Contact Amy today to discuss how she can equip and empower your advocates, PAC recruiters, staff and leaders to communicate powerful narratives: Amy@ShowalterGroup.com / 513.762.7668.
- Trends in Grassroots Influence Tactics Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy Live & Uncut. I want to share with you more results from our Grassroots Influence Pulse research, the GRIP research. Last time on Live & Uncut, we talked about the univariate correlations, the statistics that obtained significance. I’m going to go backwards a bit here and talk… Because I’ve had some requests, talk a bit about the descriptive data that we found in terms of trends in legislator behavior, trends in grassroots influence tactics. Then in the next Live & Uncut, we’ll talk about the logistic regression. What statistics obtained such significance that we’re able to put them into a formula to determine if they do indeed predict legislative success? Okay? So stick with me here.
Let’s talk about legislator behavior first. Legislator behavior, trends in relationships and receptivity. Compared to last year, are legislators mostly talking or mostly listening? We found that about 30% said that legislators are mostly listening. That is relatively unchanged from the 2016 research. So they’re mostly listening, but 30% isn’t great on that. We wish they would listen 100% of the time. Right? But that’s where we’re at.
Now, in terms of mostly talking, we find that they’re talking a little bit more. 37% said that lawmakers were mostly talking at them. That’s up about five percentage points from 2016. We also ask a very important question about whether legislators are more or less open to communication. We find that 8% said they are much more open to communication than they were in 2016. Now back in 2016, they reported… 3.4% reported that legislators were much more open to communication. So while these percents are abysmally low, they are higher. The 2018 data is higher than 2016. So 8% said legislators are much more open to communication.
We all know that legislator and staff relationships are important indicator of legislative success and have influenced success. We asked the question, compared to last year, have your relationships with legislators and their staff degraded or improved? Half almost, well, 49% said the relationships improved significantly. However, one of our key findings is that while almost half believe that the relationships with legislators are improving, only 8% report that legislators are more open to communications. A minority of respondents stated that legislators are listening more.
So are legislators really improving or are those relationships with legislators really improving? Or do legislators excel at making you feel listened to? We don’t know because we would think that relationships improve when they are more open to communication and that relationships improve when they listen more, but they’re not doing those two things in a majority of the respondents. Something to think about.
Caitlyn and I have talked quite a bit. We’re probably one of the only consultants out there talking about the parody influence dynamic that’s present in the legislative environment. So if you want more information on that, we’re happy to chat with you about it because it’s something that you really need to train your advocates to be aware of and how to skillfully and politely and professionally combat that. Okay? The parody influence dynamic.
Some legislators are great at influencing constituents, some aren’t. Most are though. Most are really good at it. All right. Next, what are some other legislator behaviors in terms of public support for your issues, proactive outreach, and so forth? We find that 60% of the respondents said that legislators are increasingly reaching out to staff or key volunteers for issue advice and opinions. 60% said they’re doing it more than in previous years, which is fascinating. 43% said that legislators are providing more personal access than in previous years. 41% said that they’re championing their issue to their colleagues more than in previous years. Also, they’re making public statements in favor of their issue more than in previous years.
So respondents had the opportunity in this question to indicate more than one answer. So these responses add up to more than a 100%. But even with all those good behaviors, only 21.3% said that legislators are voting with them more than in previous years. So while legislators are asking for your help more, while they are providing access, even though that was a minority, but they are providing access, they’re not voting necessarily with you more. So they’re making a great show of support perhaps in some instances, but they’re not really taking the action that we want.
So let’s talk about grassroots. Let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about grassroots influence tactics and effort. We asked if you were making more or less of an investment in various grassroots influence tactics. We listed 9 or 10 of those. 21% were making more of an investment in social media. 19% making more of an investment in face-to-face communications. 19% making more of an investment in grassroots events.
And so what we’re finding here is a nice combination between the digital piece and the face-to-face piece because the grassroots events implies face-to-face events. Whether that’s town halls, whether that is attending fundraisers, whatever that might be. We’re seeing a bit or we’re seeing that. Now, this was very dispersed. These responses were very dispersed. But these were the top three responses. This next one was fascinating. We asked, which grassroots tactics do you most frequently ask your advocates to deploy to influence legislators? So what are you asking them to do?
Again, respondents could check more than one response. Number one, 78% said emails to legislators is still the big thing we’re doing. Number two at 71%, advocate meetings in Washington DC or in the state capitals. Number three, advocate meetings with legislators in the district, 63%. Number four, advocate meetings with legislative staff. And then number five, phone calls to legislators. So we’re seeing a nice… Again here, a good combination of things. And the disconnect comes though in the next question because we asked what people do the most, which is what I just mentioned. And then we asked them, well, what’s most successful?
And what we find is that the advocate meetings in DC or the state capitals are deemed most successful, followed by meetings with legislators in the district. So this goes to the age old question that I’ve had and I scratch my head about constantly is if we know what’s successful, why aren’t we doing it more? If we know what produces the successful influence result and we can track that and people can, why are we doing the other thing? Why are we doing more emails to legislators than advocating for more meetings? And what’s interesting is that the respondents were very able to determine what tactics they use, but they were less… The answers on what was most successful were much more dispersed. There wasn’t the certainty shall we say to that?
So my piece of advice on this is that while I find that grassroots influence professionals can identify the tactics they use, they’re less able to determine which of those tactics produces results. That’s a problem. So to improve your success ratio, you want to conduct rigorous post-campaign evaluations. What went well and why? What didn’t work and why from your influence prospect’s point of view, not only your point of view. So it’s one thing to get around the table with your colleagues and your coalition friends and say, “Oh, here’s what worked in why. Here’s what didn’t work and why.”
