I’m taking us back to my military roots. As my first platoon daddy told me upon entering an M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle for the first time… hang on and enjoy the ride.
Army leaders have a process called Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) which is part of the overall Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). Here is the definition of an IPB in Army language:
The IPB is a systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and the effects of the environment on the unit.
That mentality can be directly applied to your organization and can be successfully implemented in your legislative advocacy efforts. Picture you as the unit, threats and effects as those forces working with or against your issue, and research as your systematic, continuous process.
Just like you wouldn’t want to go into enemy territory uninformed, cross a busy road blindfolded, or milk a cow for the first time alone, you shouldn’t throw an issue campaign out with limited information about the threats and effects it could face.
Learn What You Do Not Know
I can say it no better than Sun Tzu did. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Picture a big whiteboard. Now draw a line vertically down the center. On one side write down your issues strengths, and on the other other, its weaknesses. Tag any of those with other entities or influences that may be associated with them. If you have problems generating this list or tagging any of what is on your list, then you have holes in your campaign. Research can fill those holes.
Gain Data to Support Other Efforts
In Army terms, a support by fire position is a part of your unit that takes cover and provides fire downrange so that the other part of your unit can move at a lesser risk of being engaged by the enemy. Think of this in terms of how you support other parts of your advocacy operations.
Many times, lawmakers and government officials are very interested in what the public has to say about an issue, especially if it’s voters back in their home districts. If you survey them with a poll, you can take the resulting data and directly support what your government affairs team or communications folks are doing from an advertising or boots-on-the-ground perspective.
Develop the Right Messaging at the Right Time
If you have a heavy grassroots component that interfaces with people, then this is very important. You want to make sure the content coming out of your organization will resonate with your audience. This can cut down on the timeframe of being able to deploy effective campaigns. You will no doubt see higher success metrics because you are matching the content going out to what you gathered from the audience.
Researching, testing and then developing messaging around those competencies allows you to measure everything and know what is working and what is not. You can dive so deep as to know what segments of your audience are thinking down at certain times of day, or by level or preference of engagement. It’s robust, sure, and requires some more efforts, but it would be much more efficient and cost effective down the road.
I’m an old reconnaissance guy and that defines my thought process behind being a research professional, and so I feel strongly about the value of research. Information is a huge commodity in the world of issue advocacy and the more you know, the better you are equipped to do what you want to do. Good research informs your decision making and helps you gain better use of your available resources which for most organizations are finite. When things are so uncertain and fast moving as they are in today’s environment, you can use all the help you can get.
Feel free to ping me anytime if you want to talk more about this. Find me here.