Engagement Edge: The Science & Practice of Political Involvement
By Amy Showalter
Keeping your advocates and PAC contributors engaged and motivated isn't easy. Join national PAC and grassroots influence expert, author, and consultant, Amy Showalter, as she shares evidence-based best practices for improving your grassroots and PAC productivity and results.
During a recent CEO Update event, a group of prominent association CEO's agreed that one advocacy outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that associations need to, "upskill, reskill and future-proof", the skills of their advocates. I was delighted to hear that, because we are not content for our clients to 'do the advocacy limbo', instead of raising the advocacy bar. My research for The Underdog Edge uncovered over 50 skills advocates who change a lawmaker's mind utilize...which one is particularly relevant in the virtual advocacy environment? To find out, listen in.
As I think more about the challenges advocacy and PAC professionals have with establishing proper program metrics, I realized that they cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created the elementary, volume-oriented metrics commonly used. So, presto! A new Amyism.
“Despite declarations to the contrary, no dramatic PAC or advocacy program transformation happens with one tactic. When building an influential advocacy program or large PAC, there is no single event, no grand video, no solitary viral tweet, no “killer app,” no single meeting that transforms your program. Rather, it occurs through consistent thinking, testing and honest evaluation. That consistency produces momentum that leads to transformation.”
Amyism #63 - PAC Objections
“There are no new PAC objections known to mankind. The crime is not in the objection, but in us not being prepared to welcome, validate, and have a dialogue about them...and to remember that we are answering a person, not a question."
Our year-end issue intentionally does not include any reflections or “lessons learned” from 2020, as you are probably reading enough of those missives, and I trust you have had enough time to reflect and learn from the many adjustments 2020 handed to us. I do wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, however it may look for you this year.
Since we are all inundated with electoral politics right now, I am intentionally sharing with you non-electoral politics information! I believe it will help you make better decisions as you consider tactics for your next influence campaign, as well as for your internal advocacy and PAC engagement.
I read something a few days ago that spurred, yes, a new Amyism on the importance of original messaging, and how you damage your brand when you "cut and paste" your way to engagement.
Amyism # 85: Original PAC and Advocacy Messages
“It’s intellectually lazy to appropriate materials and messages from other advocacy and PAC campaigns. The sloth is compounded when the messages are deemed as “new,” “original,” or, God forbid, “disruptive.” Superior political engagement professionals devote earnest thought, effort and exertion into their engagement strategies and messages. Those who copy and paste their way to engagement via the thought leadership of others puts their professional brand as an expert clearly up for grabs.”
Authenticity engenders trust, which leads to influence. In this audio recording, I share highlights from my recent presentation at ASAE's 2020 Annual Virtual Conference on the importance of personal and advocacy authenticity. In today's cancel culture, is there a risk to being authentic? Which generation considers authenticity to be one of their top ten values? Empathy is an element of authenticity---what does the research reveal (so far) to be the empathetic leader archetype? Tune in to find out!
Our Grassroots Influence Pulse research asked respondents to share, based on their grassroots success and reputation, the "most admired advocacy organization," and why they are admired. The #1 reason? "Discipline of their followers."
The top three organizations (in no particular order) the AARP, the National Association of REALTORS and the National Rifle Association representatives shared their insights with me. How do they encourage advocate discipline? They spend less time on a common activity and more time on something you should be doing.
Amyism #84: Developing Your Advocacy and PAC Leader's Evangelism Quotient
"Government relations staff cannot, and should not, serve as an organizations' primary advocacy and PAC evangelists. Every one of your advocacy and PAC leaders has a "why" regarding their engagement. It's our job to find it, bring it to life, and teach them how to communicate it in a compelling way."
It's always been essential to have credible, motivated advocacy and PAC leaders at the local level. In today's emphasis on virtual stakeholder engagement, limited staff travel and physical distancing, it's irresponsible to neglect the development of your "ground forces." Here's the story behind the story on my newest Amyism.
All breeds of fundraisers, specifically PAC fundraisers, are facing challenges due to uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 virus and the blistering economic conditions.
It’s not unlike previous conditions (the September 11 terrorist attacks, the great recession) that caused PAC professionals express angst at the daunting task of asking people for personal money, for a political cause, that has no immediate return on their investment.
Add to the current economic challenges a highly divided electorate where every behavior is interpreted through a political lens, and, well, you have “a situation,” don’t you?
But let not your heart be troubled - for those who are intellectually curious and are willing to do the extra work, there is light (and money) on the other side.
I was honored to be asked to contribute to an e-book published by the Advocacy Association: Virtual Advocacy During COVID-19 and Beyond: Best Practices. You can order the e-book on Amazon today.
Proceeds from downloads will go to the American Red Cross.
The e-book includes articles from Mike Fulton, Joshua Habursky, Patrick Martin, David Lusk, Matthew Zablud, Stephanie Vance, Matthew Wright, & Anthony Shop.
My take? Don't let the need for virtual advocacy take your focus off the need for virtual advocacy credibility. I share three risks to your credibility, and four ways to improve your online credibility quotient.
Remember you only develop grit and character (and hence, the ability to help others) when you go through difficulties. It's OK to feel angry, scared and sad at the situation you are in. Embrace it by acknowledging it, then flick it off your shoulder, stomp on it, and move on. Allow yourself to worry for a limited time, then get on with it. And, remember how you came through OK when dealing with previous challenges. Maybe you were not "OK," but you learned something that allowed you to help others, which to me, is the light on our path.
Don't waste the pain.