It’s a whole different and more rigorous and more accurate picture to ask the influence prospect. Whether that is the lawmaker, the regulator, and/or the grassroots stakeholder that you asked to engage. Asking them what tended to work and why. So without engaging that discipline, you’re kind of throwing darts at the problem with the lights on but just still throwing darts. So post-campaign evaluation is critical. Get that data from as many sources as you can.
All right. Next, let’s talk about grassroots recruitment and morale. 19% said that it’s more difficult to recruit advocates. That’s almost identical to 2016. 32% said it’s easier to recruit advocates. That’s up 10 percentage points from 2016, so a little bit easier. So we asked why is it easier? Those who found it was easier… There’s several responses. They could check more than one. The top responses were that worthy and engaged opponents motivate participation. I was delighted to see this because I do believe that your opponents can motivate your team, but the key is, are you letting your team know what your opponents are up to?
Next, encouraging results. Success breeds success. So are you banging the drum? Are you letting people know that you’re being successful? And then next, a recent political or culture event that negatively affected your issues. So again, seeing the tide turn in the external environment many times motivates people to get more involved. So are you nimble? Are you leveraging those external influence situations on your behalf?
Those who found it more difficult, 50% said that it’s because of advocate burnout. Okay? This is the age old challenge, right? Issue fatigue, advocate burnout. So half said it’s more difficult because of burnout. Next, they said a recent political or cultural event that negatively affected their issue. So again, works both ways. And next, which is very important, is the political party in favor of their issues in the minority. With everything wildly gridlocked today, it’s very hard to get things done unless people who… If you’ve got a very partisan issue, unless people who favor that issue are in power, it’s going to be difficult. Okay? Lots of other findings in the grassroots equipment piece, but those are the highlights.
All right. Let’s conclude on a couple things relative to some key findings that were a little disturbing to me. Number one was that we find that increased grassroots mobilizations don’t lead to increased legislative success. A lot of times, we in the grassroots community get a little proud of our advocacy and we think that nothing can be accomplished without us, right? Nothing can be done without grassroots. Well, actually, things can be done without grassroots because we find that those who are mobilizing their folks quite a bit aren’t experiencing any increased legislative success. There’s no evidence in the data set that more mobilizations equal or lead to increased success. But there is evidence that advocate burnout is an issue from our question on advocate recruitment.
So we have to be judicious in those requests of our advocates. Are we burning them out? It takes more than mobilizations for success. It takes rigorous lobbying. It takes a robust political action committee. It takes external outrage, third party advocacy. So let’s remember that. Let’s not be so proud on these issues and just remember that just because you’re doing stuff and you’re mobilizing people and getting them agitated doesn’t mean you’re going to win.
I’ll conclude on this finding with grassroots accomplishments. It’s something I’ve always known anecdotally. I learned it through one of my terrific speakers at my Innovate to Motivate conference, Jason Beardsley, who’s a former Green Beret, now works at the VA and also runs private security operations for high net worth individuals and so forth. He said that in the military, we always make a point to mark our victories, mark the occasion of our victory. Mark the place where it happened, even celebrate that with our team. He said that’s so important for team morale and the culture of your organization, your advocacy culture.
So we asked that question this time. It was a new question. We asked people if they formally marked the occasion of grassroots accomplishments with their volunteers. A lot of people didn’t answer this question, which worries me. Of those that did, 41% said they don’t do anything to mark the occasion of grassroots accomplishments. Wow. We have to get better in that area. You have a lot of great news that you can share with people and that you can use to buttress and build up your culture, your advocacy culture. So you want to find opportunities to mark those occasions of success.
All right? Okay. That’s all we have on legislator behaviors and some of the many findings on the grassroots tactics. In the next Live & Uncut, we’re going to share some information on regulator influence tactics and what’s working and what’s not. Thanks. This is the Grassroots Influence Pulse and Amy Live & Uncut.
- Univariate Correlations Transcript
Thanks to the hundreds of grassroots professionals who participated in our biennial Grassroots Influence Pulse (GRIP) research! We have a plethora of results, and will be sending them in a series of communications. Please note these are top line findings, as I suspect most of you do not want to read a report that we typically prepare for clients that can be between 30-90 pages.
Since 1999, we named our newsletter “Roots of Success.” We believe that one of the roots of success is spending your time wisely on what matters and what leads to results. Working on, as the late great Dr. Richard Carlson said, the “critical inch” of your work. Consistent with that is our desire to bring more data-driven insights into how government relations professionals implement their strategies and tactics, which sheds light on what leads to results, rather than just focusing on commonly conducted activities. We believe the work of advocacy professionals should be valued and elevated, and knowing the tactics that lead to results helps everyone do just that. A quantitative approach to finding out what matters—–what leads to results, is essential. Just surveying people to find out what they are doing doesn’t tell you much. We like to know what people do that leads to success.
Special thanks to the following government relations professionals who helped us get a terrific sample size:
Josh Habursky and Joe Franco, Grassroots Professionals Network
Carla Lochiatto, ASIS International
Tommy Goodwin, Project Management Institute
Jon Boling, IME
Betsy Vetter, American Heart Association
The sample size was n=201. Our initial n was 20% higher, but to maintain data integrity, we removed from our final n the responses of individuals who took 3 minutes or less to complete the survey, because we know that time frame does not allow for thoughtful answers. We estimated an eligible population of 4800 grassroots professionals, the current membership of the Grassroots Professionals Network. Therefore, the survey yielded a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval of +6.8.
The univariate correlations (the variables that “move together” toward our dependent variable of “legislative success”) have been determined; they have reached a statistical significance which means they have been put into a logistic regression. (LR) They are not predictors of success, that comes with the LR, but this gives us a window into what *may* matter when determining legislative success. “Legislative success” is defined by variables in Q’s 1-5 which include:
Legislators more open to communications
Better legislator and staff relationships
Legislators less resistant to persuasion
More public support of your issue by legislators
Legislators voting with your organization
Which independent variables (IV) attained significance and correlate with legislative success?
