For Effective Advocacy, Select "E" for "All of the Above"

My colleague Steve Rubel neatly lays out the challenge facing communicators today: with today's fractured and diffuse media, "life is nothing but a stream, and ad pages and feature placements become scarcer (and arguably captivate less attention)." And if this challenge frustrates communicators, how much more difficult is it for public affairs or advocacy professionals working to not only enlist supports but mobilize advocates?

As there is no shortage of news and information channels, there's no shortage of opportunities (or asks) to take civic or political action on behalf of a good cause. From the deluge of email fundraising emails to friends recruiting friends with Facebook applications, it's easy to see how your appeal can get lost in the crowd.

So how do you break through? By taking a careful look at your audience and understanding which channels and which networks they prefer to use—and be prepared to play on any field at any time.

But let's be clear: the need to be ubiquitous is most certainly not a "spaghetti-on-the-wall" strategy in which you throw everything out there and see what sticks. In fact, that's rightly identified as the exact opposite of strategy.

The key is to not necessarily be everywhere all the time, but to evaluate every platform. And then make choices that connect with your advocacy goals, not what's cool or top-of-mind for the moment.

  • Partner with a company like Rapleaf to analyze your organization's membership roster. Which networks are they most active on? Who in your database has the largest and most influential social footprint?
  • Conduct online conversation research across different communities and networks. Where are your potential advocates engaged in conversations about your issues?
  • When you identify your audiences, be as flexible as possible. You can start with simple tools such as the SocialCapital widgetthat helps supporters communicate with members of Congress about the issues that they care about through the channels *they* choose.
  • Understand that in almost every case, what's good for your cause and audience won't be ideal for another group's campaign. While of course Facebook is a necessary component of almost every effort—is it sufficient? Don't hesitate to pursue niche audiences and groups on the much smaller and focused sites.

It might sound overly simplified, but don't be everywhere—just be everywhere your audience needs you to be - and don't spread yourself too thin. Instead, invest the effort to make sure that where you engage, you do so with sufficient attention to that community. For instance, among hundreds of possible social networks, the Obama campaign established a presence on fifteen of them, including being the first presidential candidate on BlackPlanet AsianAve.com; and MiGente.com.

In digital advocacy, the answer is not to chase every channel, but to focus on the platforms where your potential supporters already are. Call it "impulse advocacy." Be nimble and agile while making it easy for them to mobilize and they will reward you by advocating for your cause time and time again.

Read more of the Edelman blog on Fast Company.

mike-krempaskyMike Krempasky, Executive Vice President, leads Edelman's Digital Public Affairs practice. Based in Washington, DC he specializes in crisis communications and issues management. He is the co-founder of RedState.com, one of the most-read and influential Republican community blogs. He has been a blogger since 2001, and in that capacity testified before the FEC in 2005 on the regulation of political speech on the Internet and became one of the first bloggers called to offer expert testimony before a Committee in the House of Representatives.

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