Grassroots Advocacy Strategies for Corporate Public Affairs

How do you build a grassroots movement to sway public policy? It starts with a solid campaign strategy.

In today’s digital world, corporate advocacy campaigns need advanced technological solutions to get the right message to the right audience at the right time. Bloomberg Government is an all-in-one software designed to help you build and sustain the momentum you need to take your policy issue from an idea all the way to Capitol Hill.

Intel to move your advocacy campaign forward

Launching your grassroots campaign shouldn’t be an insurmountable task. Optimize your advocacy strategy and maximize outcomes with expert analysis and actionable policy intelligence from Bloomberg Government.

REPORT

Top-Performing Lobbying Firms

See which lobbying firms drove record industry growth in 2023. This report provides an in-depth look at the key metrics of hundreds of firms reporting top earnings.

ON-DEMAND

Lobbying Mid-Year Review

2023 was a busy year for lobbying of all industries, with the debt ceiling negotiations, farm bill and appropriations, healthcare, tech, and financial services measures, plus major state legislation – and there’s still more ahead.

REPORT

Trends in the Public Affairs Industry

Discover trends shaping the public affairs industry, including challenges, priorities, critical skills, compensation, and satisfaction.

While grassroots advocacy has been a longtime strategy for nonprofits and other interest groups seeking to influence legislators, it’s quickly gaining popularity in the corporate sphere. Spurred by social media and growing consumer expectations that corporations publicly demonstrate their values, business leaders are realizing the power that grassroots movements have in swaying public opinion, and they’re searching for new tools to advance their advocacy efforts.

Understanding grassroots advocacy

How a grassroots strategy is executed can make or break a campaign. A single post with a powerful message can go viral, enabling a campaign to reach a global audience instantly. Conversely, a message that doesn’t resonate, a haphazard engagement plan, or not setting clear, measurable goals can all curtail your campaign’s momentum.

While direct lobbying to build relationships with policymakers is still a valuable tool for influencing public policy, a lobbying and public affairs strategy is incomplete without an effective grassroots component.

What is grassroots advocacy?

Grassroots advocacy is the process of building, organizing, and mobilizing public support to achieve specific policy goals. Instead of relying on lobbyists to meet directly with members of Congress, a grassroots campaign engages constituents to put public pressure on policymakers to enact change. That means asking supporters and volunteers to contact a relevant legislator or other elected official on the local, state, or federal level, depending on the issue.

Organizing tactics like door-to-door canvassing, direct mail, and phone campaigns are still essential, but the rise of social media has opened unlimited digital organizing opportunities to raise public awareness, drive engagement, and shape public opinion.

Why are grassroots movements important?

Whereas traditional government affairs tactics rely on lobbyists to educate and persuade legislators on behalf of an entity like a corporation, grassroots advocacy groups can carry more weight when it comes to influencing the actions of elected officials because they consist of actual constituents to whom the policymaker is ultimately accountable. According to a survey of congressional staff, constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with their senators and representatives are more influential than lobbyists.


How grassroots advocacy can support corporate public affairs interests

Grassroots activism – advocacy efforts to organize citizens to persuade elected officials to enact policy changes – is a strategy that has been typically employed by nonprofits. While use of this strategy has expanded to include corporations and other organizations, the goals of any grassroots advocacy campaign remain the same: To educate a target audience on a particular issue, build a coalition of supporters, and mobilize these activists to influence public policy.

Rather than relying on lobbyists to maintain individual relationships with policymakers, corporations can build grassroots networks of employees, customers, stakeholders, and community partners and leverage their collective action through two primary avenues:

  1. Empowering voters to contact their local legislators.
  2. Encouraging voters to turn up for local elections.

By involving the people who have been affected by a particular issue, these grassroots initiatives can have a far more significant impact than direct lobbying methods. Not only will your advocates have personal anecdotes and compelling stories to help sway elected officials, but the officials themselves rely on their voters to stay in office. In a survey, congressional staffers agreed the most influential advocacy strategies for swaying an undecided member of Congress are personal communications from constituents.

However, before your organization is ready to mobilize grassroots activists, you need to develop your advocacy strategy plan and the right messaging to effectively reach your target audience.


Grassroots advocacy strategies for policy change

With all the competition and commotion in the market, the true challenge of a grassroots advocacy campaign is developing a strategic message that breaks through the noise to target the right audience at the right time. So, how do companies organize effective advocacy campaigns to overcome these challenges and influence policy? It all starts with planning.

Drafting an effective grassroots strategic plan can seem daunting at first, but it’s vital to ensure the long-term stability, impact, and success of your campaign. If you’re considering starting an advocacy campaign, you likely already have an issue in mind.