In order of statistical strength:
Conducting more grassroots events
Investing in more face to face communications with lawmakers
Party in power agrees with our position (a bigger trend than in previous years, which shows the importance of PACs and GOTV)
Facilitating advocate meetings with legislators in district
Organizations that have a higher percentage of stakeholders with legislator relationships (“Key Contacts”)
More time spent conducting grassroots advocate training
Conducting formal stakeholder research
What isn’t associated with legislative success?
We believe that to maximize your productivity, you have to let go of certain activities, or at least de-prioritize them. The following aspects of grassroots advocacy did not attain statistical significance with “legislative success:”
1. More time spent on:
Social media messages to lawmakers
Social media campaigns
2. The number of records in your advocacy database — quantity is not correlated with legislative success.
3. The number of times per month that grassroots ‘action alerts,’ or mobilizations were issued, did not correlate with reported legislative success. However, since many grassroots professionals are curious regarding how many alerts are too many, it’s interesting to consider the modal number is one:
16% of respondents indicated, on average, no alerts/mobilizations per month
42% of respondents indicated 1 alert/mobilization per month
17% of respondents indicated 2 alerts/mobilizations per month
25% of respondents indicated ≥3 alerts/mobilizations per month
One alert/mobilization per month is the mode, but a quarter of respondents issued 3 or more, giving a bimodal distribution of “low” vs. “high” activators.
According to Dr. Rhoads:
“There is no evidence in this data set that more mobilizations lead to increased success, but there is evidence that advocate burnout is an issue from Q11.” (I’ll share more on the burnout dilemma in my next communication.)
Some independent variables are negatively correlated with legislative success, for example, those reporting a higher degree of volunteer “burn out” were less successful.
Most Admired Organizations
We asked survey participants to cite the organizations they admire for their grassroots prowess. The most – mentioned organizations were:
AARP – The AARP has made the “most admired” list in all three GRIP surveys.
National Rifle Association
National Association of REALTORS®
We asked in Q 22 “Which of the following best explains why you admire the above mentioned organization?” Options were:
According to Dr. Rhoads:
“Survey respondents who reported experiencing more legislative success were more likely to choose “good army” as their basis of admiration of successful organizations, than those reporting fewer legislative successes. Successful organizations admire discipline; struggling organizations admire discipline somewhat less.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our GRIP findings, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
- The Immutable Truths: What Won't Change Transcript
Hi, this is Amy Live & Uncut with the immutable truths — what won’t change in the grassroots influence, PAC, and lobbying professions, and how to leverage them for breakthrough innovations.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about factors that won’t change in our profession, in the government relations profession. You should want to produce work that lasts for years, and leave an enduring legacy among your stakeholders. However, every incentive in today’s world is to draw your attention to an immediate hit. Many thought leaders and experts, I’m using air quotes here, make everything seem so easy. Telling you how to hack your weight, engaging more stakeholders, gaining more committed contributors, and how to develop your professional skill set, and so forth, is made to look so easy, because it gives you the mental sugar that makes you think you’ve discovered the secret mother load of grassroots, or PAC success. However, the time you spend learning something that expires, takes the same amount of time you’d spend learning something that doesn’t expire. This is the reality that few people step back and think about. Unapplied truths lead to inertia. Unapplied truths lead to a lack of results. Think about it. If you learn things that don’t expire, you’re going to compound your knowledge. Think of it as compound interest for learning.
What eternal unapplied truths of grassroots influence, PAC, and the lobbying professions are you not applying to your work? Everyone wants to have innovative breakthroughs, but innovative breakthroughs come through two things. Number one, a fundamental understanding of the profession; that’s why it takes experience, years, and time to be innovative. Number two, understanding what won’t change, and how to apply those everlasting truths to new innovations. But you have to understand the immutable truths first.
Since I’ve been thinking about this so much, at our December 4th Research Influence Lead Seminar in D.C., we’re going to have a crowd sourced work storm on this topic. We are going to break up into tables. We’ll have advisory committee members serve as your discussion leaders. We’re going to make a list of what won’t change in our profession, or what hasn’t changed in the decades that you’ve been involved in it. We’ll come up with a master list, and then discuss as a group how we can spend time on those things, and apply those to innovative breakthroughs. So you innovate with what doesn’t change, with what people will always want. That’s how you innovate.
Remember, an unapplied truth leads to a lack of progress and ultimately a lack of results. Knowing what won’t change and knowing those truths isn’t enough, you have to apply them to your work to make progress, and to achieve your priority results. The reward goes to those who apply those truths and who move forward with innovations based on those truths. I hope to see you at Research.Influence.Lead 2019 in Washington D.C. December 4th. You can register online at innovatetomotivate.com, and just click on our #RIL19 navigational paths. Thanks. This is Amy Live & Uncut.
- Habits of Ineffective Political Engagement Leaders Transcript
Hi, this is Amy Live & Uncut with the seven or eight habits of ineffective, unproductive, grassroots and Political Action Committee leaders. I’ve got a list so I’m going to have to refer to this, so bear with me. Number one, the failure to check the blood supply. We see this a lot with PACs, we’re always looking at our funds and determining we need more money. We need more members, more contributors, but are we doing that with grassroots? It’s too late to recruit grassroots advocates, particularly quality ones who have relationships with lawmakers when your bill is being voted on, so always check the blood supply. This is what you need to be doing in the off season. There really isn’t an off season, but in the times when you don’t have as much legislation and as much activity, that’s when we want to really be looking towards recruiting, rejuvenating, and training our folks. So check that blood supply. That’s number one.
