Advocacy Message Consistency
Advocacy Message: The Key is Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Maintaining message discipline is critical to advocacy message campaigns. If your organization doesn’t have a advocacy message document, or even a mission statement, it’s time you create one. The statement should be specific to your work, but broad enough that all of your campaigns are able to fit comfortably under it, That way, you can continue to maintain overall organizational message discipline over the life of a specific advocacy campaign. It should also be brief—no more than a couple lines on a page, two sentences max.
Look, I get it; you think there is no way your organization’s mission and purpose could possibly fit into two brief sentences. Those of us who work in the advocacy space love detailed, nuanced policy positions. I didn’t get a degree in social policy for nothing, so believe me, I understand. But here is what I want you to understand: we are the exception. Your potential action-takers DO NOT want the long, detailed, nuanced advocacy message. It’s too wordy, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not connective or relevant to them in any way. Successful advocacy messaging is consistent and concise, and in order to be successful message bearers, we have to be disciplined in our delivery of this consistent, concise message.
Often, advocacy organizations have already done the hard work of creating a potent mission statement, or one-page advocacy message document that provides easy snippets to use when talking about the work that you do. Here at TCW, I can’t tell you how many advocacy message documents we see from clients who come to us for help with running an advocacy campaign that includes great, powerful emotive phrasing. But, when we look on their website, for example, where we are directing users who click on paid ads, this verbiage is no where to be found. Or, we use the exact wording from the provided document to craft the ads, and they get vetoed and rewritten.
In order to maintain consistency and discipline in all of your advocacy message campaigns, you have to use these advocacy messages in everything you do. They are your brand; the statement of who you are as an organization and what you are asking for help to accomplish. It is not to be buried in the executive summary of a white paper: it IS the executive summary. It is not just thrown into the President’s fundraising letter at the last minute: it IS the fundraising pitch. It should be in all of your campaign press releases, the campaign page, the email blasts and any paid media around the campaign. The broader, overarching advocacy message should encompass each individual campaign message and be featured prominently in all of the spaces your organization holds. Paint it on the wall of your offices if you have to. Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
From the ASPCA:
Overarching message: “We believe that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under the law.”
Individual fundraising campaign message: “Winter is coming. Help us be there for the neediest animals.”
The individual advocacy message fits under the main message and doesn’t confuse or obscure it. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and be bold: this is not the place for caveats. Brief, yet powerful sentences are the key to crafting good advocacy messaging.
From Food & Water Watch:
Overarching message: “Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.”
Individual action message: “Congress: End the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms.”
This petition action clearly falls under the umbrella of food safety and makes sense within their larger mission. Is there more text and policy wonkery available on their site for anyone who wants to read it? Absolutely. But the topline ask is clear and concise.
In both of these instances, these organizations have made the task of advocacy message discipline and consistency easy on themselves by making sure the specific campaign messages fit well as part of the whole organization’s message. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the more successful your advocacy campaigns will be.