The next step is to identify your objectives: What do you want to accomplish through this campaign? How will you measure success? These questions will help guide you through the process of creating a successful advocacy campaign.

Start with a clear vision

Corporations should clarify exactly what issue or public policy outcome to focus on and how it aligns with their corporate values or business objectives. Once you’ve determined an issue to target, it’s on to the planning stage. To increase your chances for success, narrow the scope of your campaign to something specific and achievable. For instance, if supporting renewable energy aligns with your corporate values, set a campaign goal of increasing funding for solar power infrastructure, or expanding tax breaks for renewable energy companies. That way, your campaign doesn’t spread itself too thin by trying to solve multiple large-scale issues at once.

Understand the policy landscape

Once you’ve identified your campaign vision, conduct comprehensive research to understand the existing policy landscape, identify obstacles in current laws and regulations, and develop a policy framework for your issue. This analysis can help organizers further hone their campaign priorities and allocate needed resources to maximize impact.

With a solid repository of research, supporters can craft evidence-based arguments that enhance their credibility when advocating for specific policy proposals.

Craft your message

After outlining your campaign goal and policy framework, the next step is to craft a clear, concise campaign message, including counterarguments and how to address common questions. It’s critical to draft multiple versions of your central message in various formats that will resonate with audiences on different platforms. Remember that email outreach is only one channel to use; other effective options include phone calls, text messages, peer-to-peer messaging, social media, and organic search.

Strong communication and a compelling narrative can go a long way in influencing and inspiring the public for your cause, but you should also consider your organization’s overall mission and its stakeholders. You want to reach your target audience wherever they are with a message that’s perfectly tailored to inspire them to act but is still cohesive with your overall campaign and brand voice. To build credibility as a corporate advocate, your message must align with not only your target audience but also your company’s goals and values.

Leverage digital media

Digital outreach is an essential tactic of modern grassroots advocacy campaigns. But posting online without a clear engagement strategy won’t attract or grow an audience. Leverage a mix of digital content and platforms and define specific and measurable objectives for each. For example, an educational blog post to raise awareness, a social media account to promote events, or short video testimonials from those directly affected by your issue to inspire new advocates to join your cause.

Always end with a clear call to action that directs new advocates to take a next step, such as contacting their elected representative or signing a petition. Advocates can also encourage supporters to share their own thoughts and opinions, since user-generated content can boost engagement, reach, and ultimately awareness.

Target the right audience

Even the most persuasive campaign message will fall on deaf ears if you’re not reaching the right people. While you’re developing your campaign strategy, organizers should create user personas to better understand who your supporters are and how to deliver a campaign message that resonates with their motivations, challenges, personal relationship to the issue, and preferred communication platforms.

Knowing specific geographic and demographic attributes of potential supporters can help you narrow down who you should be targeting with your campaign message and where, saving your campaign time and money. Social media can also be helpful for understanding how different audience segments are talking about the issue, gauging how your campaign is being received, and quickly spotting trending topics that can help you better tailor your message and expand your reach.

Track and optimize your impact

As your advocacy campaign starts to build momentum and gain supporters, it’s vital to track their engagement, analyze their interactions, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Organizers should develop an advocacy evaluation plan to measure how their campaign is performing:

  1. Monitor engagement levels on digital media platforms.
  2. Weigh engagement metrics against industry benchmarks.
  3. Identify areas of improvement.

As part of this evaluation plan, public affairs professionals should regularly report a campaign’s performance to stakeholders and solicit feedback to optimize overall impact. With an understanding of what is and is not working, organizers can make strategic adjustments to modify their approach as necessary.

Activate your advocates

Gaining likes on social media is good, but it won’t help if your supporters aren’t willing to act. Avoid “slacktivism” with clear, focused asks for how people can get involved. Remember: the ultimate goal of your grassroots campaign is for constituents to create enough public pressure to persuade elected officials to enact policy changes.

Not every supporter will want to have the same level of involvement. Plan ahead and identify the best ways to leverage advocates at every level of support – whether they just have 60 seconds to sign a petition or can spend a weekend helping to organize a phone bank to call voters before Election Day. Consider creating a volunteer group of your strongest supporters to build buy-in and a sense of ownership of the campaign.

Take your policy issue from an idea all the way to Capitol Hill with Bloomberg Government

Success for corporate public affairs initiatives looks different for every project and organization, whether it’s a campaign to grow your base of supporters or achieving a business objective through new legislation. Whatever your lobbying and public affairs goal is, getting started with your grassroots advocacy campaign shouldn’t be an insurmountable task.

Stay on top of the changing political landscape and the policy issues that matter most to your grassroots lobbying efforts with expert analysis, comprehensive coverage, news, and practice tools from Bloomberg Government.

Request a demo to learn how Bloomberg Government can help your corporate public affairs team.

Top