Number two, assuming you know what motivates your audience. The biggest mistake I see in a lot of issue campaigns and messaging is that we look at what motivates us, what persuades us and think, well, if it persuades me, it’ll persuade my audience. If they know what I know, they’ll think what I think —- and that’s wrong. It’s so off base, it’s not even wrong. So we always want to do the research and investigate, have an evidence based approach as to what motivates our audience.
Next is transactional leadership, transactional leadership rather than transformational leadership. So transactional leadership means that I’m asking for stuff, for favors, for action, for contributions, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. There’s not anything I’m doing to help inspire and transform them, to make this experience something that they are so excited about that they tell others, “This experience changed me, it’s going to change you.” That’s transformational leadership. That’s where you want to be rather than transactional.
Next, engaging your volunteers in motivational experiences without next steps. I had an audience member once that said, “Amy, you know, we’ve had some challenges motivating our grassroots advocates. So we took them to the State House and we let them see how opposition legislators actually talk about them and let them see how they favor other interest groups in terms of committee testimony and so forth. And they were really jazzed up after that, but they didn’t get more engaged or contribute to our PAC after that.” This audience member got it half right. You demotivate people when you get them jazzed up, get them excited, get them invigorated about something, but don’t give them next steps. So it’s the motivation and then the next steps. He had half of the equation, right? So we need the steps.
Next, no commitment escalation for new volunteers. So you’ve checked the blood supply, you know who needs to be brought into your program. You’ve got some new people, they’re really good, but you’re not looking at ways to escalate their commitment to get them to move up the food chain. You’re kind of just happy with them being an e-champion or being on social media or maybe they do a lot of great work with legislators on the ground in terms of legislative relationships, but they don’t attend any of your events. So we need to engage in commitment escalation. How can I get my good people to be even better?
The last two or three have to do with recognition, so a lack of informal recognition is a sign of an unproductive, inefficient leader. We need to informally recognize people. This is a part of transformational leadership. The transactional leader simply asks for things and the transformational person recognizes when people are doing something right, they catch someone doing something right. It’s that informal recognition that you give 365 days a year that makes more of a difference than the annual gala recognition event.
Although that’s my next tip is that the formal recognition is important as well because that sends a message to the entire organization that what’s important to the grassroots program or PAC is also important to the organization. Our recognition of our top performers is valuable. Advocacy is valuable. Contributing to the PAC is valuable. Having lawmaker relationships is valuable. So the formal recognition is important, but we want to do that in concert with the informal.
And since I couldn’t stop at seven, had to include one more. So the eighth one is no feedback on your operations. A lot of times we will do surveys and get feedback on our issue positions and how the volunteers feel about those things. I hope you’re doing that. You should be doing that, so if not, get on that. But we don’t really ask them about the customer service aspect of what we do. And are they, do they find our materials timely and readable and do they comprehend what we’re communicating to them? What about our events? Are we responding to them in a timely manner? So the feedback on operations I think is really important as well. You’re in the customer service business. You are asking volunteers to give you their time and or money with no immediate return on investment, and with no tangible result other than the ubiquitous “making your voice heard.” That’s a big ask. It’s a big persuasion and motivation challenge. So try and integrate some of these tips —- you’ll be a more productive grassroots or PAC leader.
- The Challenges of Properly Implementing a Grassroots Key Contact Program Transcript
t programs. In that article, I talked about the importance of training, training, training for Key Contacts. Also, about the dynamic that many Key Contacts don’t want to engage their personal relationships on every issue that your organization presents.
That’s a common assumption we have, isn’t it? That we’ve got someone who has a great relationship with a state or federal lawmaker and we think we’ve got this person for the rest of our lives, let’s engage them as much as possible. But I’ve found that they do not engage on every issue, so we need to set those expectations. You can read the article if you want more information about that plus some real world insights from other government relations practitioners on that topic as well.
But let me expound as promised on the challenges of properly executing a Key Contact program. There are many challenges I want to cover, he top three that I see being most prevalent. Number one, assuming that one’s organizational title equals commitment. There was a rush when Key Contact programs first came on the scene. There was really a rush to appoint people to serve as Key Contacts or to, by dictate of their organizational title, whether an association board member or a corporate executive, that that meant that you were a legislative Key Contact.
I don’t think that approach works anymore. It doesn’t work for several reasons. Number one, there’s less buy-in from the individual who’s being told that they have to do this. I mean, think about it. Key Contacts are people who like to be persuasive. They like to sell. They’re people, people. They like to have conversations. They’re not afraid to be engaged at a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to ask, and not everyone has that in their DNA, has that proclivity in their DNA. So a lack of buy-in is one of the negative results when we appoint people to serve in that role.
Number two, legislator skepticism. I believe lawmakers are fully aware that organizations employ these tactics, and they may view with less credibility people who have been “assigned” to contact them rather than the regular citizen they love to hear from.
And last, there’s a lack of quality control. We all know of high-ranking organization members who become chemically incapable of making a phone call or conducting a meeting as soon as they know an elected official, someone up the food chain from them, is in the audience. And we have to to recognize that and realize that if we are concerned about quality control, it’s probably our problem, not their problem, because we haven’t coached them properly.
Number two, in terms of the mistakes people make, the big challenges in Key Contact program development: Obscure expectations, ambiguity all over the place. Have you ever volunteered for a responsible position in an organization only to discover that there are no expectations, no guidelines for your involvement? You probably have, and it becomes really frustrating. I find that Key Contacts are generally high achievers. They are well connected. They are black belt, varsity team members and they want to know what success means. When will I be successful? How will I know I’m successful? How will I know if I tripped over it? Are there measurements and metrics for my success? Those things need to be defined before you embark on a Key Contact program.
