Progress was made and projects were launched. Some of those projects were more permanent (the European Citizens’ Initiative and the Petitions’ Portal). Other were less so (the Meeting of Minds, European Citizens Consultations and EuroPolis).
Yet, this progress has been slow. Had the economic crisis not intervened to trouble the waters, we clearly would be witnessing a radically different scenario today.
And yet, right when many of use were wondering whether hope was lost, a resurgence in the debate can be clearly be seen on both sides of the Atlantic -- and the best may be yet to come.
Meeting in Brussels
It is with these considerations in mind that those who work in civic engagement met recently in Brussels to present, discuss and assess a wide array of pilots, beta-phase programs and tools.
The gathering was part of a joint action by the EU government and Civil Society, spearheaded by the European Citizen Action Service. It was called Joint Citizen Action for a Stronger and Citizen-Friendly Union.
The overarching tone of meetings like these is always a mix of pragmatic despair and endless hope in the face of ambitious plans and projects that, for a number of reasons, fail to take off as they should.
The issues at the heart of these shortcomings are more complex than a blog post can convey. But we can attempt an educated guess.
Leaving aside all socio-political and economic considerations, it could be argued that almost every time central governments have tried their hand at it, on both sides of the Atlantic, they have fallen short of expectations.
Why Governments Fail
The whys and hows have been the center of many a dissertation, but it could be argued that government -- any government -- by itself is in a dubious position to succeed in any serious, long-term, and large-scale citizen’s engagement.
The reasons are inherent to the very nature of a government or public administration, and may also be traced to one big misunderstanding. The participation of citizens -- and therefore a higher level of engagement, empowerment and ownership of the public process -- does not entail running everything past them for approval on the Internet.
Last time I checked, much of the western world was still on a parliamentary/presidential form of democratic government. Electronic participation simply means citizens can more easily be heard and officials can better take the pulse of the situation and obtain clear messages about priorities.
Indeed, it is not a mere coincidence that, time and again, smaller countries always inspire the best practices. For example, at the Brussels conference, Estonia was often center stage.
Where does that leave us?
Based on personal experience, professional expertise and knowledge of several pilot projects, I personally feel strongly that governments of the world over should overcome any wariness about dealing with corporations and the private sector, and try to strike fruitful collaborations.
Corporations offer “muscles” and widespread reach. Governments could do their part by bringing a sense that balanced, non-partisan and ethical work is being done for the common good (and keeping regulatory functions in an entirely different domain).
By envisioning novel ways to engage with the public, a truly new age of eParticipation is very much within reach. And, in a society that has seen so much paradigm-shifting change, this new approach is not only necessary, but it may also be welcome.
Is this going to be painless? The answer is a big fat NO. Striving for more meaningful eParticipation is like charting new territory. But whomever heads the race will reap the benefits of the pros and learn from the cons.
The hesitation blues should be discarded and an effort made to overcome technical hurdles, scarcity of means and clumsy implementations – three factors that have tarnished many a project thus far – and to replace them with the graceful and pragmatic adoption of new and zeitgeisty tools for the new millennium.
Francesco Calazzo is a European digital advocacy expert based in Brussels. He led the design of the European Parliament's Petition System and has advised European governments on digital citizen participation strategies.
In The Circle
Give Your PAC A Check-Up
By Lawrence Young
In The Circle
Get More Ink in 2015: Strategies that Work!
By Marichelli Hughes
Generating media interest for your issue, campaign or brand can seem pretty daunting at times, especially when you consider how many others inside and outside your industry are competing for the same ink and airtime. What does it really take to get and stay on a reporter’s radar screen? A best selling book? A power title like “Senator?” While titles and accolades certainly won’t hurt, the best way to fast-track consistent media exposure for yourself is to put in place a rock solid media relations plan. Here are some key strategies to get you ink:
Build Relationships with Reporters:
1. Be a Source: Reporters work with people they can trust, who are credible, reliable, likeable and have something interesting to say. Your first step is to build a relationship – not a pitch. One way to do this is to schedule introductory meet and greets with reporters who cover issues relevant to your industry. Before each meeting, be sure to do your research. Read past articles the reporters have written to get an understanding of the types of stories they cover. This not only appeals to their interests, but it lets them know that you actually care about the issues they write about.
