Traditionally advocacy has been seen as government relations where registered lobbyists walked the halls of Capitol buildings advocating for special interests. Today, advocacy is about building a movement. People want to get involved and make change for the issues that they care about. We see people building real movements and creating real change online every day. This is likely due partly to our current political climate and also to how our own use of digital tools and social media has changed. We’re more comfortable online than ever before and for most of us our digital presence is a true extension of our offline self.
Just as importantly, people want their employer and the brands and companies they interact with every day to take a stand on those same issues.
As we’re thinking about advocacy campaigns designed for today, it’s important to note that corporate advocacy campaigns serve a multi-functional purpose. Advocacy is not limited to achieving policy outcomes and instead we should think about advocacy campaigns as a way to reach and engage stakeholders inside and outside the organization. It’s about building a movement where you are educating, engaging and mobilizing diverse audiences around an issue.
This year, APCO Insight released the findings of a six month research project focused on understanding the importance of corporate advocacy. It found that 90% of those interviewed “expect brands to be involved in taking on society’s most pressing concerns.” Brands that join the conversation on issues that matter to their stakeholders are seen as relevant while brands that remain silent are seen as out-of-touch. In a divided political climate this can seem like an impossible task for brands.
It’s important to start with finding a way to engage that is authentic for your brand and for your stakeholders, whether you are trying to impact policy outcomes or mobilize people around a cause or issue. You do this by understanding your audience and making a connection between what they care about and what your brand cares about. Finding that shared agenda or common ground helps you to engage and connect with audiences in a real, human way that is natural and authentic for the brand and stakeholders.
There are three steps you can take to take to build an effective advocacy campaign that will help you make those connections to engage and mobilize your stakeholders.
- Know your audience and what they care about
- Customize your message using what you know about your audience to make a connection and motivate them
- Build a campaign infrastructure that allows you to track progress towards your overall goal
This foundation for an advocacy campaign gives you a research-backed starting place to launch and a foundation and plan for optimizing your efforts. With a structure focused on audiences and leveraging data to individualize communications and experiences, the relationship between brand and stakeholders will continue to evolve and deepen over time.
Coming together over these shared issues is how movements begin and how real change happens today.
For more on APCO Worldwide’s corporate advocacy research, read the following report: