This past week, the folks from CEO Update joined three association lobbying experts in a forum to discuss the latest aspects and trends in association advocacy. The forum, titled "Advocacy in a Time of Gridlock" included:
Executive vice president, policy and government affairs
National Restaurant Association
The McCormick Group
Senior vice president public policy
Financial Services Roundtable
- Social media is an important channel and should be viewed as one of several critical components in a multi-layered communications approach.
- Engaging your audience in a ways that resonate with them and get them to take action requires laser-sharp, strategic focus.
- Understanding your audience and focusing your messages are the key to success
How to understand your audience and create focused messages
By following this approach, you are sure to create the laser-focused messages and calls-to-action that compel your audiences to take action.
Understanding your audience
Have you taken the time to understand who exactly you are trying to reach and what their priorities and interests are?
There are a variety of tools and techniques you can use to better understand not only who your audience is, what they are talking about, and where exactly they are gathering. Use these approaches to help gain insights about your audience, and to guide your overall strategy.
- Listen and Learn. Use online tools to listen. This could be as simple as setting up a Google alert and then discovering exactly what conversations are taking place and where. It may not be Facebook or Twitter - the conversation may be happening elsewhere and center around a particular blog or industry forum.
- Perform Keyword Research. Keyword research may reveal that the words your greatest advocates are using are different than the ones you are trying to use to reach them. Keyword research can provide insight and increase the chances that your message is being found by the right people.
- Build an influencers list. If you are listening properly you are going to see some patterns: a blogger that has a strong following, insightful content, and solid agenda. A twitter influencer who is very engaged and has extensive reach around the topics that are relevant to you. Are you leveraging these online influencers to get your messages in front of their audiences? Know your influencers and interact with them!
Developing focused messages and calls-to-action
Using what you have learned about your audience and aligning that with your objectives, you can then tailor your messages to get them to take the desired action. Measuring what works and what doesn’t and using that data to refine your approach as you go along will make you even more successful.
- Define your goal. Even the largest organizations have limited time and staff to focus on social media. Don't waste time and resources. Understand exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish. Everything you do needs to support your overall goals and objectives. When I worked in radio we called lack of focus on goals and medium "spraying and praying".
- Identify measures of success. Is your measure the number of members that write a congressman? Make sure you have your analytics set up properly to capture this information. Track who those advocates are and where they are coming from.
- Clearly articulate your calls to action. You understand your goal; now make sure the rest of the world understands your goal. Create 2-3 key calls to action that can be used throughout your campaign. Make sure that all of your online channels - your website, blog, and emails – have a clear path to whatever action you want them to take.
- Create a communications calendar. With your goals, key messages and measures of success clearly defined, create a communications calendar. A calendar will help to strategically plan what messages and activities will happen when and where – and help you identify opportunities for additional elements. This will also keep everyone on board with what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when.
These calendars can take many shapes – from a simple spreadsheet (preferably shared with all content owners) to a massive matrix. Be sure to include all online channels and web properties. Posting a press release on your website? Note who will tweet it or post on Facebook. Updating a bio? Note whether that tidbit needs to be tweeted. Be all inclusive in this endeavor to be sure you are getting the most mileage as you can from your efforts.