During the meeting, be a thought leader instead of a sales person. While it might seem reasonable to tout all the great things your organization does, chances are the reporter is not prepared to write a front-page feature article about you. The sales approach does not work with reporters. Instead, focus on the timely trends and issues that are most important to your industry and how it impacts a greater audience. Your goal is to position yourself and your organization as a thought leader and industry expert. Now, you are interesting, credible and quotable – and dare we say it, relationship worthy!
For one of our DC-based health care organization client, we encouraged them to meet with health care reporters to discuss the impact of increasing instances of health care fraud and abuse to their industry and the cost of health care. After a few months, the client began receiving calls from the reporters they met. Now, they get regular ink, and it all began with a cup of coffee.
2. Be Available: Try your best to be available and easily accessible for interviews in the event reporters contact you. The reality is that most reporters work on extremely tight deadlines. If you are hard to reach, don’t return calls and emails, and are generally unreliable, your relationship with that reporter won’t last long – unless you or your organization are considered celebrities.
3. Be a Resource: Send reporters industry information that is relevant to their coverage. Share a new research study or polling data about a key trend. By doing so, reporters will begin to see you as a resource for information, an expert in your industry and a go-to-person to speak to when anything big happens. You can send them information about your company, for example: a new initiative being launched, a new product coming on the market, etc., but try to limit coming across too self-promotional.
4. Be a Connector: If your company is hosting a conference, a webinar, a seminar or a roundtable, invite reporters to attend as your special guest. Introducing reporters to other key members of your organization and industry can provide them additional perspectives, which can ultimately increase media coverage for you.
5. Be Credible: Always be honest with reporters. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let them know. Never lie, make up an answer, or speculate a fact that you cannot prove. A good reporter fact-checks everything. The last thing you want to do is to lose a reporter’s trust or overplay your hand in an interview. During the recent Ebola outbreak in the US, our multi-national client was asked multiple times in a single interview if their technology was the “cure” to the outbreak. As much as they would have liked to say “of course,” they focused on the credible answer, which was that their technology was potentially life-saving – but not the sole answer to the epidemic. It was the right answer.
Select the Appropriate Spokesperson
6. Picking Your Messenger: One of the main reasons why some organizations don’t get quoted in an article is because their spokesperson simply didn’t deliver. Not everyone is print-and camera-ready and equipped to speak with the media. A spokesperson who rambles, who can’t stick to the key messages, or who can’t hold the interest of the reporter or the camera can make or break an interview. It is also not wise to have multiple spokespeople. The best strategy is to pick one to two people (three at the most) to serve as the face of your organization. This will ensure message consistency. You also want to select people who are articulate, know the ins and outs of your issues and industry, who can handle difficulty questions (especially during a PR crisis), are likeably and will appeal to your readers and viewers.
7. Preparing Your Spokesperson: Make sure that all spokespeople are media trained. You can have all the information in the world, but if the delivery of that information is poor, it will never make it to print or air. Some spokespeople are so technical they are not relatable. They speak in jargon, which is hard to understand. Others tend to ramble on and completely stray away from the topic. Both scenarios are ink-killers. During media training, a spokesperson should learn how to organize their thoughts into key messages and quotable sound bites that can easily be delivered; understand how different media outlets work - print versus broadcast (radio and television) as well as online; and learn how to become a newsmaker by using strategic interview techniques.
We recently conducted a media training session for a client of ours. We defined the core messages with him, and landed his first interview. When the story ran, we were able to take out a yellow highlighter and underline his three key messages verbatim throughout the article.
Create Compelling Newsworthy Content
8. Write a Thought Leadership Piece: Beyond interviews, some media outlets publish bylined articles/guest columns and op-eds written by organization executives. Try to ensure that your article focuses on issues and trends that will educate and inform the outlet’s target audience. If you can provide data, statistics, survey information from a poll or evidence-based content to support your topic, all the better.
