A recent Forbes article by Jason Nazar called'21 Principles of Persuasion' caught my eye. As an entrepreneur, I know firsthand how crucial, and how difficult, it can be to persuade people to take some sort of action. Politics and grassroots advocacy is also the art of persuasion. However, to get people engaged in a manner that will have a genuine impact takes a little finesse.
For membership organizations the art of getting people to engage in public policy advocacy can sometimes seem more wheels spinning in the mud than the artistic mastery. After all, politics is a dirty business and most people prefer to keep their hands out of it. That is why it is essential that you make the process as quick, clean, and easy as possible.
Here are some tips and guidelines from Jason's article that may help you to persuade your members to take action in your grassroots advocacy campaigns:
- Remember the WIIFM rule. What's in it for them? It's not about what you want them to do, it is about making sure they understand how pending legislation will affect them and give them options to do something about it. If you focus more on your members interests, they will be more likely to take action with you.
- Start with influencers first. Swing voters are those who can influence others, focus on them first to help grow and scale your grassroots lobbying efforts.
- The desire for change is in the timing. When the story is trending on social media and the news is covering it, that is the time to persuade for your cause. Monitoring social media sentiment to persuade at the right time, in the right context.
- You have to give to receive. Your grassroots organization is a two way street. You gain clout and influence as your grassroots movement grows. What do you do for your members? Make sure that your efforts are benefiting them at each and every step of the way, and let them know exactly what you are doing for them. In order to persuade people into action, make sure they understand what you have done for them.
- Stay persistent. Grassroots movements take time. That can be rather frustrating in this microwave, instant messaging world we live in. Because of this, you need to be your organization’s number one cheerleader out there trumpeting each and every step you make. No matter how small the steps and successes, champion them, play them up, and keep your members motivated to keep marching alongside you.
- Give thanks, lots of it. And not just for the usual things at the usual times, like when they donate or take action. Thank them for being a new member, a long standing member, a member who has recruited other members or shared something on social media and mentioned you.
- Set specific expectations. If your mission is to influence legislation that will reform a system, or feed more people-set specific examples and steps to set up that expectation. "XYZ bill will feed X more people lunch in the state." is much more powerful an expectation then "XYZ bill will provide appropriate funding for this program."
- NEVER assume. No matter how new, or how long your members have been with you, never assume they know what you are doing, why, or even what they think about it. Always ask regularly, listen intentely and respond swiftly.
- Create scarcity to develop urgency. If voters knew that their email, call, or donation could make or break an election, bill, or fundraiser, they will be much more likely to take action.
- Images are worth a 1000 words. The majority of us are visually oriented, so use images to persuade and direct action.
- Tell them what others leave out. This can be tricky to do without seeming like you are judging and not just pushing your agenda. But if you can present the facts and compare to what others are telling them, you will build trust when you let them respond and comment without trying to steer them.
- Keep your communications simple. Your calls to action should never be more than a few paragraphs long. The language should be easy to understand and the requested action should take just a few minutes to complete. Doing so will increase your response rate and magnify your overall impact. Naturally, you will want to include links to detailed information so that those who are deeply interested can view it, but you never want to force detailed and complex information upon anyone.
- Be ready to delegate authority and responsibility. Doing so will help you build a stronger and more effective grassroots movement. It will engage your members and show them that each and every one of them has the opportunity to take the leadership reigns and become an active member in the organization. In addition to relieving much of the stress of leadership, it will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the campaigns you are conducting.
- Remain flexible and be prepared. Always be prepared. Politics is a fluid business and things can change rapidly. Be sure that you have plans in place to counter anything that might happen in the political spectrum to derail your goals. Making contingency plans takes time, but you will be glad you have them if you ever need them. Remember, no one needs an umbrella until the rains start to fall.
- Be confident. Perhaps the most important trait any grassroots organization can possess is confidence that they are prepared. Be confident in your objectives and the steps you are taking to achieve them. Grassroots advocacy is all about leadership, and confidence is the most important trait you can ever possess. In addition to rallying your members to your side, it will attract and persuade partners, allies, and colleagues to join in your cause.
- Stay calm. When tensions are running high, keeping emotions under control will make it easier for others to follow your lead.