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Communications Strategies for Building Grassroots Campaigns

BY Mike Murphy IN Public Affairs

Our Hoosier political leaders carry an immense burden as they try their best to accurately and responsibly reflect their constituents’ views and priorities on the issues of the day.

No matter what the issue, there will be advocates and opponents. Insightful pols can use a variety of tools to inform their decisions. Polls, town hall meetings, staff research, etc., are all valuable and useful.

The question for citizens interested in communicating effectively with their representatives on the cusp of an important decision often is — how do I reach my Congressman/legislator/councilor with my views or information?
The terms “grassroots” and “grasstops” are thrown around frequently. “Grassroots” usually means working at the level of the individual citizen, while “grasstops” means working with influential leaders in the business or political world. Both levels can be important as our representatives weigh issues.

The key to any successful grassroots campaign (using the broader term here) is to understand your target. Let’s say it is one of our U.S. Senators. It is critical to understand his historic views, voting record, past speeches and public comments on the issue at hand. Also, who are his major contributors (public record), his “kitchen cabinet,” and what private, church or charitable organizations is he affiliated with? Answering these questions can help create a “target profile” that helps determine the next step: recruiting influencers/information sources to inform the senator.

When recruiting persons/groups to communicate with the senator, there are a few rules: they must be credible, beyond reproach, and have either some subject matter expertise, or have a direct connection to the senator (constituent, contributor, etc.).

Once the individuals/groups are recruited, you must choose the appropriate message and the appropriate media with which to convey the message (multiple media is usually most effective). From there, the campaign can begin.

Tools commonly used include Twitter, Facebook, direct email, intercepts (catching the senator at an event), paid advertising, letters-to-the-editor, op-ed pieces, editorial board visits, and earned media (including live interviews and reported stories). Each issue and campaign will require a different mix of media, and no successful campaign can be a “cookie cutter” of a previous campaign. In the end, credibility, relationships and targeting are the watchwords. Good luck with your campaign.

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