9. Tell a Story: If you are issuing a press release about a new product, a new initiative or a new office opening, always try to ensure that the narrative tells a story and makes an impact. For example, it should answer one of these questions: What is unique and different about your product or new service offering? Is it a first-of-its-kind concept in your industry? How does it impact a greater audience? Why should people care?
10. Use Visuals: Create and send B-roll footage to TV stations that they can use; print media uses photos, charts and graphs all the time; offer live demos of your product or service offerings via Skype or GoToMeeting; invite reporters to tour your facilities. If reporters can see exactly what you do, the better the chances are they will write about it.
11. Partner with Others: If your organization engaged in philanthropy – beyond your bottom line – let the media know about it. Whether you are donating money or time to a charity that helps the homeless or partnering with a non-profit organization to raise awareness about the importance of cancer research, human interest stories often resonate with reporters. Recently, we showcased a 16-year-old entrepreneur and the grand re-opening of her DC-based small business. The young client and her intention to donate a portion of her proceeds to a local non-profit organization proved to be an inspiration, especially around the holidays. During a candid conversation with a reporter, we learned that the non-profit angle was the deciding factor to write the article.
Getting ink is one part art, one part science and one part knowledge. But at the end of the day, it’s about building trusted relationships and helping reporters get what they need. Embrace how reporters think, and you’ll be well on your way to getting ink in 2015.
Marichelli Hughes leads the media relations practice at SevenTwenty Strategies, a nationally ranked public relations and public affairs firm based in Washington, DC, with a 15-year track record of driving results for its Fortune 500 and trade association clients. For more information, visit www.720Strategies.com.
In The Circle
Give Back and Support Your PAC
By Lawrence Young
Give Back and Support Your PAC
Working with Charities to Boost your Corporate PAC Participation
'Tis the Season’ for giving, but how many are willing to give to their PAC right now? As the year comes to a close, people are thinking about family and friends, and helping the less fortunate. Yet, how do you make your PAC relevant during the holiday season?
You can turn your PAC into a rallying cry to help charities. Several companies have seen great success implementing a program where employees who donate to the PAC, can choose a charity to receive a financial gift from the company “matching” the employee’s donation. The FEC permits these kinds of charitable contributions to charities recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
The FEC allows a lot of latitude in setting the parameters of a PAC Match program. While many PACs match at a 1:1 ($1 charitable donation for every $1 donated to the PAC), some PACs will donate $0.50 per $1 PAC donation. Others institute a minimum PAC contribution before the PAC will make a matching gift. Some PACs will contribute to any charity that a donor requests, while some may let donors pick from a selected list of charities. No matter what kind of match program you may implement, research shows that a PAC match program greatly improves new member recruitment.
In a survey of 31 PAC Administrators, 94% respondents viewed PAC Match as an effective tool for raising money for the PAC. One administrator commented that PAC Match was the leading incentive in joining the PAC. (Source: Public Affairs Council 2014).
For most, the PAC Match is a win-win – for both the company and for your fellow employees. They can support the company through the PAC, while making a gift for those in need. Not only does it help employees give to causes they care about, but also it demonstrates another way for your company to display its civic engagement.
This is a proven generator of PAC dollars and increased participation. Do you need help implementing a program to fit your company? Give us a call and we can dive in together to figure out a program that will work for you.
In The Circle
Election 2014 - Engaging the Candidates
By Pam Fielding
This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity blog.
Primary season for the 2014 midterm election is almost halfway over. As the summer starts to heat up, so do general election campaigns. For those in the advocacy space, that means there is a whole universe of candidates to start engaging now.
Advocacy efforts often target those who are in office. But the months leading up to an election offer the perfect time to get your issues in front of the candidates vying for those seats. Now is the time to start motivating advocates to reach out to the candidates.
