Recently I attended the Southern Municipal Conference, a meeting of lobbyists from local municipal associations across the southeast. At the conference, Capitol Impact’s CEO Andy Paul gave a presentation on Best Practices in Grassroots Organizing. During the presentation, a government lobbyist raised an interesting question about communication.
“How much is too much?”
Some organizations have a difficult time deciding how frequently to update members on legislative issues. Some of the attendees stated their organizations e-mail out weekly updates while others said they update their members as many as three times a week.
This raised the general question of “will members opt-out from emails if they are too frequent”? Followed by “How much is too much”? Here are some tips that came out of the discussion to help you effectively communicate with your supporters.
Keep Things Regular
First, it is important to keep your update information flow consistent. Regular updates are beneficial to your supporters as well as beneficial to you. Whether you decide to post monthly or weekly updates, it is important that your reports are always published on time. For instance, if you decide to update weekly, choose a day to update your readers and always publish on that day. Friday is a common weekly update day because the week’s legislative sessions wrap up. Adhering to a strict schedule will show your audience that you are dedicated to keeping them informed, as well as give them a consistent sense of timing. Also, sticking to a report deadline will make it easier to write your updates because it will be part of your routine.
Keep Things Focused
A short, focused update that gets to the issues quickly will ultimately be more effective than long detailed updates. Legislative issues can be complex (and tedious), so try to convey the issues, the bills, and their relevance to the organization as concisely as you can. Make sure to include links to bill information and other relevant resources. Choose a format that allows your readers to glance over the report and gather the necessary information quickly, but also allows them to explore the topic through the links if it piques their interest. Consider publishing longer, more in-depth reports on your website with a link from your emailed short version. As people click through, you can track your traffic to specific issues. This traffic pattern can track interest levels by topic, allowing you to produce more updates on popular issues. If a specific issue is getting significant traffic, consider a special report about that issue. Let people know the issue has generated buzz and offer a more in-depth report.
Utilize Targeted Updates
Every group has a small amount of very active members. These are the members that drive your results and they require more attention than the rest of your audience. Consider targeted updates to your active members with either more frequent or more in-depth updates. You can have supporters sign up to get your notices, and when they sign up, indicate their areas of interest. This will keep your active parties interested as well as encourage them to stay involved in your efforts. Being able to identify segments of your audience by their topics of interest will also help you in your lobbying efforts.
Track Your Progress
Have you noticed that more people are opting out of your email updates? The rules for opting out are such that you cannot send them more emails, but you can call them if you are an association lobbyist since they are members of your organization. Find out why they opted out. You need to keep as many of your supporters reading your updates as you can, because well informed supporters lead to well organized lobbying efforts. When people decide to opt out of your emails you must have their permission to add them back in, which means you will have to find another way to contact them. Get a hold of them and ask them if they want to rejoin the email communication loop.
Keep It Up
In his presentation, Mr. Paul stated that “politics is a business of relationships.” As a lobbyist, your relationship with your supporters is just as important as your relationship with politicians. Keeping supporters informed will enable them to carry your message better when you need them to act.