A spike in grassroots and grasstops organizing with digital advocacy tools and virtual communication platforms has been one of the unexpected upswings during the COVID-19 crisis.
A recent webinar we hosted with leaders from four major associations, about how they’re managing their advocacy and lobbying efforts remotely, brought multiple insights and guidance.
We’ve condensed that advice from the government relations experts at the Airports Council International-North America, the American Nurses Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, and the Premium Cigar Association into 10 key points below.
1. Be a source of information, truth, and support to your members: Contrary to what you might think, people are looking to associations for leadership more than ever before.
Now is the time to bolster your digital engagement and resource library to provide reliable, accurate information at your members’ fingertips. It’s potentially the first and only place members think to look for industry-related information if you’re a trade association, so make sure things are apt and easy to find.
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2. Share resources with everyone – and not just your members: This is a great opportunity to open up your resources and show value to non-members. It increases brand awareness for your organization and showcases what you do to potential members.
3. Create a forum for discussions on unique challenges and best practices: Give your members an opportunity to ask questions and help one another. Leverage in-house policy experts to help guide conversations with agencies. This places you in a central place of thought leadership and helps further establish your position as the “go-to” source for your industry.
4. Adjust your advocacy issues and priorities: Instead of fighting for the entire advocacy portfolio, try to understand how COVID-19 is impacting your members, specifically, and balance your issue areas against different priorities. Consider where you might be most effective right now.
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5. Leverage grasstop advocates to advance your high level asks: Select a group of your top advocates with close relationships with Members of Congress to advance issues on your behalf. These could be board members, a pre-defined group of A-list advocates, even someone’s cousin. If your industry is struggling, now is the time to call in the big guns.
6. Localize your issues and present compelling arguments in lawmaker meetings: Share industry perspectives and personal stories of how COVID-19 will impact your employees, members, and supporters, if there is no economic relief, or not enough. Bring it down to constituent level so lawmakers can see how their own potential voters are being affected.
7. Collaborate with other organizations to amplify your message: Don’t do it alone. Partner with organizations that share your mission to strengthen your strategy and amplify messages. And consider partnering with non-obvious organizations to get your message expanded into a wider audience.
8. Get ahead of the issues and the message: If there is a projection of job loss in your industry, you need to take action now. Get third-party validators to echo those projections and start sending letters to House and Senate leadership, heads of committees, the administration, and agencies that regulate your industry to foreshadow the projection and highlight workers that would be impacted by this change.
9. Focus on state and local grassroots activities: Advocating shouldn’t just be to Congress right now. People are engaged in grassroots organizing because they are hurting. Utilize this time to increase advocacy efforts by putting together effective campaigns that help raise local and state issues particularly as most state legislatures are convened and members of Congress are back in their districts.
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10. Invest in digital advocacy tools to drive engagement: Investing in digital advocacy tools to help you drive member engagement and monitor campaign and election advocacy trends is key to getting your message out right now. In the absence of physical meetings and shoe-leather lobbying, everything has gone online. Don’t get left behind when it comes to getting your message in front of those all-important lawmakers and staffers.
To learn more about actionable best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, watch the on-demand webinar here.