Online Petitions: Six messaging tips to help you win!

By Jeff Tippett

Imagine hundreds or even thousands of people helping you push policy changes—or stopping changes. Do you realize how much more effective you could be with them helping you? Well, people will help, but you have to find them and motivate them. To do this, online petitions could be one of your best tools, but do you
know how to effectively use them?

Every successful online petition has two major components: persuasive
messaging and tons of participants. In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to
market your petition and integrate it into your other communications
channels. For now, let’s focus on persuasive, effective messaging. This messaging takes strategy, skill, and careful planning. How do you message for success?

  1. Keep your message simple. You only have seconds.

Policy issues are almost never simple.To the contrary, they are extremely complex, but this complexity can bog down your participants, seem overwhelming, and reduce participation. So, boil down your message to something extremely simple. Say it in two to three sentences.

  1. Evoke emotions in your messaging. Especially anger.

When people care, they get involved. All emotions are not equal. As much as we may not like it, anger and hate can motivate and actuate participants.

  1. Take something from them. No one likes their toys taken away.

While prospect theory (what someone can gain) is sometimes the only option, look for ways to craft your messaging around what is being taken from participants. This is called loss aversion. You are more likely to get garner passionate participants if you stress what they are losing.

  1. Speak to people’s self-interest. They care about themselves the most.  

People really don’t care about your cause; they care about themselves. While I would love to believe we are motivated by the general good for all people, the truth is most people are motivated for their own self interest. So, ask yourself how your cause affects them. Make sure you message in a way that motivates them—personally.

  1. Craft a strong CTA. That means call to action.

What do you want people to do? Why should they do it? When should they do it?

I generally advocate for a single call to action. If there are multiple actions you want, consider incremental steps. For example, if you want them to sign your petition and follow on social media, consider only asking them to sign the petition. Once participants have signed, follow up with prompts to follow on social media. People easily get confused and drop when it’s not clear what they should do–or if you are asking them to do too many things at once. Again, keep in mind you only have seconds.

  1. Tell participants how much time you require. And it should be 60 seconds or less.

While you may capture participants’ attention, motivate them through solid messaging—they are still weighing out how much time it will take to participate. Everyone is busy, and we’ve all responded to a call to action only to get bogged down and quit. Once you get participants this far in the cycle, don’t lose them. Give them a clue like: “Sign this petition in less than 60 seconds.” If you’ve crafted compelling messaging, they will likely give you 60 seconds.

The success or failure of your online petition largely depends on your messaging. Your messaging will make—or break your campaign. So, keep these six tips in mind. And reach out for help if you need guidance or get stuck. And let’s build a large group of passionate people to help you affect the change you want!

Watch the video here.

Is Kindness The Best Way to Build Your Brand?

Fires burned in Asheville while people in Raleigh donated to help out.

Fires burned in Asheville while people in Raleigh donated to help out.

What is your brand? Is it your logo, your color palette or your trendy new office? At Targeted Persuasion, we know your brand is ultimately how the public perceives your organization. Logos, colors and spaces certainly play a part in that perceptions, but there’s one element of personal and organizational branding that’s often overlooked – kindness.

For example, brands in the hospitality industry are expected to provide quality service to their paying customers, but their many acts of kindness toward the broader community usually go unnoticed. However, by actively scanning social media, Targeted Persuasion staff discovered an opportunity to show kindness during chaos.With wildfires burning across Western North Carolina, a local mayor posted to Facebook a list of items firefighters needed. We knew a Raleigh-area restaurateur known for supporting first responders, so we alerted him immediately.

We initially asked if the restaurateur was interested in acting as a collection point for supplies that we could ship out to Asheville. Not only was he willing to collect supplies, but he filled his large SUV with supplies and headed to the mountains that very Friday.

To help ensure our client’s kindness was shared with the community, we alerted media the supplies would be coming. Since this client needs to continually engage elected officials, we contacted the area’s state representative to help receive the supplies. As a result, media were on hand to interview the local representative and the Raleigh restaurateur.

We know your organization or business wants to do good because it’s the right thing to do, but are you actively seeking these opportunities to offer kindness? Are you sharing your contributions with media to help build your brand? Be sure to intentionally seek opportunities and expand your reach through media. You can build your brand through acts of kindness if you make it a part of your communications plan.