Your pre-virus work projects may have lost momentum. If that’s your “new normal,” this podcast episode outlines my top 12 tips and suggestions for making the most of this time while your typical work has been decelerated.
The Purposeful PAC®: “Every PAC should have a purpose beyond the transactions of collecting and distributing money. A Purposeful PAC® drives emotion, emotion drives commitment, and commitment drives contributions. Is your PAC a Purposeful PAC® or a transactional PAC?”
What happens when Amy discovers her new client is leaving out the best part of their Purposeful PAC® story? Listen in to find out!
Regardless of the organization or cause, there are principles for successful grassroots advocacy programs. "Programs" being the operative word ----- a program is different from a campaign, because it (should) be integrated into an organization's culture. If you lead a grassroots program, and/or lead volunteers who are charged with leading their fellow volunteers, request a copy of The Canon of Grassroots Advocacy Programs.
Do you have a grassroots principle you live by that has contributed to your grassroots program's success? Share it with me and I'll feature it in a future Roots of Success: Amy@ShowalterGroup.com
There are several new findings in the third iteration of our GRIP research. An important, yet little talked about topic in our profession, are the nuances between successful and unsuccessful advocacy professionals. Do successful practitioners look at life differently than less successful practitioners? Yes, in fact, they do. Listen here:
You can request your copy of the GRIP report here: https://showaltergroup.com/free-resources/what-does-our-biennial-grip-research-tell-you-to-prioritize/
In this edition of Amy Live & Uncut, I'll share the most important aspect of the GRIP research: the variables that predict legislative success. Things have changed slightly since the last biennial report, but some truths are immutable. To get a copy of the report, go here: https://showaltergroup.com/free-resources/what-does-our-biennial-grip-research-tell-you-to-prioritize/
My focus at the Data & Advocacy Summit was to share what advocacy professionals should measure in 2020 based on what currently predicts legislative success. This episode shares some top line highlights from a presentation I delivered with Shoshana Weissmann at Grassroots Professionals Network's Data & Advocacy Summit.
Our recent GRIP research examined 114 variables to grassroots influence success, with over 6,400 (not a misprint!) possible correlations. So, we have data. But as you know, it’s relevant data that matters.
In this episode, I share the descriptive data regarding trends in legislator behavior and various grassroots influence tactics.
As always, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
You should want to produce work that lasts for years and leave an enduring legacy among your stakeholders. However, every incentive in today’s world is to draw your attention to an immediate “hit.” Many “thought leaders” and “experts” make everything seem so easy.
Telling you how to “hack” your way to engaging more stakeholders, gaining more committed PAC contributors, and developing your professional skillset is made to look so easy because it gives you the mental sugar that makes you think you have discovered the secret mother lode of grassroots or PAC success.
My advice on recruiting, growing and developing grassroots Key Contacts were featured in a recent issue of CEO Update. In this edition of Amy Live & Uncut I expound upon the "big three" challenges of properly executing a grassroots Key Contact program. Of course, there are more than three, but this will get you started on the right path, or help you re-evaluate your current program.
While evangelism marketing is all the rage and evangelism about your cause is essential, smart grassroots leaders know the real victory is in finding and creating converts for their cause. Listen to find out why.
Greetings. This is Amy Live & Uncut with the story behind the story on Amyism #71: Evangelism vs. Conversion.
While evangelism marketing is all the rage, and evangelism about your cause is essential, smart grassroots leaders know the real victory is in finding and creating converts for their cause, because converts are the most persuasive evangelists. I came to this understanding when I was writing my book The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful and Live To Tell About It. We found a very interesting dynamic with Underdog Teams, they all contain a convert. There's always a convert communicator on their team.
What does that mean? It means that the convert is someone who joined the cause, who was previously serving the other team, the other side, and they're really great persuaders because they know how the other side thinks. They also are similar to the people you're trying to persuade because they were one of them at one time and they usually don't have an authority position over the people that they're trying to persuade. Again, they were a peer of that individual. That's why they're so persuasive.
So while we all want evangelists for our cause, I believe the most effective evangelists are those that are convert communicators. Ask yourself, do you have convert communicators on your grassroots team? How about your coalitions? Do you have organizations that were on one side of an issue years ago and now are with you? That's what you need if you want to go to the next level in your grassroots, look for convert communicators.
Thanks. This is Amy Live & Uncut.
Amyism #81 - The Premise is Paramount
"Organizations love to talk about their strategy, of course, because it conveys that nothing they do is random. However, basing your PAC, advocacy or communications strategy on an untested, evidence-free premise is just that -- a "random plan" rather than a "strategic plan". The premise on which your strategy is based is the holy ground, because the wrong premise leads to the wrong strategy, the wrong tactics, and ultimately, a failed outcome."
Amyism #19 - Encouraging Advocate Feedback
It's amazing how the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the lack of communication from the grassroots ends when someone on the government relations staff is actually held responsible for finding out what's going on in the district.
Amyism #77 - Persuasion v. Awareness
"We increasingly see many campaigns that are deemed successful due to 'increased awareness'. It stems from the idea that 'every little bit helps,' however is a fall back position when the campaign doesn't do anything else. We know from social psychology research that there are eight steps to persuasion. 'Awareness' is step two of eight. There is much to persuasion beyond 'awareness'". --Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
Amyism #35 - Rogue Advocates
Not all Rogues should be summarily dismissed from your grassroots efforts. One of the reasons the Rogue exists is because he or she does not know better. It's our responsibility to teach them to know better so they do better.