Last, no accountability. When we don’t follow up with our Key Contacts to find out how they are communicating with elected officials, our silence is really an enabler. It implies very clearly that the Key Contact role isn’t important, and it also impedes our progress because we miss out on vital information when planning our overall grassroots strategy.
Depending on the size of your Key Contact network, there are lots of ways to elicit the desired information. We won’t go into that now, but your organization isn’t too big to get the information. I know of several national groups that take the time to personally meet with their Key Contacts as well as requiring online reporting. And one of my clients sets aside time every other week, and after every fundraiser, to call each of her Key Contacts to see how they’re doing.
So the three challenges… There’s many more but three that you can think of, challenges in terms of implementing a Key Contact program. Number one, assuming that an organizational title equals commitment. Number two, obscure expectations. And number three, no accountability. So ask yourself these questions. What percent of your Key Contacts have you appointed? Have you told that they will serve in that capacity? And what percent are volunteers? What percent came to you and said, “I’d like to be a part of this program.”
Regarding expectations. If I called your office today and said, “I want to serve as a Key Contact.” Could you tell me the expectations, benefits, and results of being a Key Contact? Do you have something in writing you can refer me to that has that information? Even better, do you have Key Contact orientation meetings, conference calls, coaching calls, training sessions for your new recruits?
And lastly, if I was your CEO and wanted to know what the Key Contacts are accomplishing for the organization, could you tell me in two minutes or less? And would it be that you recite all the meetings that your Key Contacts are having or the events they’re attending? Or, would it be the results they’re obtaining from those interactions?
So those are some things you may want to think about as you implement or refine your Key Contact program. This is Amy Live & Uncut.
- Amyism #71 - Evangelism v. Conversion Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy, Live & Uncut with the story behind the story on Amyism number 71, Evangelism Versus Conversion.
While evangelism marketing is all the rage, and evangelism about your cause is essential, smart grassroots leaders know the real victory is in finding and creating converts for their cause, because converts are the most persuasive evangelists. I came to this understanding when I was writing my book The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful and Live To Tell About It. We found a very interesting dynamic with Underdog Teams, they all contain a convert. There’s always a convert communicator on their team.
What does that mean? It means that the convert is someone who joined the cause, who was previously serving the other team, the other side, and they’re really great persuaders because they know how the other side thinks. They also are similar to the people you’re trying to persuade because they were one of them at one time and they usually don’t have an authority position over the people that they’re trying to persuade. Again, they were a peer of that individual. That’s why they’re so persuasive.
So while we all want evangelists for our cause, I believe the most effective evangelists are those that are convert communicators. Ask yourself, do you have convert communicators on your grassroots team? How about your coalitions? Do you have organizations that were on one side of an issue years ago and now are with you? That’s what you need if you want to go to the next level in your grassroots, look for convert communicators.
Thanks. This is Amy, Live & Uncut.
- Amyism #35 - Rogue Advocates Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy Live & Uncut with the story behind the story on Amyism number 35 regarding rogue grassroots advocates. Not all rogues should be dismissed from your grassroots efforts. One of the reasons the rogue exists is because he or she does not know better. It’s our responsibility to teach them to know better so that they do better.
This is an earlier Amyism from many years ago, however, it’s still pertinent today. I’m still surprised at how many professionals I talk to in this grassroots world, government relations world, who say that they’re hesitant to expand their grassroots. This also goes for PACs, PAC board of directors, autonomy and so forth by the way. They’re afraid to do that because of rogue behavior, and that’s probably particularly more prevalent now in the last three or four years than it was previously, but the rogue will always exist. We have to acknowledge that, and instead of complaining about it, we need to ask why?
Why is someone a rogue? What is enabling them to be a rogue? I think it comes down to a couple of reasons. Number one, we haven’t trained them properly on how to effectively communicate, effectively persuade. We haven’t also taught them about the consequences of kind of letting their freak flag fly as we say, and not being filtered in how they communicate to opinion leaders and regulators and elected officials. That’s our job to do those things, is to train them. And also, another reason this is happening is because we’re taking the any warm body approach to recruitment. We’re simply looking for someone to fill that spot, someone to make contact with a particular lawmaker. We haven’t been consistent and disciplined in our recruitment efforts, so many times the rogue is due to our deficiencies organizationally and personally in terms of how we recruit, train and develop those individuals.
I wish I could say that rogues can be completely eliminated from any program, but you know, there’s a thing called free speech, and autonomy, and people want to make their opinions known, so they’ll probably always be around, but you’re the one who can mitigate that. To the best of your ability mitigate that and continue to move forward, realizing it’s a part of the job. It’s our job to help train and develop these individuals, and when the road goes too far and the consequences are present, yes, you have to fire volunteers sometimes. That’s a part of a grassroots advocacy leadership as well.
Thanks. This has been Amy Live & Uncut.
- The Advantages of Resting Your Roots Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy Live & Uncut. I want to share with you today the importance of resting your grassroots. Yes, you heard me correctly, resting the roots. Particularly at this time of year when there’s not as much going on legislatively, we want to find opportunities for our grassroots advocates, and I don’t believe that you need to keep them engaged all year. I hear this quite a bit, as I’m sure you do. The question is how do I keep my people engaged all year? What can I do in the “off season?” I believe they need to rest, however, I believe there are other things you can be doing to build the program absent of legislative priorities and calls to action and mobilizations and so forth.
I grew up on a farm. I see the law of the harvest. I have seen the laws of nature and the seasons. Did you know that some of the most productive agricultural land is intentionally left fallow to improve future crop production? I believe those laws also apply to grassroots advocacy and grassroots leadership. So what should we be doing when we’re resting our roots? I came up with a list of five Rs to use for resting your grassroots supporters, things you can and should be doing in the “off season.”
