Advocacy Strategy Tools to Build Your Advocacy Organization

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Advocacy strategies

Advocacy Strategy Tools – What Is the Right Tool for Your Advocacy Campaign?

Advocacy strategies can be time-consuming to create and difficult to execute. We have written often about the core elements of an advocacy plan, but taking the time to develop your advocacy strategy is an important step. But where do you begin? Try using strategy tools. Some tools come from the corporate world, while others stem from organizing, politics, and advocacy. With so many strategy tools available, it can be confusing to determine which ones to use and the best way to utilize them. If you are looking for tech-based advocacy campaign tools, you can find our list of tools here. Here is a compilation of our favorite tools for developing advocacy strategies and messaging.

Advocacy Strategy Tools

SWOT Analysis: Conducting a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis is something every advocacy campaign should do. SWOT is a quick way to assess the internal and external factors that can influence your advocacy efforts. This analysis helps identify advocacy and organizational advantages, challenges, potential chances for success, and roadblocks.

  • Benefits: Clear understanding of where your efforts stand and what the opportunity is can be incredibly powerful.
  • Weakness: If you don't have the right people around the table, this can lead to myopic thinking. Ensure you have expanded your coalition enough.

The Midwest Academy Strategy Chart: Direct action organizing is a hallmark of advocacy, and the Midwest Academy has developed a framework to create a strategy around direct organizing. Started by the amazing Heather Booth, the Midwest Academy teaches individuals how to organize around strategic goals.

  • Benefits: Good way to define goals and desired outcomes, and fosters team and coalition buy-in when used correctly.
  • Weakness: This tool may require practice in defining tactics and messaging. Should be used in conjunction with other tools.

Vast Power Mapping: This tool helps identify individuals, groups, or organizations that have an interest in or influence over the issue you are advocating for. It helps in understanding different perspectives, build alliances, and tailor you’re messaging accordingly.

  • Benefits: Great way to define legislative targets and their connections within a community.
  • Weakness: Not a holistic planning tool; best used with a message box and DAO tool.

Tully Message Box: A message box is a tool that helps structure and refine your advocacy message. It consists of four components: what we say about us, what we say about them, what they say about themselves, and what they say about us. The message box helps you anticipate potential attacks and proactively address them. This tool ensures your message is concise, clear, and resonates with your target audience.

  • Benefits: It is a great tool to explore your messaging and narrow it down to a campaign theme. It helps hone your strategy and forces you to consider communication aspects.
  • Weakness: Not suitable for developing other strategy components and should be used with other tools.

Social Media Listening and Monitoring: Using social media listening and monitoring tools to track conversations, sentiment, and trends related to your advocacy issue can be powerful and illuminating. This information helps you understand public opinion, engage with your audience, and adapt your messaging.

  • Benefits: Hearing what the public is saying can clarify the right words to use and help you understand reactions to specific messages.
  • Weakness: Social listening tools may not accurately track sentiment on local issues, and social media may not reflect everything happening around it. Some tools also skew toward specific platforms like Twitter and may overly amplify the view of a particular audience segment.

Message Wheel: A message wheel is a visual way of staying on message. The main argument is in the center of the wheel, with supporting details to help address potential hurdles and clearly define the problem and the solution.

  • Strengths: When concise, a message wheel can lay out your core message. It is a great tool to stay on topic.
  • Weakness: Many traditional message wheels can be overly dense with messages and not clearly defined. Avoid using small font sizes.

Message Triangle: A message triangle consists of three core messages: a clear message, a supporting message, and a rebuttal or bridge message to get back on track.

  • Strengths: When kept simple, it can be an easy tool. It can also be a fun tool to develop as a team.
  • Weakness: Depending on the context and collaboration, this tool could have a narrow point of view. There are also multiple interpretations of a message triangle make sure you have a clear goal for why you are using the tool.

Persona Development: Developing personas that represent your target audience segments is crucial. These personas encapsulate demographic and psychographic information about your audience, helping you understand their needs, motivations, and communication preferences.

  • Strengths: Clear understanding of your targets is essential for message development and campaign strategy. Tailoring your messages and campaign to the right people is critical.
  • Weakness:  Ensure your personas are findable and broad enough to make a real difference in the outcome. Finding the perfect persona can be frustrating if you cannot reach those people or if there are not enough of them to make a difference.

Message Testing: Conduct message testing using surveys or focus groups to gather feedback on different versions of your advocacy message. This process helps you refine and optimize your messaging to ensure it resonates with your target audience.

  • Strengths: Knowing how your message connects with different audiences can make a big difference in your campaign.
  • Weakness: It takes a lot of work and resources to be ready to test your messages. Make sure you have taken the time to build out your messages using other tools before you test them.

Tools to Use Once You Have a Strategy

Data Visualization Tools: Presenting data, statistics and strategy in a visually compelling way can enhance the effectiveness of your advocacy message. Tools like infographics, charts, and interactive visualizations can simplify complex information and make it more accessible to your target audience.

  • Strengths: Clear visuals can help bring data and messages to life. They allow coalition members and donors to see a clear path to victory.
  • Weaknesses: People can be cynical and attempt to hide problems and challenges through graphics. It's better to clearly highlight the challenges rather than use data to hide them.

Storytelling Tools: Utilize storytelling tools to convey your advocacy message effectively. Stories have a powerful impact on engaging emotions and inspiring action. Craft narratives using a story arc that illustrates the issue, its impact on individuals, and the desired outcomes.

  • Strengths: Stories bring issues to life and put a human face to them. Stories combined with any campaign can deliver success.
  • Weakness: Story collection is not an automatic or easy task. Even with the best story collection tools and narrative tools, it must have organization.

Digital Advocacy Platforms: Leverage digital advocacy platforms that enable you to streamline your advocacy efforts. These platforms provide features such as email campaigns, petition creation, and social media amplification to help you reach some of your audience and mobilize supporters.

  • Strengths: Using a digital advocacy platform can help streamline your digital campaign quickly.
  • Weaknesses: Depending on your audience targets, you may miss a significant portion of your audience by assuming everyone is reachable through digital tools. Additionally, relying solely on digital outreach may overlook many parts of your coalition.

Evaluation and Analytics Tools: Measure the impact of your advocacy efforts using evaluation (check out our program evaluation eBook) and analytics tools. These tools provide insights into the reach, engagement, and outcomes, enabling you to refine your strategy and messaging over time.

  • Strengths: A clear evaluation plan can benefit your organization in the long term. Good evaluation can assess all aspects of a campaign and be a resource well spent.
  • Weaknesses: There are many options to evaluate campaign success, but some can increase your budget, limit your reach, and introduce bias. Choose the tool that is right for your goals and budget. Take the time to explore different options.

Bottom-Line: You have a lot of choices on tools to use. Remember to pick a combination of advocacy tools that align with your specific advocacy goals, target audience, and available resources. Don’t rely on just one. 

Adapt and combine these tools per your needs to create a comprehensive advocacy strategy and compelling messaging. Taking time on these tools as a coalition or reviewing them together can make a real difference in getting buy-in for your plan.

Do you have any questions about advocacy strategy tools or need advice on how to use them?  Drop us a note!