About Joel Blackwell The Grass Roots Guy
The Grass Roots Guy
Joel has worked in 47 states and DC helping associations and corporations build self sustaining key contact networks. / A popular keynote speaker at conventions and lobby days, His most recent book is "Personal Political Power in California - How to take action and make a difference." / He also wrote "Keep On Voting After The Election" the grass roots manual that empowers people to speak to the senators and representatives for whom they can vote. / Books are available for physicians and medical practice managers, for school administrators and members of boards of education and others.
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210 pages of commentary - California politicians, lobbyists, academic researchers and volunteer advocates - will help you become more effective lobbying the senate and assembly.
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That’s why they call it politics. Data helps. Data is necessary. Data seldom determines outcome.
That’s why personal relationships with deciders – elected officials with power – determine whether you achieve legislative goals or not.
The folks at Connectivity recently posted an article on why email works so poorly to communicate with association members.
“…the general consensus is that 30 percent of emails sent to members will be opened, and about 8 percent will generate a click-through response.”
It’s true 8 percent is significant, but wouldn’t you like to do better? I’ve put a link to the full article below… it’s well worth reading… meantime…
One of the greatest flaws I see in member communications is tone… the emails have no personality, often are not signed by a human, read like a law brief and have no visual appeal… the writer seems to think like a teacher assigning students who have to read or fail… a more effective approach assumes your association members have many other things to do and you have to compete for their attention… look at what goes viral on YouTube and ask “What can I do to make my action alert compete?”
It’s really hard to activate people into political advocacy. If you think of your emails as needing “entertainment value,” you’ll do better.
What is “entertainment value?” In this context – motivating grass roots advocates – it can be many things, but I suggest you start by taking a look at traditional journalistic values. Full disclosure, I consider myself a grass roots journalist and worked many years for newspapers (R.I.P).
5. Human Interest
Yes… but… from the organization standpoint, I recommend matching grassroots volunteers with elected officials of the same party and outlook where possible. In the best of all worlds, the grassroots contact will be a mirror image of the elected official…
“THAT term has become derogatory,” said campaign strategist Joel Benenson, divulging that he once pushed back at Obama’s skepticism of such tidy, pithy locutions by saying to him: “Mr. President, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ is a sound bite. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’ is a sound bite. We remember them because they reflect high principle and clarity of thought and universal truths. That’s the power of them.”
As you go in to lobby, ask yourself, what is the sound bite I want this politician or staffer to remember?
One of the challenges to activating grass roots advocates is that the people most detached, most disenchanted, most cynical… have never actually talked with a politician.
For years I’ve encouraged my clients to have a session with a real elected official in which we DO NOT TALK ABOUT ISSUES. The idea is to talk with the elected official about how they want to be influenced and what works to influence them.
This humanizes politicians and overcomes the constant barrage of media negtivity.
In these radio segments from Ira Glass and “This American Life” voters meet with door-to-door canvassers who are either gay or have had abortions. Glass makes a convincing case that merely meeting a person who represents the issue allows and encourages people to dramatically change their thinking… and they maintain that change of attitude a year later.
This confirms the value of giving potential grass roots advocates a face-to-face with a real politician. It also suggests that people who are living with a problem are the best advocates to legislators.
And lessons for anyone else interested in persuading politicians…
From NYT: A professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine and a longtime practicing physician, Dr. Sacks writes not only with a doctor’s understanding of medicine and science but also with sympathy for his patients and an appreciation of their emotional quandaries. His case studies have given us a palpable understanding of what it can be like to have conditions like Tourette’s syndrome, temporal lobe epilepsy, color blindness or memory loss…
These are the stories that can move elected officials. No matter what your profession and passion, it is the stories about real people who will be hurt or helped that advance your cause.