Number one: retention. Focus on retention. Our research with more than 20 top performing lobbying organizations that represent diverse industries and professions revealed that retention is a discipline. Successful organizations have a plan to retain their most productive advocates that involves a consistent system for obtaining volunteer feedback.
Number two: recruitment. Do you have a grassroots recruitment system, or do you rely on last minute recruitment as your bill’s being voted on? Successful advocacy organizations have a recruitment system that’s strategic and based on your priority legislative outcomes.
Number three: recognition. Woe to the organizations that don’t have formal and informal recognition programs. Also, I believe it’s important to understand the difference between recognition and rewards and engage in what I call strategic spontaneity, which is really the intersection of your strategy and recognition. It’s about strategically yet spontaneously recognizing people for the behavior that you want more of. While the most effective recognition is spontaneous, we really want to align our recognition with the advocacy behaviors that lead to those strategic outcomes.
Number four: rejuvenation. When’s the last time you held a celebration party or event for your star advocates? Another way to rejuvenate your grassroots team is to help them by developing their influence and leadership skills.
Lastly, number five: reproduce. Top performing organizations also have formal advocacy mentoring programs to reproduce new grassroots leaders. I bet that you can trace current leaders in your organization and in your grassroots program as well, your pack as well to folks who have reproduced other leaders. Productive people hang out with productive people. It’s that simple.
So in conclusion, we want to use this time while we’re resting our roots to work on retention, recruitment, recognition, rejuvenation, and reproduction. Think about it. Let your roots go fallow now and then. Take that time to assiduously recruit, retain, recognize, rejuvenate and reproduce. You’ll morph into a more dynamic leader, and your grassroots will be more energized for the next battle. Thanks. This has been Amy Live & Uncut.
- The Premise is Paramount Transcript
Hi, this is Amy Live & Uncut with a brand new Amyism, Amyism #81: The Premise is Paramount.
Organizations love to talk about their strategy because it conveys that, of course, nothing they do is random. However, basing your PAC, advocacy or communications strategy on an untested, evidence free premise is just that, a random plan rather than a strategic plan. The premise on which your strategy is based is the holy ground because the wrong premise leads to the wrong strategy, the wrong tactics and, ultimately, a failed outcome.
This came to me through a conversation that I had with Kelton, actually, years ago. Years ago we were talking about corporate lingo and corporate buzzwords and organization buzzwords. Of course, strategy is one of those, and being strategic. He said to me as an aside, “Gosh, I guess that means that nothing an organization does is random, right?” There’s some truth to that, isn’t there? We use the word strategy a lot because we don’t want anyone to think that we’re doing something in a random fashion. However, when you put together a strategic plan for any initiative without the proper premise, it is random. Without an untested premise, it is random. Fair or unfair, that’s the truth.
There are three reasons I think we fall into this trap. Number one, we tend to talk to the same people in our own industry and our own profession and we throw our ideas through them and throw our premise to them and see what they think about it. That can be dangerous because you’re all in a similar situation, we’re not getting new input. So that’s one thing, we don’t even test it but we throw it out to people who are similar to us. That can be a problem.
Number two, conference mythology. We follow the herd of conference mythology. We hear something at a conference, a case study, a story that pulls us in, we like that, and we think, “Well, I’ll do that in my organization. That works for them, I’ll do that in my organization.” That’s not an evidence based way to approach something.
Number three, and this is probably the most pernicious of all, is that we make assumptions and generalizations from research that’s conducted with a very specific audience and try to apply that to our audience. I think your audiences today are much more savvy, much more knowledgeable, much more demanding, they change more often. There’s a lot more content and information sources in the world today to base your strategy’s premise on something that another organization did, or a finding in another organization.
I was reminded of this very early on in my consulting practice when I was working with another consultant for a large energy company relative to their political action committee and developing some fundraising messages and some tactical outreach. This other consultant mentioned around the table that he felt certain messages would really work for this entity because they had worked with other focus groups. I don’t even know if they were focus groups that he conducted. Maybe he just read about it somewhere. Of course, the giant thud everyone heard was me falling off my chair onto the floor when he said that because I knew that that does not mean that it will work for this particular client.
Is it interesting to know some of those generalizations? Does it promote discussion and thought? Sure, but it’s not something you should adopt to your messaging. It’s a lazy person’s way out. I’m just being blunt. You know me. We need to make sure that we are being evidence based, that we are testing the premise. That means you do research to find out what works at that time and place for your audience, and you go from there. Okay?
Thanks very much. This is Amy Live & Uncut.
- Amyism #19 - Encouraging Advocate Feedback Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy Live & Uncut. This is the story behind the story on Amyism Number 19 Grassroots Advocate Feedback.
It’s amazing how the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the lack of communication from the grassroots ends when someone on the government relations staff is actually held responsible for finding out what’s going on in the district. This Amyism came to me from some research we conducted years ago with Fortune Magazine’s Power 25 List of the 25 Most Powerful Lobbying Organizations. They were all trade associations in this particular benchmark.
One of them was the National Association of Manufacturers. I talked to the wonderful Tiffany Adams there about how they retain… how they find, retain and motivate their quality grassroots advocates? That was the research we were investigating. We were looking at what do all these groups that are deemed very successful, very powerful, how do they get their best people, not just the warm bodies, but the really good people?
Tiffany and I got to talking about the need to find out what’s going on in the district and and how that’s great political intelligence to have. She said, “You know, it’s a challenge for us and I will say this, it’s still a challenge for many organizations. This was years ago, but this is still a challenge for organizations. It hasn’t ended and, it probably won’t in our lifetime.”
