Innovation and Advocacy: Will You Soar, Glide, or Collide? - Crowdskout

Innovation and Advocacy: Will You Soar, Glide, or Collide?

Alex Tracy
Alex Tracy

Joshua Habursky is director of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, and adjunct professor at West Virginia University.

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The American democratic process is slow by design, but the pace of communication flow (and with it, the ability to quickly mobilize constituents) gets faster every day. Technological innovations are making it easier to reach larger audiences and gather incredible amounts of information from and about them. Organizations that can quantify and process that information possess a competitive advantage in recruiting, mobilizing, reactivating and retaining their supporters.

We’ve entered a new age of organizing — one driven and honed by data. People must adapt to new methods and mediums to get their message across at the right time, to the right audience.

With innovation coming quickly, organizations and advocates must set themselves up for success by finding the right tools to leverage data in real-time and aggregate it to create effective multi-channel outreach.

APCO WorldwideCrowdskout and the Grassroots Professional Network recently worked with top influencers and practitioners to produce an eBook, “The Intersection of Innovation & Advocacy.” The eBook features industry trends, data insights and tech tips used by practitioners to maximize their impact every day.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the eBook that will best help organizations avoid colliding at the intersection:

1) Practitioner expertise is paramount.

In today’s ever-connected world, it’s important to reach your audiences where they are most — online or on their mobile devices. Communication and data from these sources are essential to any successful advocacy program. But while technology tools are important, they are nothing unless the person wielding them understands their proper application. Tools, tried-and-true methods and the expertise of the practitioners are more important than ever.

Lucy Caldwell, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Crowdskout, contends, “The proliferation of affordable tools that foster communication and connectedness beyond geography or personal network mean unprecedented opportunity to connect with would-be supporters and advocates for a group’s cause.” The opportunity to connect with lawmakers is easy and affordable, and the interest in doing so is on an exponential rise.  

2) Quality over quantity.

Technological innovations that allow organizations to quickly reach huge audiences have increased exponentially the amount of communication a constituent receives. And while increasing impressions may increase response rates, it also gives rise to very important questions concerning the quality of communications.

As the advocacy industry changes, organizations should keep a careful eye on the quality of their communications. What is the goal of this communication? How will it be received? Do I believe it will be considered properly by the intended audience, whether that be Congress or someone other person or organization in power? Processing genuine constituent communication is sometimes difficult, due to constraints of budget, staff, time and volume, but quality over quantity is an important part of success in this space.

3) Segmenting and targeting make success easier.  

Getting overloaded with information, and thus failing to use valuable information effectively, is a common pitfall for advocacy professionals. Data must be frequently updated, refreshed and tested to effectively maintain relationships with supporters who will carry an organization’s message. And list refreshing should not bog down communication efforts.

Sifting through clutter doesn’t benefit anyone, and short-term gains by cutting corners harm the reputation of the industry, tools, technology, and talent. Luckily, there are effective tools evolving around us to collect and analyze data — and those tools cannot be left on the shelf. Segmenting and targeting make refreshing advocate data easier to manage. Navigating this process is both a challenge and opportunity for all parties. Staying authentic and genuine helps the process and everyone involved.

4) The industry is constantly adapting.  

Even with the mounting challenges presented by new technology, the outlook for the advocacy community remains bright. The industry is becoming more professionalized. The growth of new solutions and services are adapting to changing trends, as new communication mediums and new ways to access data come into the market. The competitive nature of advocacy ensures that organizations will continually improve in response to the changing technological landscape, and move forward to make the process more efficient.

When it comes to navigating data to mobilize constituents, you can know your flight path. You can know your destination. But often, you won’t know the exact route to take. Some groups have trouble integrating new technologies into advocacy, colliding and limiting their effectiveness. Some groups glide along, adapting to the changing winds. But the industry itself is soaring — and the organizations that will soar along with it are the ones that can truly understand the intersection of advocacy and innovation.

If you’re interested in learning more about the insights from our eBook, you can download your free copy here.

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Joshua Habursky is director of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, and adjunct professor at West Virginia University.