While candidates are not able to change policy right now - and if they lose may never be able to - it's still important to begin engaging them in the early stages of the campaign season. An election cycle is a learning experience for many politicians. It's the time of the year when they're interacting with and listening to their constituents. Looming election days often sharpen the politician's awareness of what constituents are concerned about.
One need only look to the stump speeches politicians deliver every day to see the impact of getting your issues in front of them. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney often spoke about the people whom he had met on the campaign trail and the stories of their real-life problems. By encouraging your stakeholders to engage with candidates, you can infuse your issue into the discussion.
Influencing candidates offers many benefits to your advocates and organization. First, by helping a candidate understand the importance of your issue, it is more likely he or she will begin to interject it into the campaign discussion. This increases the possibility of your issue getting more airtime. And if an opponent starts talking about your issue, it will often force the incumbent to also discuss it, too, and take a stance on the matter. If a candidate you've influenced is victorious in November, you have already laid the important groundwork to have engagement with the new officeholder.
Organizations can help their advocates connect with the candidates in many ways. Like advocacy campaigns targeted at office holders, you can and should encourage your stakeholders to email the candidates. Since President Barack Obama turned the political landscape upside down by using social media, more candidates are keeping robust accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Encourage your stakeholders to engage candidates in their districts by tweeting at them or posting on their Facebook pages.
It can also be easier to arrange face-to-face meetings with those running for office. A candidate will try to get as much interaction with likely voters as possible, so setting up meetings allows the candidate and your organization to both achieve their goals. You can use the opportunity to help brief a candidate on issues of importance by providing a candidate guide on your issue area, positioning yourself as a resource for issues affecting your industry or cause.
Encourage advocates to schedule meetings with candidates at their campaign offices. Ask the candidate's campaign for a schedule so that advocates can attend voter meetings at local restaurants, schools and community organizations. Campaign season is also a great time to invite candidates to your organization's headquarters or where you have a large presence. By hosting a meet and greet, your stakeholders have the ability to interact with the candidate and explain their concerns. It's also a value-add for your members, allowing them easy access to those running for office.
If you want to help drive your agenda with candidates, consider conducting polling or focus groups on your issue area in key districts or states and ask voters how important the issue is to their Election Day decisions. Sharing this information with candidates could put your issue at the top of their agenda and make it a key talking point on the stump.
Waiting until the election is over is too late to start talking about your issue with new candidates. By engaging your stakeholders and mobilizing them around the election, your issues can become an important part of the campaign discussion and give you a head start with new office holders.
In The Circle
The power of Mom
By Pam Fielding
This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's new Connectivity blog.
It's almost Mother's Day and 180 days until Election 2014. Of course it's a good time to send a card or some flowers - but for public affairs professionals, it's an even better time to reflect on the power and impact moms have on our country. Ann Romney got it right when she said, "It's the moms of this nation - single, married, widowed - who really hold this country together...You're the ones who always have to do a little more." For those of us advancing issues in the legislative session, in the community, or in an election, the power and potential of America's moms can't be overstated.
How will moms vote in the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, the first since the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law? While it may not be crystal clear just yet, it's crucial to remember that American women make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families, according to the Department of Labor, and $2.7 trillion in annual consumer spending decisions. And that decision-making power will weigh heavily on them and candidates as moms head to the ballot box.
Over the years, we've been called lots of things: Soccer Moms, Walmart Moms, and this year, if Michael Bloomberg has his way, perhaps Gun Safety moms.
The former New York City mayor is banking $50 million this election cycle on Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella entity for two gun safety groups he controls, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety, whose aim is to make gun safety an issue in this election.
The big question for those of us who believe in the power of mom to impact this election and this legislative session, is how will we reach her and what will we say when we do? The good news is, we moms are overwhelmingly online. Ninety percent of us use the Internet, according to Edison Research. And increasingly, we're part of a growing momosphere. In fact, 3.9 million U.S. moms identify themselves as bloggers.
Moms aren't "one size fits all," of course, and that's what makes it fun and challenging for advocacy professionals to do what we do for a living. Moms need to be understood and communicated with - recognizing all the things we are and care about.
