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Engagement Edge: The Science & Practice of Political Involvement

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.
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What’s Your SOS? (Strength of Story)

Engagement Edge: The Science & Practice of Political Involvement

May 2022 RBRL Advocacy Research
The problem with elementary benchmarking research is that it does not compare successful advocacy campaigns and unsuccessful ones. I read with a combination of intrigue and amusement a recent article about  the best mediums for advocacy communications. Before you start lighting torches and hoisting your pitchforks en route to my office, I do believe that having benchmarks is useful, but who determines if the benchmark represents successful persuasion? As you can imagine, I have an opinion.  Listen here.
May 19, 2022
What’s Your SOS? (Strength of Story)
Why You Need to Think Like a Hollywood Mogul for Attention, Persuasion and Action
February 27, 2022
The Parity Influence Dynamic: Assessing and Addressing a Lawmaker’s IQ
Do you know the IQ (Influence Quotient) of your priority legislators, particularly those who will be meeting with your advocates? In our second biennial GRIP® (Grassroots Influence Pulse) research, my colleague, Dr. Kelton Rhoads, had an insight that was superb, true, and vital for advocacy professionals and those they serve. One of the questions we asked was whether the organization’s relationships with elected officials was better or worse than the previous year. A majority responded that they were having better relationships, although they would also cite that legislators were less accessible, so I’m not sure how that squares, but they felt that the relationships were getting better. They also reported that legislators were voting in favor with their issues less frequently than in the past. One of the reasons our advocate training is advanced training, is because we live in Realville. We teach advocates that the lawmaker constituent conversation is a two way influence street. It’s not a simple exercise where you fill the legislator’s empty brain (although I’m sure that is true at times) with information and they make a decision based on the volume of identical information they receive. We may wish it was that easy, but it’s not.
September 28, 2021
Upskilling Your Grassroots Advocates for More Virtual Advocacy
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.
June 29, 2021
New Amyism #87: Are You Using Volume Metrics or Value Metrics?
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.
May 21, 2021
The Story Behind the Story: Amyism #86
“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.”
April 29, 2021
The Story Behind the Story – Amyism #63 on PAC Objections
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."
February 25, 2021
Your 2021 Resolutions – Stop Acquiring Advocates & Exile These Words and Phrases of 2020
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.
December 28, 2020
Why Busting Your Bias Will Improve your Advocacy & PAC Engagement
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.
October 21, 2020
Why You Need Original Advocacy and PAC Messages
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.”
September 30, 2020
What's Your (and your advocacy communications) Authenticity Quotient (AQ)?
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!
September 21, 2020
What are the Disciplines of the Most Admired Advocacy Organizations?
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.
August 19, 2020
Developing Your Advocacy and PAC Leader's Evangelism Quotient
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.
July 09, 2020
The Science of PAC Fundraising in Uncertain Times
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.
June 18, 2020
What's Your Digital Advocacy Credibility Quotient?
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.
May 29, 2020
Your Grassroots Past is Prologue -- Why You Need to Improve Now for Great Results Later
In this episode, I discuss my thoughts on why your grassroots influence past is prologue, and how to take what’s happening now and leverage it to improve your future grassroots influence capacity.
April 21, 2020
12 Tips to Help You Survive the Vortex of the Virus
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.
April 02, 2020
Amyism #80: The Purposeful PAC
Amyism #80 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!
March 13, 2020
Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough
In this episode, Amy speaks about why good enough, isn't good enough anymore - especially for political action fundraising.
March 13, 2020
The Canon of Grassroots Advocacy Programs
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:
March 05, 2020
How Successful Advocacy Professionals Think - From our GRIP Research Findings
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:
February 17, 2020
Reading Between the Research Lines: Predictors of Legislative Success
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:
January 27, 2020
Advocacy Metrics: Part 1
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. 
January 13, 2020
Trends in Grassroots Influence Tactics & Legislator Responses to the Tactics - The Biennial Grassroots Influence Pulse® (GRIP) Findings, Part 2 of 4
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. 
November 18, 2019
Habits of Ineffective Leaders
An overview of the seven (really eight!) habits of ineffective, unproductive, grassroots and Political Action Committee leaders.
October 31, 2019
The Immutable Truths: What Won't Change...and How It Can Lead You to Innovative Breakthroughs
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.
September 26, 2019
The Challenges of Properly Implementing a Grassroots Key Contact Program
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.
September 20, 2019
Amyism #71: Evangelism v. 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. Listen to find out why. TRANSCRIPT 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.
August 29, 2019
The Advantages Of Resting Your Grassroots
The Advantages Of Resting Your Grassroots
August 29, 2019
Amyism #81 - The Premise is Paramount
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."
August 29, 2019
Amyism #19 - Encouraging Advocate Feedback
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. 
August 29, 2019
Demonstrating Advocacy Technology ROI
Demonstrating Advocacy Technology ROI
August 29, 2019
Amyism #70 - Volunteers
Amyism #70 - Volunteers No matter what you want from your work: a vibrant grassroots program, a big PAC bank account, or victories in the legislature - it all comes from other people.
August 29, 2019
Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) Syndrome
Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) Syndrome
August 29, 2019
Amyism #77 - Persuasion v. Awareness
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.
August 29, 2019
Amyism #35 - Rogue Advocates
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. 
August 29, 2019