Advocacy is a crucial part of many industry associations. It allows your members to stand up for their profession, and is a core part of driving member engagement for your association. To achieve these benefits, of course, you have to get it right.
In many ways, online advocacy is a touchy subject. Your members have to be the ones on the forefront, but they will be better off with resources from you to make that happen. To hold that balance, consider these 7 best practices for online advocacy your association can establish for better results.
1) Position Yourself as a Resource
You want to be the conversation driver, but your audience doesn’t necessarily need you to be. If you push the message too far, you might alienate both current and potential members of your association. Instead, take the approach of positioning yourself as a resource for your members.
That means sharing information about new legislation that might be relevant on your website and through other communications. Be transparent about your point of view, but provide a neutral overview of the issues at hand. Make yourself and experts within the association available for questions, comments, and interviews. The more you position yourself as a resource and authority on your website, the better.
2) Establish a Clearly-Held Point of View
Being a resource comes first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a point of view. Again, it’s all about a balance. With the resources in place, it’s time to start thinking about just how you want and need to position yourself in relation to the legislation, policy, or other advocacy issue in question.
That point of view needs to be well-supported. Rather than simply sharing an opinion, spend time and resources on industry surveys and other research to back up your argument. Your goal is not to appear biased, but to position yourself as a thought leader on the issue at hand. In other words, make both members and non-members want to follow you rather than attempting to force them to do just that.
3) Provide the Tools for Engagement
Getting your members the information they need is only the beginning. Ideally, and especially if you are looking for a groundswell of advocacy from within your association, you have to make it easy for them. Understanding what steps to take, when to take them, and how to take them, is difficult. Provide them the tools to engage, and they’ll become much more likely to do so.
These tools may differ in some details, but tend to be the same across industries. For example, sharing contact data of local and state legislators is and should be standard practice. Another option is to help them craft the messages they want to send, removing more barriers from the communication. The more tools you provide to streamline the process, the better.
4) Encourage Grassroots Organizing
The best associations don’t just know when to engage with their members. They also know when to step out of the way. Ultimately, and as associations like the NRA and the ACLU have shown, taking a front seat in the fight for any legislation can backfire. The true organization has to come from your membership.
That means providing the engagement tools, as outlined above. But it also means enabling your members to leverage your communication tools for grassroots organizing. Message boards and email listservs are just a few of the many ways in which you can use these tools to your members’ advantage.
5) Leverage Social Media
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. As with any type of modern communication effort, it has to be a part of your overall advocacy plan. Building a social strategy can help you share important news and legislation, engage your member, and provide a platform for grassroots advocacy.
To accomplish all three of these goals, you have to be strategic. Social media is not meant to be a promotional tool, and any message that is too direct will not be received well. Instead, use channels like Facebook and Twitter to provide quick updates on a legislative plan moving through the pipeline, deep dives into what it means, and similar efforts.
6) Personalize Your Messaging
Your audience responds better when they see the message relevant to them. That is true in marketing overall, but especially in advocacy. Put simply, they have to feel like what you’re saying is about them, and inaction will affect them in a way that they might not anticipate. Some options for personalization include:
- Segmenting your members into groups that might react differently to various efforts.
- Engaging different groups differently, with different messages and strategies.
- Personalizing individual email messages and web experiences.
7) Put Success Metrics in Place
Finally, it’s important to track your efforts as you attempt to make a difference in your industry. That means understanding what it means to be successful to begin with, then putting success metrics and benchmark in place that help you track your movement toward the goal.
For example, try tracking how many of your members actually respond to appeals for advocacy, how many follow through on contacting legislators, and more. Larger metrics, of course, include actual influence on legislative action through your association. But even small metrics can help you understand what works, what doesn’t, and where you need to make adjustments in the future.
Is Your Association Ready for Online Advocacy?
All of the above require strategic thought, planning, and member buy-in. At the same time, they also cannot work without the right technology in place. If you don’t provide the tools they can use to stand up and put in a good word for their profession, they might not choose to do so to begin with.
That’s where we come in. Engagifii is a fully-integrated association management suite, designed to help you optimize your membership engagement, revenue building, and online advocacy. Our tools allow you to share legislation and legislative contact information, and build the messaging for your members. Visit our website to schedule a call and see how we can partner to help your association, and ultimately your industry, succeed.