Moms are social media mavens. In fact, a joint study with BabyCenter.com and comScore found moms are 20 percent more likely to engage on social media than the general population. So how do you reach mom? Give them social media content that feeds their interests and give them the tools to make a difference.
In a study done this February, Yahoo's advertising department found 70 percent of moms are more responsive to online ads that relate to their current online activities.
Yahoo also found that 25 percent of moms say they have a higher affinity with brands that sponsor content that interests them - like sponsoring recipes or sites that provide tips for dealing with children.
Big data opportunities abound to reach mom, whether you head to the voter file or commercial lists. But before you press send on your email, know this: millennial moms and baby boomer moms have varying online habits. According to a study by Yahoo, millennial moms are more likely to engage with social media, online video and streaming music. Baby boomer moms prefer more traditional forms of online content, like text articles.
Whether you blog, tweet, pin, email market or advertise, moms value content about topics that matter to them, are relevant to their current online activities, and feed their natural tendency to engage.
This Mother's Day, while you're pinning the corsage on mom - don't forget her favorite online equivalent (Pinterest, of course.) And, be sure to recognize her undeniable power: as a social media influential, an advocate and a voter.
Happy Mother's Day, Moms. You rule!
In The Circle
Election Day 2014 – Are You Ready?
By Vlad Cartwright
It's hard to believe that in just six short months, Americans will be heading back to the polls, to cast their ballots in many pivotal races that will determine control of the U.S. House, Senate and state governments.
Every day that passes is one less day that your organization has to engage your stakeholders, whether they are PAC members, advocates, employees or association or coalition members. Many opportunities exist to build relationships with your stakeholders and educate them about the races. And if you get a head start now, there are creative and engaging ways you can encourage them to take part in their civic duty while advancing your PAC or advocacy goals.
Educating stakeholders around the elections isn't about wading into partisan politics. You can develop a non-partisan platform about civic participation and taking part in your constitutional rights. Successful PAC and advocacy programs excel at linking the impact of issues and elections and their communities and jobs, for example. With a few easy steps, you can set your audience up to be informed and engaged voters while at the same time, generating interest in your programs. Here are a few recommendations to consider today:
GOTV communications for employees, retirees and all other stakeholders...
Don't wait until October to start implementing your Get out the Vote program. Primary and general election registration deadlines vary by state and sneak up with little warning. Research these deadlines for your key states and communicate around them via your regular communication tools (you are communicating regularly, right?). By developing an engagement calendar now, you will know when to communicate and what information to discuss. Communications can link stakeholders to your PAC or organization website where you can embed tools that allow users to register to vote, identify their polling place or learn about the candidates in a few easy clicks. If you have legislative action tools, you probably already have this content. By doing this, you are turning your program website into a virtual civic participation engine!
Develop a voter information toolkit...
Ramping up for the election early means you have time to get creative. You don't have to endorse specific candidates. But you can help your members make informed decisions. Identify the key issues that you're focused on and turn them into engaging materials. By identifying the issues your stakeholders should consider when they head to the polls and providing information on where the various candidates stand, you have empowered them to make informed decisions. A flier or issues pamphlet can be crafted to help stakeholders remember the issues you are focusing on this election. A poster in the break room reminding employees to vote (no matter who they vote for) is an easy way to increase engagement and drive traffic to your website.
Voter education video...
SevenTwenty has found that one of the most effective ways to share information and drive engagement is through video. Video can be engaging and help to promote civic participation and your particular programs. When you start thinking about Election Day early, there is plenty of time to develop your own video message. Maybe you already have a Grassroots or PAC video that you use for recruiting and fundraising - based on its level of success, you may want to consider additional video content that promotes the value of your PAC and the importance of the elections.
Plan events or conference calls with members...
