By Kaylee Carnahan
The word grassroots is most often recognized as an element of political campaigns, referring to the volunteers who knock on doors and make phone calls in support of a candidate. But outside the realm of campaigns – and especially in the world of public affairs – grassroots advocacy is an essential component of any winning strategy.
Year in and year out, companies and organizations approach RunSwitch with business needs or issues that require public attention and support. Our team uses our expertise and our connections to begin building public awareness for these causes or issues. We identify advocates, continually educate them, and invite them to engage. These grassroots advocates become our clients’ volunteers. They give of their own time to spread an important message to friends, neighbors, and business contacts throughout their communities. Without them, delivering meaningful results would be difficult, if not impossible. Based on our experience of executing successful grassroots advocacy campaigns, we’ve identified some basic principles that every grassroots leader should follow.
Effectively direct the grassroots team to take action. The worst thing anyone can do with willing volunteers is nothing. Grassroots volunteers have agreed to be part of a team because they believe in the issue. Leaders should engage them by beginning with a simple request, such as: “Forward this email to five of your friends or co-workers who you believe would care about this issue and ask them to join our team.” Giving them a reason to immediately feel needed is one of the best ways to retain volunteers.
Position your team for success. Provide your volunteers with the materials and information they need to be well-informed about the issue they are supporting. If you are asking them to send an email out to their contacts, provide them with a draft email they can use as a template or guide.
Hold your grassroots volunteers accountable. If a grassroots advocate has been asked to complete a task, ask them to report back to you when it was completed and ask them to provide details about their outreach. Who did they send it to? What was that person’s response? Receiving this feedback is vitally important to the overall public affairs campaign because it allows you to understand who your volunteers have reached out to and what results have been generated. Feedback also allows you to identify potential roadblocks or to adjust your strategy if needed.
Keep your team informed. Once the grassroots program is in action, regular updates to your team go a long way. You don’t have to divulge everything you know and every detail of your strategy, but they need to have some insight into the project. Whether it’s attending a community meeting, signing a letter to the editor, or contacting a legislator’s office, the grassroots team needs to know why the ask is important. Once an action has been taken, they also need to know what difference it made. For example, if a grassroots advocate helps you with a specific tactic and it generates a story in the local media, be sure to share that story with them and thank them for making it happen.
Never underestimate the power of a thank you. Grassroots volunteers give their time and energy to help you deliver a winning strategy. Spending ten minutes at the end of the day to pen a few hand-written thank younotes is a gesture with enormous worth. Not only will it make them feel appreciated, it will energize them to continue helping you on your current project. It will establish a personal relationship that can benefit both of you in the future.
So, when your company, business, or organization is in need of an agency that has the ability to develop an effective public affairs strategy that leverages grassroots advocacy on your behalf, flip the RunSwitch. We are ready to activate the public relations mechanisms you need to achieve your business, legislative, communications, and marketing goals.