The COVID-19 pandemic has hit retail businesses particularly hard with forced closures, new health requirements, and consumer’s limited spending power. As the leading voice for all segments of the industry, the National Retail Federation had to quickly pivot to try to protect the approximately 52 million jobs retail contributes to the U.S. economy — this included turning a two-day event in D.C. into a nationwide virtual experience.
“We feel that we're responsible for representing all those 52 million voices,” says Meghan Cruz, director of grassroots at NRF. She’s responsible for developing and implementing grassroots advocacy campaigns in accordance with NRF’s agenda. “A major priority for us is COVID-19 relief ... While some retail businesses have done well during the pandemic there are still many who continue to struggle. We also promote policies to lift up the consumer, such as direct payments.”
But while pandemic relief is a big focus, the team still has to protect the overall industry’s interests – from immigration reform to infrastructure and labor and employment legislation. “There's not really one issue that doesn't impact retailers because of the nature of the business.”
This means NRF has a behemoth of issues to track and to mobilize their advocates on, not only at the federal level but also in each of the 50 states. That’s a lot to manage, which is why NRF trusts FiscalNote.
Segmentation, Scorecards, and Reporting: a Grassroots Trifecta
Using FiscalNote State, the government relations team at NRF keeps track of all the relevant bills across the nation that could impact the retail industry. Then, in partnership with FiscalNote’s Professional Services, NRF also provides its members with an interactive map where they can see what legislation affects them in each state. With all this information, Cruz’s grassroots team can hit the ground running to mobilize advocates using VoterVoice.
“I use VoterVoice for our grassroots calls to action, maintaining our advocacy database, and segmenting our advocates based on areas of interest,” she says. Because of the wide range of issues that impact retail, Cruz has made it a priority to use VoterVoice’s powerful advocate segmenting tools. “I’ve been trying to tag each individual advocate with an advocacy area of interest based on their behaviors with our action alerts and other advocacy outreach that we do [through VoterVoice].”
The segmenting tools in VoterVoice have allowed the team to target advocates who have clicked, opened, and taken action (or not) on a particular campaign to refine the messages they send to increase engagement and tap into advocates’ areas of interest. One example of this increased engagement is NRF’s COVID-19 relief grassroots advocacy campaigns, which showed the largest results they’ve seen in at least the last three years.
“We generated more than 42,000 messages to Congress last year on COVID-19 relief and we were able to mobilize around 20,000 advocates,” Cruz says. Additionally, “78 percent of the advocates who took action through our VoterVoice campaigns were new advocates to our network.”
Another way Cruz’s team engages advocates is by using VoterVoice’s Congressional scorecards. “We have the scorecard posted on the NRF action center so our members can gauge how members of Congress support our issues,” she says. On a regular year, these scorecards also help her team grant their “Hero of Main Street Award” to the legislator that best supported retail’s interests in Congress.
Finally, the reporting tools on the platform allow the grassroots advocacy team to show success and prove the value of their work both internally and to NRF members. “The reporting tools provided by VoterVoice have been really key and share the value of advocacy with our members,” Cruz adds.
At the end of the year, her team puts together a public year-in-review video based on some of the metrics they get from VoterVoice — including the number of total messages sent and members of Congress contacted. They share it with their members via newsletters and email campaigns, as well as the general public through social media. The year-in-review video is a great, visual way to show the value of NRF’s advocacy efforts.
No Fly-In? No Problem
In 2020, NRF was expecting a really exciting year of in-person events and engagements with lawmakers. Every two years they host their big legislative fly-in event called The Retail Advocate Summit, which takes place for two days during election years and draws in approximately 250 people to Washington, D.C. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything but NRF was committed to amplifying retailers’ voices.
Cruz and her team transformed three of their advocacy programs into virtual formats: store tours, town halls, and the policymaker series where C-level executives had the opportunity to engage in small settings with policymakers.
“Store tours are a major part of NRF’s advocacy strategy to get those on the ground in-person engagements with lawmakers,” Cruz says. Her team was able to pivot the program successfully to engage with Congress in time and hosted 13 total virtual store tours. This time, the focus was on showing how committed retailers are to safe shopping practices, in line with NRF’s framework for safely opening and operating retail.
For the town halls, NRF reached out to their retail association partners in states where they had key lawmakers for their legislative priorities. In total, NRF hosted four virtual town halls in Florida, Ohio, Washington, and a combined one with Texas and Oklahoma, engaging 25 lawmakers and 200 retailers.
“They're meant to give small retailers a seat at the table for discussions on retail’s future,” Cruz says. “VoterVoice is one of the many tools NRF uses to create these events. We intend to use it to grow participation in future events by pulling lists of advocates as we build out our virtual fly-in programming.”
Finally, the policymakers series were invite-only fireside chats with lead lawmakers and C-level retail industry executives, moderated by NRF’s CEO Matthew Shay. “That was a great opportunity to have really high-level conversations with influential lawmakers that we were able to provide for our C-level members,” Cruz says.
Building a Winning Grassroots Strategy with VoterVoice
VoterVoice was at the center of pivoting and planning these events in a virtual environment. “VoterVoice is valuable to us to target possible folks to attend,” Cruz says. “We have a lot of fantastic advocates that find our grassroots alerts organically that might not be associated with their state retail association so the data that VoterVoice has is how we can use that to grow the audience for the events.”
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