Why not start today?

Doing Good: Building your brand as you build relationships

500 people gather as elected leaders serve Thanksgiving dinner.

500 people gather as elected leaders serve Thanksgiving dinner.

One exciting shift for organizations and businesses is a drive to actively seek ways to give back to their community and make a meaningful impact. Groups are finding causes that line up with their goals and objectives, connecting with them to seek opportunities, and building their brand in the process.

Targeted Persuasion helped a national client expand and promote a local Thanksgiving dinner in Asheville, NC. This dinner brought together restaurateurs, elected officials, and a segment of the community that needed to feel fed and valued for a heart-warming evening. In fact, the Mayor, several city council members and county commissioners volunteered to help serve over 500 meals to those in attendance with another 200 meals being packed up and delivered directly to the community. Part of our responsibility was to include the local media. WLOS, Fox Carolina, and the Asheville Citizens-Times all reported on the event, expanding the brand awareness of our client.

Why does this matter?

For many younger employees, giving back is built into their DNA. It’s who they are. It matters to them. Companies have learned that attracting them is not just about allowing these employees to donate time; it’s about actively creating opportunities for employees to give back to their community. A secondary benefit is team building. The team building that’s innate to these opportunities has the ability to positively impact productivity and corporate culture.

Organizations are quickly learning that giving back is one of the best ways to positively affect their brand and increase brand awareness within the community. And if the group needs to maintain solid relationships with elected officials, it’s a win/win for the group and the elected officials. The combination of face-to-face encounters and media coverage, can give your organization the type of exposure that opens new opportunities.

It’s about doing good. And this good can make your employees feel rewarded and valued while earning your organization positive media attention.

So, what good are you doing this holiday season? It’s not too late!

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.

First Steps of Crafting Your Message

Click now to watch Jeff Tippett discuss crafting your message

Click now to watch Jeff Tippett discuss crafting your message

Have you been guilty of giving a long, rambling response when someone asks what your organization does? You know your organization does great work, and you know what you do, but can you succinctly tell your story or message to others? Have you figured out how to effectively craft your story? What if your current messaging is no longer accurate because your group has evolved? Have you put serious thought into the way you convey your work? Or how others in your organization define what you do? Let me give you four quick tips to start your thinking on crafting a message.

  1. What are three ways you want to be known?
    If you had to distill down all you do into three points, what would they be? You may need to brainstorm with your team. Maybe fill up a whiteboard with all your thoughts. Then, see if you can group the variety of ideas into three buckets. Continue to massage this list until your top three surface.
  1. After identifying your top three, keep the words real and true.
    Sometimes we want to be lofty with our language. Maybe too lofty. Sometimes our words are aspirational—what we want to be not what we are. Be disciplined enough to keep the language real and true. This is the foundation for solid messaging. Believability and trustworthiness go hand in hand. If people don’t believe you, they won’t trust you. We begin to earn trust when we are consistent, sincere, and real. Make sure your language is real and true.
  1. Make your message believable, but memorable.
    So, you want your message to be sticky. How do you do that? By making it memorable. You can make it memorable by humanizing your story, keeping it simple (keep in mind that context trumps content), and connecting with emotions. People will forget 90% of what you say, but they will probably remember how you made them feel.
  1. Know your various segments. Segments (or audiences) often require different messsages. For example, you may message one way for internal communications, another way to the general public, and perhaps a totally different way to elected officials. So make sure you know your various segments.

Have some fun. Pull together a few key players. Maybe even head to your favorite brewery and talk through these components together. It will probably be of great value to hear what others in your organization think. Let’s craft that story!

Using Monthly Themes to Connect with Elected Officials

Mayor McFarlane's Hispanic Restaurateur Proclamation

Mayor McFarlane’s Hispanic Restaurateur Proclamation

With any relationship, frequency of engagement is important to continue growing the relationship. The same holds true for groups that need to stay in front of elected officials. But a group needs a reason, something new, or something different to say when booking meetings. And with every month having a unique theme, why not explore using these themes to get back in front of elected officials. We recently did just that during Hispanic Heritage month as we honored the contributions hispanic restaurateurs have made within the City of Raleigh.

