4-Step Process to Build A Digital State Advocacy Dynasty

Tom Brady is the best NFL quarterback of all-time. At least that’s the argument after the Brady-led New England Patriots completed their improbable second-half comeback to win Super Bowl LI earlier this week.

Whatever your view on Brady’s legacy, it’s hard to classify the Patriots’ five Super Bowl championships over the past seventeen years as anything less than a dynasty. A dynasty built not on Brady’s shoulders alone, but rather through a systematic approach to team development fondly referred to as “the process.”

The process was created by Head Coach Bill Belichick, embraced by his players, and executed in every practice and every game. The commitment to the process is what has separated the Patriots’ organization from the NFL’s 31 other teams.

Football dynasties aren’t built overnight. In the same way, defeating hostile bills or passing supported legislation at your state legislature takes more than simply hiring really good lobbyists. It requires building a successful issue advocacy campaign to support your lobbyists’ effort and persuade legislators.

If you want to be a winner, stop “winging it” when hostile legislation is filed. Instead, commit yourself to building your next issue advocacy campaign with this four step process and turn your presence at your statehouse into a dynasty.

1) Recruit

A new breed of populists are gaining ground in Capitols across the country. Engaging these legislators requires a new approach. While have a talented government affairs team is still important, contact from voters “back home” has a greater impact.

The first step in any issue advocacy campaign is to target and acquire a base of supporters to speak to their legislators on your issue.

Practically, this means utilizing paid digital advertising to raise awareness, identify potential advocates, and collect contact information.

2) Educate

Having a base of supporters for your cause is only beneficial when those advocates understand the personal impact of the issue and can communicate that message to their legislators.

Therefore, the most successful issue advocacy campaigns provide some form of training (education) for their advocates before connecting them with their legislators.

This could be as simple as a one-paragraph email or as complex as a web-conference or video series. For most campaigns, a simple auto-sequenced email chain is sufficient.

The bottom line is that your advocates need coaching on what to say when they contact their legislators.

3) Activate

It’s gameday. Your campaign will be won or lost by its ability to move your educated supporters to action. Connecting your advocates can take on many forms, everything from posting on social media to letters and emails to phone calls.

It’s important to note that form-based physical letters and emails are easily weeded out by staff and may never reach the legislator. In fact, most legislators don’t check their government email addresses regularly for this reason.

While every form of contact provides value, the highest impact contact method is still the phone call. If you can trickle a steady stream of calls a legislator’s office phone line, he or she will take notice.  

4) Retain

One of the worst mistakes your organization can make is investing significant time and money in building an advocate base and then walking away after the campaign is over, only to start from scratch the next year.

Don’t drop your advocates to free agency during the offseason. Keep them engaged through regular contact and updates.

Use caution regarding the number, type, and length of touches. A well-planned outreach effort while your legislature is out of session will give you a head start on defeating any future hostile legislation.

Conclusion

In the new era of populist politics, your cause (and your lobbying team) needs the support of active voters back home speaking to their legislators on your behalf. Creating successful campaign will require a commitment to the process of recruiting, training, activating, and retaining advocates.

Creating a dynasty isn’t easy – just ask Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots – but taking a systematic approach in building issue advocacy campaign will build a foundation for future success.