2017 Advocacy: Establish your ground game now. Or get left behind.

How did you do predicting the 2016 election results? You probably sucked. Most pundits did. But now it’s time to stop talking about the results and get to work. So, what’s your strategy to move the legislative needle in 2017? Do you have a clear plan to succeed?

Let me help you.

Oftentimes lobbyists and groups attempt to persuade elected officials with just a handful of participants. While that’s fine for some policy decisions, you could be missing opportunities for others. So, how can you muscle up and win? Build an army of active, engaged, passionate stakeholders (or followers) by adding a grassroots campaign to your existing strategy.

Here’s how.

I believe that all highly successful grassroots campaigns have five main components: a substantial number of participants, motivated followers (or stakeholders?), persuasive messaging, communications that integrate various platforms, and opportunities for face-to-face encounters.

1. Enlist Large Numbers of Participants

A small campaign likely won’t make an impact. You need to think big. You need to show that you have a lot of people behind your movement. While I always think it’s important to have influential people enlisted, I also think a successful campaign should have a large group of participants and it should be constantly growing (make sure you see #4 on communications to help you grow your list).

How do you amass a substantial group?

Compile existing lists. Pull together your email database, relevant LinkedIn/Facebook connections, contacts in your phone, members of relevant committees, etc.

Recruit grasstop leaders. This can be tricky because rarely do agendas line up exactly with other groups. But can you agree on your singular issue? If so, building a list of these leaders can catapult your campaign. After generating your list, meet with them and emphasize their win in working together. Remember, recruiting leaders is always about finding ways for them to succeed. So, don’t focus on why you need to win. Enlisting these leaders is critical step to helping you build a large group of participants. If you win these leaders, you can gain access to their networks.

2. Motivate Your Participants

Often our natural tendency is to focus on our own need to win. But this approach is rarely successful when you need to motivate others. Participants are motivated by their own self-interest. Not yours. Your campaign needs motivated participants. And I encourage you to think through things from their perspective.

Also, keep in mind people will be willing to participate at various levels of commitment. Some people would only be comfortable sharing a social media post or forwarding an email. Some people would be very comfortable with patch through calls. Some might be willing to sign a petition or an op-ed. And some might be willing to speak for a committee meeting or in a legislative office. The point here is meet participants where they are, but always offer increasing ways to engage at new levels. Often finding personal fulfillment with their participation will keep them motivated and increasingly motivated.

3. Craft effective, persuasive messaging

The best message is a simple message. But policy issues are rarely simple; they are extremely complex. So, distill your message to something that is simple and easily understood.

You want participants to view your cause as trustworthy. But to do so it must be believable. Trustworthiness and believability go hand in hand. Avoid lofty language. Keep it simple.

Look for ways to evoke emotion. People will often forget 90% of what you say, but they will never forget how you make them feel. Finding a way to humanize your message is a great way to evoke emotion.

Can you frame up the messaging in terms of loss aversion rather than prospect theory? It is always easier to motivate based on ‘taking’ something than promising ‘reward.’ Best to persuade based on their needs success

4. Integrate communications platforms

If you want to experience jet propulsion in your campaign, look for ways to integrate your communications platforms. Develop your strategy for deploying a variety of tools to build grassroots support: email, social media, petitions, media relations, op-eds, face-to-face meetings, petitions, video, etc. Then decide hot to integrate and assimilate these tools.

5. Schedule face-to face gatherings

Face-to-face gatherings, like town halls, play a vital role in bonding participants, showing strength through numbers, and providing media an opportunity to report. Based on the type of campaign you are running, consider inviting association members/allies, legislators, community/religious leaders, and the media to participate in a conversation. If you’re inviting elected officials make sure you target the right group. In most instances you’ll want to develop a plan for media relations and definitely amplify the gathering through social media.

Grassroots campaigns can be a powerful force to help you accomplish your goals. But they can also fizzle and die without the right strategy and management. Think strategically and make sure you have sufficient bandwidth to launch and manage the campaign. Now, let’s make it happen!

Watch the video here.