Everyone has seen bad examples of digital communication – especially with the pandemic-driven shift to virtual connectivity. But what separates great communication from the stuff that makes you cringe? More importantly, how can you adapt your approach this year to replicate effective communication for your own legislative agenda and advocacy efforts?
From COVID relief and budget shortfalls to tort reform and redistricting, the upcoming Florida legislative session will be a whirlwind of important issues. The first committee meetings begin this week, and leadership in the Florida House and Senate have announced new health and safety policies that will dramatically change how trade associations, lobbyists, think tanks, and other advocates can make their voices heard on important issues.
So how do you make sure your online-based advocacy doesn’t suck?
1. Recognize the context of crisis and communicate accordingly
When Florida was hit by a series of devastating hurricanes in 2017 and 2018, legislators went into committee weeks looking for solutions – and savvy communicators embraced that reality when outlining their policy proposals and funding requests. The current coronavirus crisis is similar: Countless Floridians are impacted by the double-edged health and economic crises, and lawmakers will be viewing everything through that lens. For every nonprofit, trade association, or other organization in the political space, the key will be to show your value and demonstrate how you helped Floridians through these challenges – and how you’ll continue to be part of the solution.
2. Make authentic voices the face of your message
There will undoubtedly be fewer “Capitol Days” from Realtors, cattlemen, medical professionals, and others – but that doesn’t mean the personal stories shared by those individuals are any less meaningful. In fact, they’re likely more critical now. The goal will be to quickly shift from the in-person advocacy that worked in years past to virtual efforts that use videos, thought leadership, and other online and digital tools to share your perspective. And whenever possible, lead with authentic people who are on the front lines so they can share their unique stories. That might be patients, health care workers, nonprofit volunteers or others. They each have stories worth sharing.
3. Create engaging video content
Using video content is nothing new – but this year, it will be king. Video already generates more engagement and reach on social media than other types of content, but it’s also better at telling stories. Focus on shortening your videos and jumping right into your main points without wasting time. Use subtitles and text whenever possible and keep the energy high. Camera crews are great, but even iPhone videos or Zoom recordings can get your message across when done right.
4. Hyper-Precise Advertising
The best message in the world doesn’t matter if it isn’t seen by the right audience. That’s why targeting is so critical for effective advocacy. Using digital pre-roll or online streaming services to deliver video content can result in laser-focused advocacy on a budget. By using similar tactics on social and digital media, you can reach your target audiences with content that breaks down your priorities and underscores your impact. Those tactics also don’t stop at online channels. Did you know that there are more than 10 billboards within a mile of the Florida Capitol? Billboards and other more traditional channels have the potential to produce strong ROI, depending on your goal. It all comes down to strategy and targeting.
5. Take Advantage of Virtual Events
Most organizations are familiar with such in-person events as advocacy days, seminars, news conferences, and others. But virtual events provide an opportunity to seamlessly engage members and advocates from every corner of the state. A health care association, for example, can loop in a practitioner in Sarasota when speaking with elected officials from that area, making sure your advocacy outreach is that much more impactful. From Facebook Live and moderated livestreams to informational webinars and pre-recorded announcements, there are plenty of options to choose from. While it takes tech-savvy coordination to implement virtual events, with skilled communications help, they can be incredibly effective tools to get important information out and assert your perspective on pressing issues.
The bottom line is that the advocacy and communications landscape has changed, and who knows if it will ever completely go back to “normal.” This creates an opportunity for those who are nimble enough to adapt – and those who don’t shift can become relegated to background noise.
In so many ways, 2020 went by in the blink of an eye, and it won’t be long before the 2021 session wraps up. That means now is the time to plan and launch your communications efforts to ensure that your issues are prioritized and your digital advocacy efforts don’t suck.
Sachs Media celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, reflecting 25 years of adapting to the ever-changing communications, media, and political landscape. If you’re looking for an expert team that can help you navigate and communicate effectively, give us a call.
Drew Piers is a Partner and Director of Campaigns at Sachs Media. He can be reached at [email protected].