Issue Advocacy Campaign Tips To Grow Your Base

by Sophie Thurber (She/Her)

Issue advocacy picture of rainbow arrows

Issue Advocacy Campaigns Need to Expand Their Reach–Here's How

At The Campaign Workshop, we love issue advocacy campaigns. As consultants, we get to work on a wide variety of campaigns and with a wide variety of clients. While we could never pick a favorite, working with a group of passionate people to make a substantive change on an issue they care about is our jam. People working on advocacy campaigns are the experts in their issues and are a true resource when we are working hand in hand on crafting a campaign to reach a wider audience. One of the challenges we see over and over with clients is how best to communicate with people outside of their base of supporters. Members of an organization’s supporter list understand the intricacies of a certain issue. That said, it can be very easy to fall into the issue advocacy echo chamber, where we assume that the way we talk about an issue amongst ourselves is an effective way to talk about it with the outside world. Neither the importance of an issue, nor the vocabulary we use to discuss it should be foregone conclusions when structuring messaging and communications strategies. Sometimes, the way we talk about issues we are working on can leave people less inclined to support our organizations or confused about what exactly it is we do. 

As you’re thinking through your issue advocacy campaign and planning for 2020, here are just a couple of tips to keep your communications accessible and effective:

Your jargon is showing. Take a close look at the language you’re using to talk about your campaign. If you weren’t familiar with the issue, would you understand the point you’re making? This is also a great time to pull in a colleague or friend who doesn’t know about the issue and ask them what they think your message means. Are there buzzwords that mean something to your base, but that may not resonate with a wider audience? Take stock of the words you’re using to form your message and tweak it where needed to make sure that anyone and everyone can understand what you’re saying easily. 

Stay out of the weeds. While there’s a time and place for intricate issue details and minutiae (and no shortage of either when it comes to issue advocacy), it’s probably not necessary for your mass communications. The average reader is likely looking for a general introduction to your issue. How can you adjust your language to give them an overview in just a sentence or two? Moreover, how can you take the longer policy papers you may have written and turn them into quick social media posts or blogs that people can read quickly? Issue advocacy organizations have a lot of amazing content to work with, but often that content is a bit too in the weeds. Take a 30,000-foot approach to your messaging and try to see the bigger picture. Then, convey that to your audience. 

Talk to a wider audience. Chances are your core group of supporters are on your side and believe in your mission. When you’re talking to that audience, you can be a bit more nuanced and talk to them more directly about actions they can take on your behalf. However, you’re going to want to expand your reach into a wider audience who may not yet be on board with your mission. This is crucial to growing your list of supporters—both for advocacy reasons and for fundraising opportunities. Make sure you are taking the time to find an audience who is not yet part of your supporter base but could be persuaded to join with the right message. 

Why is this important? It should never be assumed that people will automatically understand why an issue should be important to them. Your issue advocacy communications should always aim to explain (albeit briefly) why your issue is something that pertains to people and why they should buy-in. This includes the facts you use—while you may connect a particular statistic to the policy you’re advocating, it may be a leap for people outside of your base. Don’t shy away from explaining why a fact or figure is important and connecting it to everyday life. 

People want to be involved in maters they care about and issue advocacy campaigns have a huge opportunity to expand their reach beyond their typical base. By moving beyond their typical supporters, talking about the issues in an easy-to-digest way, and keeping out of the weeds, your issue advocacy campaign can build beyond your base and be even more successful. 

Building issue advocacy campaigns can be a huge challenge! Luckily, The Campaign Workshop has a ton of resources for you to dig into. As you’re thinking through your strategy for 2022, check out our post about how to spot the difference between strategy and tactics here. Have questions about issue advocacy communications? Contact us!