From tele-townhall meetings to "Pizza (or pancakes) and Politics," staging a memorable event can help your members get excited about the process - and your programs. Is there an exciting race in the state where your company is headquartered? Reach out to the candidates and ask them to stop by and meet your employees. PAC members will appreciate value-added events and candidates are typically interested in direct outreach to voters. A conference call with a political prognosticator who can lay out what is happening in the political arena can be an easy way to generate interest in the election. Alternatively, you can have a leader in your Washington office hold a webinar or conference call to talk about their impressions of the coming election and what changes in political dynamics could mean for your issues.
So think about getting ahead of the game and being prepared for the upcoming elections. Planning early will help you to create value for your stakeholders, build a more informed voter base and benefit your programs via increased traffic.
In The Circle
SevenTwenty’s Chris Monnat on building a responsive, one-stop website
By Ginger Gibson
Editor's note: SevenTwenty Strategies is launching a new feature. We will begin regularly featuring some of the cutting edge and exciting work being done by our employees and offering you a chance to get to know the people behind the solutions. Check back for more exciting updates about the work being done at SevenTwenty.
Chris Monnat, chief technology officer at SevenTwenty Strategies, likens his job to that of a fire fighter - without the life-threatening task of putting out fires, of course.
Not only does he juggle the every day evolving needs of clients - from website creation to database production - but he's also thinking strategically about how to put out - or prevent - the next fire.
"The day-to-day is mostly finding the best way to take technology and mold and shape it to meet our clients needs," Monnat said. "It's looking at technology and things like responsive design and finding ways that it can benefit our clients."
Responsive design is one of the newest ways that Monnat and his team are working to create websites that provide clients with a strong and creative first impression for their supporters.
What is responsive design? Monnat breaks it down simply: One website that is viewable in every browser and on every type of device.
Before, web designers would have to produce multiple websites so that if users surfed from home on their PC or on the road from their smartphone, the site would always look nice.
But now responsive websites detect what type of device and browser the visitor is using and adapt. Users are viewing the same website, but pieces of it may change so that it adapts for their device.
"It's one stop, one source to serve all devices," Monnat said.
Having a well designed website is important, Monnat explains. If someone puts a lot of time into designing the site that users on a computer sees, but disregards the mobile version, there could be real repercussions.
He points to a study that found that the web surfing experience has a real impact on how people see the brand.
"Fifty seven percent, over half of users say they would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site," Monnat explains.
And when trying to get visitors to our website to sign on to a campaign, that response becomes more important.
"We're dealing with advocacy," Monnat said. "You're counting on people's goodwill to spread the word. If you don't make it as simple and accessible as possible, you're shooting yourself in the foot."
He added, "When it's not accessible on their phone, they could be losing 50 percent of those going to take action, not spreading the world or spreading the word negatively."
There are lots of advantages to designing websites using responsive design, Monnat explains.
No matter what topic a website is addressing, eventually the content is going to need to be changed or updated. A responsive website only has to be changed in one place and then all versions of the site are adjusted. When dealing with the traditional setup - multiple sites for different browsers and devices - the content has to be changed several times. Trying to coordinate multiple changes is where errors and inconsistencies start to get introduced.
Is a responsive website always the best choice? Monnat said for most situations it is. Any site that is dealing with content - the written word, photos or videos - or is going to be updated frequently benefits from a responsive website.
The only exception Monnat finds are websites that are intended more as an experience than an information hub, particularly those that rely heavily on Flash or other interactive elements.
Get to know Chris Monnat quickly:
When he joined SevenTwenty? September 2010
Where is he from? Rochester, NY
What's is favorite app? Microsoft's new One Note app for Apple products. He uses it to take notes in meetings and keep track of all the work that is going on.
"I'm finally back in my note taking Nirvana," he said.
If Monnat could have an app to do anything? Clean his apartment.
One thing he isn't willing to give up for technology? Printed copies of magazines.