She reminded me that when someone on the staff is held responsible for getting that information, and many on their staff were responsible for that, and they are evaluated based on whether they tried to get that information, then we get more of that information. And because many of us, what we do is we put a web forum online, and we put something in our apps that gives people the opportunity to indicate whether they talk to a lawmaker or not, but they still don’t self report, so we have to do the follow up.
We have to do the follow up. We have to remind our advocates why it’s important for us to have that information. What you do with the information, they need to know that. They need to know the consequences of not having it. I think that’s where a lot of us fall short is we’re not being candid with them about how the information is used and why it’s important.
Think about it. Why is it important? I know why it’s important. You probably do too, but have you articulated that? Have you articulated to your lead volunteers that when you know what’s happening in the district, the conversations they’ve had with lawmakers, the messages that law makers want them to take back to your team and so forth, if that presents a united front to elected officials? It is a very subtle way to communicate to an elected official that your stakeholders are in tune with what you’re doing, that the right hand is indeed talking to the left hand about what’s happening, and that you’re an organized force to be reckoned with.
Lawmakers respect organized stakeholder groups, so as long as somebody has responsibility for getting that information, or trying to get the information, you’ll have a much greater chance of knowing what’s happening in the district. This problem is not going to go away anytime soon. These are volunteers we’re dealing with. It’s our job to make it easy for them. One of the ways you do that is you reach out to them and be responsible for getting that information. This has been Amy Live & Uncut.
- Demonstrating Advocacy Technology ROI Transcript
Greetings! This is Amy Live & Uncut, sharing some insights from the Advocacy Technology Conference held in Washington DC last week, sponsored by the Grassroots Professional Network of which I am an advisory board member. And I had the fun opportunity to work with Mark Bryant of Agency Advisors, Melissa Horn of National Association of Realtors, and Sarah Santucci of the Entertainment Software Association to discuss how do we demonstrate ROI for specifically the technology piece of our advocacy. So we’re looking at one of those bins in all of our advocacy influence tactics and the technology piece. And like you, I hope, I’m still leaning forward in my seat taking notes, and I certainly was during our panel discussion.
A couple things that Melissa and Sarah reminded the audience of. Number one, Melissa reminded us that we need to always work backwards from the influence target. Meaning the most important legislators, the most important regulators, finding out their triggers are relative to influence. What in that particular situation they need more of to be moved in your direction. And that might be accomplished with technology, it may not be, but you have to know that first. Because you know our, as I reminded the audience in my remarks, is number one, change minds. Number two, change behaviors. I’ll get to more of that later. But when we do that, we have to look at who’s minds do I need to change? So that was a great point that she made.
Sarah reminded us that you really want to be intentional about getting away from vanity metrics and realizing that some influencers online are just more important than others. I mean let’s be honest, we know not all legislators are equal in influence campaign. We know not all of your stakeholders are equal in an influence campaign. Some matter more than others. We’ve got to triage. We’ve got to prioritize. And Sarah rightly reminded us that when you look at who really matters in the influence campaign, what’s going on online with them, what your technology is doing to influence them, that’s where you can draw your ROI from in that piece. That’s what’s the most important to focus on.
I took kind of broad overview, not kind of, a really broad overview, helping as distilled down to what really matters in ROI and demonstrating value. And there are two things that all advocacy professionals get paid to do. Two things only. You have two jobs. You have to change minds and change behavior. Simple, right? You have to change minds and change behavior.
Change minds of legislators, of regulators, of your internal stakeholders, and you have to change their behavior. You want that apathetic legislator to vote with you, that’s change behavior. You want that stakeholder who was apathetic about getting involved in your cause to engage. You want them to do what you’re asking them to do. It’s a high calling. It’s difficult. It’s very difficult, particularly when people know that you’re a paid influencer. They know that’s what you’re paid to do. And so whenever you have that kind of title or responsibility, people understand this and rightly can push back on that sometimes.
So knowing that, you can demonstrate technology ROI by showing how did your technology change minds and change behavior. Simple, right? So you need to look at a couple things. Two things you need to look at when you do that. Look at big trends in the advocacy profession, look at our Grassroots Influence Pulse. Our new iteration is coming out this summer. New results on that, where we look at what tactics advocacy professionals are investing in, in terms of time and money, and then also how they are succeeding with those. So we do a logistic regression to find out you know, are those tactics resulting in legislators being more accessible and more open, voting with them more often. Again, it’s about change behavior. That’s all I really care about.
So we take it from that high level and then you go ahead and look at your own campaigns, where you’ve been successful. Is there a pattern? Is there a pattern in terms of the technology investment? Is there a pattern of the technology investment in your results from a successful campaign? Compare your successful campaigns and your unsuccessful ones. Are there distinctions there? And again, how did the technology make an impact?
So you have to be brutally honest, you have to get to the grounds root on this. And then what you’ll take is the numbers. Get to the numbers in terms of staff time, staff salary, specific technology product investment, consulting fees, and so forth. Look at all of these things. And then add in the other aspects of the campaign as well. The lobbying piece, the other grassroots activities that you might be conducting. And compare that to the value that is derived or that is something … Also things that you perhaps prevented from happening. So positive outcomes and negative outcomes that you prevented. Look at those, look at the dollars behind that. If there’s not dollars, perhaps there’s an intangible benefit. And you can attach money to that, by the way.
So is there more goodwill? Is there a better brand? Do you have an increased defense ratio among your stakeholders? Which we don’t have time in this recording to go into detail, but it’s extremely valuable advocacy benefit. But also look at what do those results allow your stakeholders to do, what’s the value of those results, what’s the value of those results on an annualized basis.
You see, when you obtain a result, a legislative result or a regulatory result, it has an immediate impact, but it also should annualized over the years. That’s pretty big value. You cite that and you become adept at citing to your organizational stakeholders, and you’ll be holding the cigar and the bongo drums because that is a high level of advocacy value.
