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Every issue campaigner is taught the same thing. To be effective, you must:

  1. Recruit
  2. Engage
  3. Mobilize

In that order.

It’s simple. And, in today’s communications world, totally wrong.


It ignores the importance of building advocate relationships. Nothing in your campaign happens without strong advocate relationships. This standard paradigm puts your needs ahead of your advocates’. That’s a recipe for being ignored. These are but three different activities in which you’ll engage at some point during the relationship building process.

It’s static, not dynamic. You can’t put your communications into neat compartments. Some will achieve more than one of these objectives. Some will achieve all three.

Mobilization is not your goal. Your message must stand out. Standing out requires advocates to complete more personal, time-consuming and detailed communications. These communications are the by-product of strong relationships.

You need to think about your campaign activities in a different way:

Building Relationships –> Trust –> Attention

Building a relationship requires give and take. It requires your focus to be on advocates’ needs at all times. It requires you to be adding value to their lives.

That value may be derived from issue content. It may be derived from personal interactions with your staff and volunteers. More than likely, it’s a combination of both. Tailor your communications accordingly to meet that specific advocate’s needs.

Delivering value consistently builds trust. Trust is what earns attention. Period. (After all, even if our attention span isn’t shorter than that of a goldfish, it’s still pretty short.) It’s also what motivates them to take the time to complete the more meaningful actions that help your message stand out with decision makers.

Not every advocate will want to build a relationship. But that doesn’t obviate your need to try. In most cases, the smaller percentage of advocates with which you do build relationships will be enough to make the difference.

What do you think? Let me know at