Advocacy communications needs have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. (Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash)

I started doing advocacy work almost 20 years ago. During that time, the goal for advocacy programs has always been the same: Building relationships with decision makers that will help grow support for a set of policy priorities. These relationships are created by advocates willing to invest the necessary time. How we communicate with advocates to motivate them to make this investment has changed dramatically.

How simple things used to be

We looked at advocate communications planning in a totally different way even just 10 years ago. We were almost entirely focused on email. We worked in phones and mail where necessary. Social media was still largely experimental. We invested most of our time and resources in communications spikes—specific times when we thought we’d have a bill under consideration or when we’d need to grow our advocate list. One main communications channel and a few communications spikes each year. Not hugely difficult to manage.

The radical shift in communications planning

Now, advocates’ expectations have flipped communications planning on its head. As consumers, these advocates are used to getting exactly what they want when they want it. With so many different social media channels, the ubiquity of mobile, and the continuing need for email, your communications are easily lost amidst the 30,000+ brand messages they receive daily. If you can’t operate in this environment, you lose advocates’ attention and their time. The most significant impact of this change is on that core group of advocates who do the heavy lifting. These are the volunteers who make the phone calls, recruit others, and meet with their elected officials on your behalf. Without this core group, you have no chance to build good relationships. And, of course, that means you won’t be building legislator relationships, either. When your bill does hit the floor, no amount of careful planning will rescue you from crappy response rates and poor results. This means advocacy programs are always on–across a multitude of channels. This is where advocacy communications consultants have come up short. There is plenty of advocacy tech available to help manage this daily advocate communications needs. We consultants, though, still tend to approach everything with a campaign mentality. We love the fixed period of time. Clear goals. The concrete results (at least until the legislature or Congress kicks the issue to next year). And, frankly, it’s hard to figure out how to make it cost-effective to be there to help clients with daily blocking and tackling. We challenged ourselves to find a better way to help manage the day-to-day.

Introducing Advocacy on Demand

Advocacy on Demand (AOD) is designed to help advocacy programs scale-up to meet these communications challenges. Here’s how we make this affordable: Being available every day and/or providing content for daily communications gets really expensive fast. So, instead, we started at the foundation. Rather than building a product focused on an advocacy program’s communications output, we looked at the communications inputs. Eventually, we boiled it all down to what every advocacy program needs to make good decisions and create effective communication outputs: Information. Trends. New tactics. New ways to use old tactics. Best practices. Etc. Then comes the biggest challenge: How to apply this information to drive results. As we thought more about it, if we can provide advocacy programs with good information and help them apply it, then we can help make everything produced from those inputs–their daily advocacy communications–more effective. And we could do it without busting the budget. Rather than helping every day, the Relate team would then only need to provide advice when there was a problem, outlier, or unique situation. So that’s how we built AOD: To get the best information in your hands, help you figure out how to use it, and be there when you need us most to help achieve your goals. AOD is a monthly subscription format with no commitment. It combines three services:
  1. Monthly in-person training session. We’ll provide a 60-minute, in-person training on a different advocacy topic each month to help you apply the latest and greatest. For those not in Raleigh, we’ll record the session and post it online.
  2. Customized advocacy consulting. As good as your information and training may be, generating daily communications guarantees that opportunities and problems will arise. You should be able to get help when you need it. AOD includes up to 5 hours of time each month with me, Andrew, or John.
  3. Monthly Advocacy Accelerator Memo. We analyze the advocacy world and tell you what you need to know, including issue analysis, trends, best practices, etc. We’ll also do a regular reader Q&A.
AOD can help:
  • Small advocacy groups that need focused help at the right time
  • Large businesses that want to improve employee engagement with public affairs
  • Membership associations with grassroots staff who need additional capacity immediately
The price for AOD is $1,000 per month. Let me know what you think. Would it AOD be helpful for you? If not, what’s it missing? You can reach me at