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Marketing: Advocacy’s Secret Weapon

Thought leadership and content marketing are a natural fit for advocacy – after all, you are marketing ideas (aka thoughts). Your goal is to get your ideas into the debate and convince decision makers to take actions that benefit your members.  Marketing and government affairs are natural team members, and, done well, can be the difference between winning and losing.

Using marketing to boost your advocacy efforts, you will:

  • Put your ideas into the debate by ensuring your information is available on the Internet, in publications, etc. As staffers, legislators, regulators, influencers, and media research topics, they will find your information.
  • Raise the awareness and respect of your association with decision makers.
  • Put your association front-of-mind for reporters to call for quotes and insight on issues that matter to you.
  • Communicate well.  Your time is short, the topics complex, and the audiences, diverse – how the messages are presented is almost as important as the message itself.

Of course, it all starts with sound strategy. Use these steps to start developing your strategy:

  • Understand your brand. Know what your association is about, how it wants to be perceived, what value it brings, etc.
  • Identify your audiences.  Who are you speaking to?  Legislators, staff members, agencies, media, influencers?
  • Profile your audiences. What is their level of expertise? What motivates them?  What are their concerns? How can they influence the policy you care about?  Who influences them? What media do they read on a regular basis? You want to know what words to use and how to get it in front of them.
  • Develop your messages. Have a repertoire of messages, and tailor your messages to your audiences. If it is an academic expert, back it up with facts, research, and footnotes. If they are unfamiliar with the topic, use clear words. Use arguments that speak to what motivates them. Is it a reporter – what would drive them to write a story? Is it a legislator – why should their constituents care about it? Ensure what you write motivates them to action.
  • Discuss content options. What types of content should you produce? Blog, guest blogs, op-eds, websites, social media, handouts, letters, white papers, academic research. . . the options are vast, and you have to decide not only what is effective for your audiences, but what is possible with your resources.
  • Plan the execution. How are you going to get the messages in front of them? When are you going to produce what? Who is connected to who that can help?

This will get you started.  With some effort, coordination, and planning, you can take your advocacy efforts up to the next level, creating value for your members.  

I will continue to dive into this topic in future posts, so keep an eye out at Association Marketer for deeper dives, tools, tips, etc.

Marketing: Advocacy’s Secret Weapon

Thought leadership and content marketing are a natural fit for advocacy – after all, you are marketing ideas (aka thoughts). Your goal is to get your ideas into the debate and convince decision makers to take actions that benefit your members.  Marketing and government affairs are natural team members, and, done well, can be the difference between winning and losing.

Using marketing to boost your advocacy efforts, you will:

  • Put your ideas into the debate by ensuring your information is available on the Internet, in publications, etc. As staffers, legislators, regulators, influencers, and media research topics, they will find your information.
  • Raise the awareness and respect of your association with decision makers.
  • Put your association front-of-mind for reporters to call for quotes and insight on issues that matter to you.
  • Communicate well.  Your time is short, the topics complex, and the audiences, diverse – how the messages are presented is almost as important as the message itself.

Of course, it all starts with sound strategy. Use these steps to start developing your strategy:

  • Understand your brand. Know what your association is about, how it wants to be perceived, what value it brings, etc.
  • Identify your audiences.  Who are you speaking to?  Legislators, staff members, agencies, media, influencers?
  • Profile your audiences. What is their level of expertise? What motivates them?  What are their concerns? How can they influence the policy you care about?  Who influences them? What media do they read on a regular basis? You want to know what words to use and how to get it in front of them.
  • Develop your messages. Have a repertoire of messages, and tailor your messages to your audiences. If it is an academic expert, back it up with facts, research, and footnotes. If they are unfamiliar with the topic, use clear words. Use arguments that speak to what motivates them. Is it a reporter – what would drive them to write a story? Is it a legislator – why should their constituents care about it? Ensure what you write motivates them to action.
  • Discuss content options. What types of content should you produce? Blog, guest blogs, op-eds, websites, social media, handouts, letters, white papers, academic research. . . the options are vast, and you have to decide not only what is effective for your audiences, but what is possible with your resources.
  • Plan the execution. How are you going to get the messages in front of them? When are you going to produce what? Who is connected to who that can help?

This will get you started.  With some effort, coordination, and planning, you can take your advocacy efforts up to the next level, creating value for your members.  

I will continue to dive into this topic in future posts, so keep an eye out at Association Marketer for deeper dives, tools, tips, etc.

Dan Whiting

Dan Whiting is a communications, marketing, and government relations professional in Washington, DC. Dan starting working in public policy in 1996, serving 11 years as staff in the U.S. Senate as a policy advisor and then communications director. He marketed ideas, using content marketing, media relations, thought leadership and implementing new media channels when they were actually new. He also served in leadership at USDA for President Bush and as the first Director of Communications for the National Alliance of Forest Owners. He has survived crisis communications and taught writing, content marketing, and media relations workshops. He is passionate about communicating well to affect policy change while secretly hoping someone will hire him as a comedy writer. He is also a husband to one and a father to four (on purpose).