In The Circle
Happy Halloween from SevenTwenty Strategies
By Pam Fielding
Boo! Did we scare you? A Message to SevenTwenty Strategies clients and friends from our CFO (Chief Fright Officer)
In The Circle
New FEC Ruling Paves the Way for Text-to-Donate Strategy
By Vlad Cartwright
160 characters ... That's the limit of a standard text sent over Short Message Service (SMS). And those 160 characters can have significant influence on political operations. Since the 2008 election, campaigns and candidates have been using text messaging to engage their supporters to mobilize in support of shared causes with increasing frequency and success. Now, the text messaging game is changing in a new and potentially explosive way: fundraising.
An August ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) cleared the way for campaign contributions to be sent via text message, adding a new and powerful arrow to the fundraising quiver. There's little doubt that fundraising via SMS has the potential to play an important role in identifying, growing and mobilizing a stronger donor and advocate base for those that take advantage of it. As seen in the wake of natural disasters, people can be quickly engaged and vast sums can be raised in short periods, such as $43 million in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. And we are excited about the new possibilities it presents for the organizations with whom we work.
For many potential donors, sending a pledge over text is far more convenient than filling out a form and entering payment details. And, for the organizations that leverage SMS, they are interacting through a technology that most of their donors and stakeholders use on a daily basis. Stakeholders and donors can now simply text "GIVE" to a designated number to donate to a campaign or PAC. Strategies such as this can help an organization successfully raise money and expand their contact lists.
According to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox LLP, who worked to convince the FEC to allow contributions by text message, "Text message contributions have the potential to truly revolutionize the way PACs raise funds."
While the FEC ruling on texting unleashes a powerful new set of possibilities that can prove to be a game-changer to many candidates and organizations, there are still issues to work out with regard to the cost of overhead and collection of accurate donor information. However, smart organizations seeking thoughtful and intelligent application of this new tool will quickly find ways to perfect the process. Some may even seek to convert text donors to more traditional methods of engagement, while continuing to take advantage of the power of SMS to identify new donors and mobilize the grassroots.
As with any new opportunity, there are kinks to work out. However, supporters of the ruling, including both 2012 Presidential campaigns, which launched text-to-donate efforts in late August, lobbied the FEC to move on this for one reason: this technology can play a strong role in expanding their donor base and growing their grassroots advocacy missions. And we here at SevenTwenty Strategies certainly agree!
In The Circle
When It Comes to Engagement Videos, Shorter is Better
By Bear Baker
Think the length of an engagement video doesn't make much difference? Think again. In a recent study conducted by a video hosting service, it was found that a video's run time has a dramatic impact on how many people stick around past the first few seconds.
The study examined two videos - one 30 seconds in length, and one 90 seconds. The graph below reveals the "engagement rate" of the two videos. The top line represents the shorter video, while the bottom line shows the longer video. The content of each video was virtually the same - in fact, the first 30 seconds of the 90-second video IS the 30-second video - however the rate of decline is vastly different. By about 10-15 seconds in, viewers were much more likely to turn off the longer video than they were the shorter one.
Why? The average viewer is now beginning to look at the timeline at the bottom of the video to see how long the video is, and then quickly decide whether they want to invest their time watching your message.
When the study was drawn out to include videos of greater lengths, the metrics show that a steady drop off accompanies the growing length of videos studied. While a 1-2 minute video garners an engagement rate of over 65%, a 2-3 minute video only keeps a little over 50%.
Statistically, this has a profound effect on your communications strategy. While we'd like to say it all with one video, that's not the most-effective messaging solution. Aside from watering down the core message (contribute, participate, etc.), we're also losing viewers. If we can get the message out in less than 1 minute, we are most likely reaching close to 30% more people with that message than we would with a 3-minute video.
Now, if we make that video compelling, or fun to watch, then viewers are far more likely to watch an additional short video or click on a link to a webpage designed to take the viewer further into varying facets of the core message.
Today's technology has come a long way from the corporate video playing on a DVD/VHS combo TV on an A/V cart in the lunchroom. The days of the captive audience are over. Your communications strategy needs to take into account that viewers can now simply bounce off the webpage hosting your video without anyone noticing. At SevenTwenty Strategies we are continuously honing the craft of modern, digital communications for our clients. Let us help you with yours.
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