Bound to find out how that technology specifically made that happen and how it led to that results. And be brutal and be candid because your credibility and your organization is extremely important, and you can’t inflate these things. Just be brutal, brutally honest, get to the ground truth, and you’ll be just fine. So I look forward to hearing your comments on this particular post.
So if you’re doing that, I’d love to hear your stories for another post. Please share them with me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Amyism #70 - Volunteers Transcript
Greetings. This is Amy Live and Uncut, the story behind the story on Amy is a number 70, which says no matter what you want from your government relations work, a vibrant grassroots advocacy program, a big pack bank account, or victories in the legislature, it all comes from other people. It all comes from other people. You never know how effective you are as a leader until you have to lead volunteers, right? People do what they see, and we have to ask ourselves if we are being the vivid exemplar of the behaviors we want from our stakeholders. This Amyism came to me through three observations. Observation number, the increasing necessity of equipping volunteers in the field to, not just develop relationships with lawmakers, but to lead fellow volunteers. Volunteer leadership, particularly, leading people in grassroots advocacy and political action committee work is very different from a supervisory employee relationship. There’s not carrot and stick. They’re asking people to invest their time and/or money in something that does not have an immediate result. You can look at it and say, you start here, and you finish here. You’re done. Here’s your recognition or reward.
Number two, we conducted research with a client to determine why some peer recruiters were more effective than others. You know what one of the main findings was? That the more interaction they had with their staff lead, the more successful they were as fundraisers. Now, that tells me that, that staff leader, she’s pretty good at what she does and that she’s a very effective leader because sometimes we spend more time with people and we become discouraged. We become ineffective. But, they were on an upward trajectory because of that interaction. It just reminded me how this leadership piece is so important.
Number three, I’ve observed that the government relations profession is terrific at writing, at explaining, at equipping advocates, writing whitepapers, at analyzing policy, breaking policy down into how it affects people in their daily lives, really good at that. But, that’s a scintilla of what we need to do to lead our volunteers.
We don’t have time to go into my how to be a motivating team leader curriculum. But, I will share two principles that I think are really important, that you can engage in very safely, today, without spending any money, and without trained supervision. You can do this and increase you leadership quotient immediately. Number one, be impressed and interested in others rather than thinking you need to be impressive and interesting. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man I meet is in someway my superior and I can learn of him.” Where do you focus when you’re interacting with your volunteers? Second, project their success. Be a positive prophet of their success.
In the recent game between the Duke Blue Devils and University of Central Florida, Zion Williamson held a press conference or was called on to speak at the press conference after the game, and people asked him, “What did Coach K. say to you in the huddle?” And he said, “He told me that I was made for a moment like this. I was made for a moment like this.” Wow, that’s good. That’s good. He was being a positive prophet of Zion’s success. I believe Zion went on to say that, “Boy, when you hear that, you have all the confidence in the world. There’s no way I could not go out there and make those shots and play well.”
Do you foresee your volunteers’ success? Do you project it on them? Are you a positive prophet of their capabilities? As William Ward said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” Remember, your legacy comes from other people. Your legacy comes from other people. Encourage them and watch your legacy grow. Thanks. This has been Amy, Live & Uncut.
- Lessons Learned - There's a Reason Why They're Good Transcript
Lessons learned, there’s a reason why they’re good. I was hired by a very powerful state organization earlier this month to help motivate and train their PAC fundraisers. Now, this is a state organization that raised over $900,000 in the last election cycle, and that was for a state PAC. Okay? That’s not decimal dust even for a national PAC, but this is a state political action committee. Raised over $900,000, but they said, “Amy, we’ve got to do better.” And they set the record for, I believe, all the states in their particular national association. They raised the most money.
They had brought someone in to speak to their recruiters in January. But they said, “Our people want a little bit more … They need to take it up a few notches, so why don’t you come in and April and speak to them and we’ll … give them your perspective on this as well.” I was delighted to do it. Had a ball. They’re very inspiring when you’re with them. It just reminded me that there’s a reason why certain groups are good and they stay at the pinnacle, because they invest in their volunteers and they know that if they want to stay leaders in the public policy process, they have to engage in activities that develop the propensity for those behaviors.
Because a lot of people would look at this particular group and say, “Oh, well, the reason they’re powerful is because there’s one in every county of the state or there’s one everywhere. They just have lots of numbers and they could rely on that. They could rely on their numbers and not their grassroots advocacy and their PAC fundraising and probably do a pretty good job.” Then I remembered that this was the same organization that in, I believe it was 2002, hired me to talk to their grassroots advocates. They wanted to do something that I recommend all my clients do, and that is to get a benchmark of their advocacy behavior prior to the training and then nine months later go back and measure that to determine the amount of behavior change from the training.
Because I believe you can measure the impact of training and you should measure the impact of your training. Well, what happened back in 2002 was we conducted the first survey, which was a benchmark. In that particular survey, I found something I’ve never seen before or since. There was about 150 respondents to the survey. More of the individuals who took that survey had met with their elected officials than had emailed, called, or written them. Okay. Did you hear that? More of them, I think like 68%, had had a personal meeting or some kind of face to face interaction with their elected official, but only 30, 40% had used the other remote influence tactics.
So it just reminded me … They were doing that, and yet they wanted me to come in and train their people on how to be even better. Okay? So there’s a reason why certain groups are good. We, many times, just look at the money aspect. We look at their PAC. We look at the volume of the grassroots input and think, “Oh, well, they’ve got it made. I could never be what they can be.” The reason they are what they are is because they invest in these trainings and they know that to maintain that leadership position the best always have to get better. That’s a lesson I learned. It was a great reminder for me, and I hope you can take something from that too. That’s it for lessons learned.