Can your action alerts compete with Angry Birds?

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.”

Joel Blackwell The Grass Roots Guy can help you develop messages that will activate grass roots adovocates

Can your grass roots emails and video compete?

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).

In Journalism school we learned elements that will get people’s attention such as this:

1. Timing
2. Significance
3. Proximity
4. Prominence
5. Human Interest

Before you send out an email that only 8% will respond to – on a good day – ask if you have included a “sell” including any of these elements… click here for more on these points…

Story Analysis On Connectivity


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Working with politicians you hate

prickCan you work with an elected official of a different party-someone whose politics you detest?

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…

Longer discussion here.

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What’s your lobbying sound bite?

“sound bites”

Sound bites add power to lobbying message

Sound bites add power to lobbying message

“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?



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Ira Glass on changing people’s minds…

Ira Glass on how to change people's minds

Ira Glass on how to change people’s minds

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.



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Why physicians can be such powerful lobbyists

And lessons for anyone else interested in persuading politicians…

Oliver Sachs demonstrates the power of storytelling by physicians

Oliver Sachs demonstrates the power of storytelling by physicians

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.

The whole story.



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Sacramento Book Festival Sunday 12 April

Local Author Book Festival – I’ll be there with Personal Political Power In California – 1-4 pm Galleria at the Central Library 828 I Street

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Voting doesn’t matter… except when it does… Ferguson results

Get the GrassRootsGuy training for your lobby day  keynote for your annual convention

Even in high visibility elections with lots of interest it’s difficult to get people to vote and hard to change public policy… lobbying is more likely to be effective

I’m not a big fan of trying to change public policy by voting, as I explain in detail in my books. However, it’s also true that sometimes voting can make a huge difference. It’s important to look for those opportunities and seize them.

Here’s an interesting example of possibility. I make no judgement about this outcome except it illustrates how change might have been implemented more dramatically, but wasn’t. This election was Tuesday April 7.

Like many local and municipal elections across the country, it takes place under the radar… in April, separated from state and national elections. Unless you’re talking about a town like Ferguson – and now, perhaps, North Charleston SC – where an event has drawn national focus, there is little or no coverage by any media.

This year in Ferguson, even with all the turmoil, only 30 percent of the city’s 12,738 registered voters cast ballots. This was widely hailed as a great leap forward since in previous years the turnout was about half that.

The headlines were positive
High voter turnout in Ferguson adds two black council members, for three total
Ferguson election makes history

“The high turnout came despite brutal weather,” The Associated Press says. “Strong storms, including lightning and heavy rain, tore through the region for several hours before noon.”

African-American candidates Ella Jones and Wesley Bell won, along with white candidate Brian Fletcher.

“We knocked on doors. We were all about community outreach and staying positive,” Bell said. “And it brought out the highest turnout in the history of Ward 3. That’s what I’m most proud about — that we reached out to citizens. Residents who have not felt a part of the process.”

Ferguson council members are elected by Ward and candidates were up for election in Ward 1, 2 and 3. The winners:

Ella M. Jones 824 votes
Brian Patrick Fletcher 847 votes
Wesley Bell 494

This election illustrates that low-turnout elections offer great possibility. Just a few voters will make a difference. (Primary elections for state legislatures and the U.S. Congress are another example.) But it also illustrates the difficulty of turning out voters even when there is intense interest.

There are many collateral benefits to a GOTV campaign for special interest groups, but if you look at Return on Time And Resources Invested, your best bet is usually in grass roots and professional lobbying.

If you want some good research on voter turnout, get the book

Lobbying is much easier than getting out the  vote

Lobbying is much easier than getting out the vote

“Get Out The Vote How to increase voter turnout” by Donald Green and Alan Gerber (Brookings Institution Press). They compile solid research and conclude “To generate 1,000 votes your door-to-door canvassing may need to visit 30,000 addresses, making contact with 14,000 registered voters.”

As I’ve said, voting is important and hope you will vote. But if you want to change public policy, your best bet is a strong grass roots lobbying effort that starts the day after the election.

Get the book here:

Keep On Voting After The Election



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