Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neil said it best “All Politics is Local.” Local advocacy is emerging as a more important field that grassroots practitioners must engage in regularly to defend or advance their causes. Local advocacy can be intimidating given the sheer number of local governments and the resources necessary to engage properly. However, organizations ranging from corporations to trade groups to non-profit organizations can selectively target specific local jurisdictions and marquee municipal markets in major cities to leverage or build their grassroots capacity.
Having an advocacy software platform that affords you the ability to create custom message targets opens up your ability to engage anywhere at the local level. Cities, counties, port authorities, school boards, and sheriffs can receive messages where the barrier of impact is much smaller than a state or federal issue. Producing a few hundred letters to a City Councilperson can produce great results. If you are considering engaging at the local level here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind:
Targeting is Key:
Don’t go into local advocacy thinking that you have to cover every entity. If you go down this route, you will be playing whack a mole with your issues. Prioritize 5-10 local areas where you want to advance positive legislation or action. Conversely, prioritize 5-10 local areas where you want to defend. Allow your local advocacy to build and help bolster to your state/federal efforts.
Build Off the Wins:
Getting a win in a key market that is important to your organization can lead to a domino effect. Use a key market win as a case study and template for your members to do similar actions elsewhere. You will have to invest significant time and resources on a few markets before you can create an effective template. Your goal with local advocacy should be to teach your advocates how to fish rather than providing the fish.
Strive for Sustainability:
Local advocacy needs to be consistent. You can’t engage one year and decide the next year to do nothing. Some organization will not be able to sustainably engage in local advocacy. You should evaluate your capacity and establish clear goals from the beginning. Determine what your local advocacy capacity can be and if you have the resources and staffing.
Know Your Limitations:
Most organizations can provide local advocacy advising and can quickly build petitions, action alerts, and social media collateral for local stakeholders. One Click Politics has a wealth of information and communications channels that can be effectively utilized with little to no cost or staff time. However, if your organizations wish to engage in limited local advocacy activities, you need to have volunteers, advocates, or interested parties on the ground that can provide feedback and guidance. Advocacy practitioners should aim to create templates that can be replicated by their advocates with oversight and guidance by professional staff.
Leverage Communications and Metrics:
Launching a local advocacy campaign has an inherent local interest. Getting media attention at the local level is typically the easiest to get placement as long as you have that local angle. The advocacy campaign itself could be a story. The efforts by your local advocates could be another story. If you are successful and get a win, that is another possible story. Raising awareness and getting attention for your issue can go a long way in justifying participation in local advocacy. One Click Politics has analytics, data, and dashboards that can provide compelling information that can amplify the story and the rationale for engaging at the local level.