A Targeted Persuasion client that wanted to ensure elected officials were aware of the ways in which restaurants have helped Hispanic people to succeed both culturally and economically. Whether it’s someone’s first job, how they pay their way through school, or a dream come true of owning their own business, restaurants are an industry of opportunity.

To demonstrate the role restaurants play in our culture and economy, we asked the City of Raleigh to issue an official proclamation recognizing September 15 through October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. We also identified a local restaurateur whose family moved to Raleigh decades ago and founded several successful Mexican restaurants.That restaurateur attended the city council meeting where the mayor read the proclamation and accepted a souvenir copy of it from her. In his remarks, the restaurateur thanked the council for making Raleigh such a welcoming place for his family and such a fertile place for his business. To cap it all off, he even gave one of the councilors a birthday gift that symbolizes the blending of his Hispanic heritage with Southern culture; a t-shirt that reads “hola, y’all.”

By taking the opportunity of Hispanic Heritage Month to get the city to issue a proclamation, we were able to highlight how important the Hispanic community is to our city, how good the city is for business and how well the restaurant industry provides economic opportunity to people. It was a great experience for everyone involved and the councilor even tweeted at the restaurateur after the meeting to thank him for the shirt. Sometimes simple gestures go a long way.

Asheville Mayor - Mayor Manheimer Addresses Asheville Restaurateurs

Connecting with Elected Officials: Try Giving Instead of Asking

Mayor Manheimer Addresses Asheville Restaurateurs

Mayor Manheimer Addresses Asheville Restaurateurs

Much of our public affairs work at Targeted Persuasion involves helping our clients build relationships with elected officials. For most models, this looks like scheduling advocacy meetings for an ‘ask.’ You probably know how this goes: someone schedules a meeting, the team has their pitch down, and they close with the ‘ask.’ However, in true relationships both parties give and both receive. And this premise holds true when helping build relationships with elected officials. So, instead of walking in with an ‘ask,’ how about finding ways to help the elected official.

Our team recently used this approach in Asheville. We hosted a meeting with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. The City of Asheville has three bonds on the November ballot. This bond referendum includes $74 million that if approved by voters would go toward improving transportation networks, recreation facilities, and affordable housing. And as a way for the Mayor to meet our client, we invited her to share and educate our group on what these bonds mean for Asheville.

Around 15 restaurateurs, were there to hear Manheimer. Representatives from Asheville Independent Restaurants, the Chamber of Commerce, the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund also attended.

“It was great to finally meet the mayor and have her in our restaurant,” said Sherrye Coggiola, who owns The Cantina along with her husband, Anthony. “We’ve been here for 6 years and have been heavily involved in the community, so it was great to be able to engage her on this important topic.”

“You hear about the bond referendum in the news all the time, but when you have detailed questions it’s hard to get them answered by just reading an article,” said Liam Rowland, head chef at GO Kitchen Ready. “She took the time to make sure we understood the implications, which is really important.”

While restaurants play a major role in Asheville’s thriving tourism industry and employ thousands of people in the city, most of the attendees  had never previously met the Mayor. The restaurant owners were also interested in finding out more about the bond referendum and how those measures will affect their businesses.

In the end, everyone won. And it began by thinking of ways we could help the Mayor. And what better way to begin a relationship than by giving?


Four Things You Can Do Today to Jumpstart Media Relations

publicrelationsphoto-mediamicrophoneIf you are anything like I am, you work hard to move the needle. And I’m always looking for ways to layer on different communications tools that can effectively work within existing campaigns. Many companies use paid advertising or marketing, but too many organizations and businesses have fantastic stories about their work that they keep vaulted away inside their four walls. As a result, they miss opportunities to expand their reach through earned media.

Why does media relations matter in the first place? Love them or hate them, the media are influential in shaping public opinion. Whether you are trying to persuade elected officials or you want to tell your story to a broad audience, media can help influence them on your behalf. For the most part, the media are a trusted source of information. When used as an ally, the media help legitimize your message. Earned media matters.

