Why You Need Grassroots This Year

Why You Need Grassroots This Year

Here are some words you have not heard in a while, but are nonetheless true: Congress is busy these days. First there was the tax bill. Now lawmakers are working on immigration. And infrastructure is up next.

For advocacy professionals, it’s a good time to think about growing your audience. Sooner or later — and probably sooner — you are going to want them to contact members of Congress. When that happens, more people is better.

How you handle outreach will vary by organization, but there are some universal rules to increase efficacy. These rules will help you grow your audience, but they can also help in issue campaigns, candidate races and almost any other situation in which you are trying to influence people. Remember, there’s an election this year — a big one.

A ‘High Touch’ Approach

We can start by borrowing a maxim from the marketing world and accept that sales — in our case, recruiting or influence — requires consistent communication. To get people’s attention requires multiple “touches.” Some marketers believe in the Rule of Seven, which means that it takes seven contacts in 18 months in order to make a sale. It makes sense. Research shows that seven is a magic number for human memory. Phone numbers are seven digits. So are license plates.

Whatever the number, the point is this: If you want people to pay attention, you need to get in front of them and stay there. Regular communication through multiple channels is the rule.

If we accept that idea, it stands to reason that we will have more impact and broader reach if we communicate through multiple channels. The goal is to communicate with your target audience through all of the channels they use to receive information. Over time, you will break through the noise, penetrate their consciousness and, in some cases, get them to act.

If you need proof that this works, just think about all the marketing slogans and jingles you have locked in your head. You never sought out that information. It was presented to you by savvy marketers who understand that relentless, multi-channel communication gets the job done.

Multi-Channel Communication

Selecting channels is a relatively simple task: more is better. The two limiting factors are likely to be your organization’s resources and the particulars of your audience. Of course, you want to do some targeting, whether by geography, demographics or some other factor that is particular to your organization. For example, if you are trying to reach younger people, social media is stronger than some other avenues.

Generally speaking, however, a diverse grassroots program stands the best chance of getting your message before the right people.

  • Email. Email is the workhorse of every program. It’s a low-cost tool that is capable of reaching almost everyone. Who doesn’t use email? The key is to practice strong list management to avoid being tagged as a spammer. If you don’t have an expert in-house, hire someone who can manage your email program ethically.
  • Social Media. Here’s another low-cost tool — sometimes a no-cost tool — that can dramatically increase your reach. Posting your messaging on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere on a daily basis — with graphics and videos — will get notice over time. Paid promotion can expedite that outcome. Overall, social media is a no-brainer.
  • High-Quality Video. There are few better ways to communicate than short, high-quality video. YouTube is the second-largest search engine on the internet (only Google is larger). It pays to be there. Moreover, video is a tool that can be used on multiple channels. It can be placed on your website, included in emails and sent out on Facebook and Twitter. Quality video is tough to produce in-house. Hire an expert. The ROI will almost certainly make you smile.
  • Direct Mail. Direct mail has fallen out of favor because of the cost, which is higher than email. But direct mail worked extremely well for decades — and it still works. Thoughtful mail pieces are a strong addition to a diverse grassroots program.
  • Phones. Phone calls, whether delivered via recording or a live person, are another tool that has fallen out of favor in the digital world. But, like direct mail, they are effective. That’s why candidates and surrogates use them so often (it is common for the president to record calls to support congressional candidates, for example). Your organization can use them too.  
  • Digital Advertising. While most people do not like ads, they are an effective way to reinforce your message. A technique known as “re-targeting” allows you to tag people who have visited your website or blog and show them ads moving forward. It’s a great way to remind people why they visited — and to urge them to take action.   

Obviously, there are many more channels that can be used to communicate your message. What you use will depend on your resources and your audience. Start with the tools already in use and give them a boost. Then, add new ones, watching the metrics to see what is effective. A strong, diverse grassroots program can help your organization in many ways, from campaigning to recruitment. This is the year to do it.