Whether you are rolling out an announcement, getting a communications program off the ground, or just looking to give a boost to a flailing initiative, there are four things you can do to jumpstart your media relations:

  1. Ask if the general public would really care. Often we have great stories that we think are fantastic – and they probably are – but would others outside the organization really care about the story? Would a reporter’s audience care? Knowing when not to share a story is just as important as knowing when to share one.
  2. Determine the best type of media.  When determining the type of media you’d like to pitch, think first about whom you are trying to reach. I’ve found that we get older and politically engaged segments when articles run in the daily newspaper, and we can hit a large portion of the population through the right local television station. When we need to reach a younger group, we’ll seek out local influential social media stars. Depending on the content and target, we will often reach out to independent print or digital news outlets. However, don’t discount the ability of your local paper and broadcast affiliates to reach younger audiences. Many of them have beefed up their social and digital presences and if you craft a message that resonates, readers will often share with their friends, further expanding your reach.  
  3. Craft a compelling message. You need your message to be believable, but you also want people to remember what you have conveyed. So, you want your message to be sticky. How do you do that? By making it memorable. You can make it memorable by humanizing your story, keeping it simple (keep in mind that context trumps content), and connecting with emotions. People will forget 90% of what you say. But they will likely never forget how you made them feel.
  4. Build a list of potential reporters. Firms like Targeted Persuasion use expensive subscription-based websites to identify potential reporters. They help us understand the whole picture of the reporter. We learn about the college background, areas of interest, social media handles, etc. But you can begin today by using Google. This list can be built based on the beat the reporter covers and the geographic region.

And here’s a bonus tip!

  1. Give more than you ask. Consider taking your newly constructed list of reporters and connecting on social media. Help these reporters promote their stories. Add relevant content to posts that the reporters make. Consider helping these reporters when they need help getting a story together. In fact, I’d encourage you to help more than you ask. Become a trusted resource to the reporters in your space.  

Media relations can be an important and effective tool to promote your organization or business, and you can begin right now by using these five tips. Let’s get started!


Aaron Scarboro Joins Targeted Persuasion Team

150729_as_or_22Scarboro leads new initiatives in Charlotte, NC and Asheville, NC

RALEIGH, NC (September 15, 2016) – Aaron Scarboro has joined the Targeted Persuasion team as an Account Executive. He will have primary responsibilities overseeing work in Asheville, NC and Charlotte, NC. Mr. Scarboro is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“From political, to public affairs, to business—Targeted Persuasion has built a bench of world-class clients. I’m thankful to bring my skills in social media, news writing, and marketing to help our clients reach their objectives,” stated Mr. Scarboro.

“I’m happy to welcome Mr. Scarboro to the team,” said Targeted Persuasion founder and partner, Jeff Tippett. “Targeted Persuasion has an entrepreneurial spirit, and Aaron’s background launching and developing a startup incubator uniquely prepares him for working with us. His background in policy, communications, and business strategy has positioned him to help our clients win.”

About Targeted Persuasion

Whether working with advocacy groups, political campaigns, or businesses, Targeted Persuasion knows the people of North Carolina and how to persuade them. With an aggressive, award-winning team, Targeted Persuasion has quickly become one of the top public affairs and communications firms in North Carolina. When you need to win, you need Targeted Persuasion.


Targeted Persuasion Increases Capacity with Charlotte Associate

Caleb TheodrosNorth Carolina communications firm expands footprint to Charlotte, NC

RALEIGH, NC (September 1, 2016) – Targeted Persuasion has added Caleb Theodros to its staff as it expands work into the Charlotte, NC market. Mr. Theodros will help lead an initiative designed to create greater civic engagement within the hospitality industry. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a double major in economics and political science.

“Charlotte is an incredible city, and I look forward to helping support the hospitality industry,” stated Caleb Theodros. “It saddens me that Charlotte has ranked among the worst cities when it comes to economic mobility, but I’m excited about working in the hospitality market because it is truly an industry of opportunity. This is the one of the only industries that can give almost anyone the skills needed to advance in the workplace.”

“I’m excited that Caleb Theodros has joined our expanding team,” said Targeted Persuasion founder and partner, Jeff Tippett. “Caleb has a great understanding of this market and has a solid track record working with elected officials, community leaders, and the business community.”

About Targeted Persuasion

Whether working with advocacy groups, political campaigns, or businesses, Targeted Persuasion knows the people of North Carolina and how to persuade them. With an aggressive, award-winning team, Targeted Persuasion has quickly become one of the top public affairs and communications firms in North Carolina. When you need to win, you need Targeted Persuasion.