Image courtesy of Creative Commons


It’s a nebulous, catch-all word in the advocacy world.

It’s neither good nor bad. It’s a necessary component to any issue campaign.

But if you’re making an investment in a campaign, the word should still be a red flag.

Paying just to “create engagement” is like paying a chef to assemble the ingredients but not cook the meal.

Finding the right people to advocate for an issue is important. Just like finding the right ingredients for a meal. There are few go-to audience mining tactics:

  • Care2 or
  • Facebook or Twitter ads
  • Display ads
  • Native ads

Depending on the backgrounds, experiences and locations of the people you need to find, you adjust your investments in these channels accordingly (the more specific the audience need, the higher the cost).

This investment yields an overall cost per acquisition. This cost is quoted liberally to help prove campaign efficacy; to show that you’ve efficiently “engaged” your audience. And, it’s important to a degree. You should make sure you’re spending efficiently to build a database.

But your cost per acquisition has the same relationship to the overall success of your campaign as the cost of the groceries does to how enjoyable your meal is. There’s not a correlation.

At this point, all you’ve done is find people who can potentially help you move a legislator’s opinion. The harder part is determining how you can find the people in this group who are willing to send personalized communications to a legislator.

Petition signatures, form emails, patch-through phone calls, likes and re-tweets, though they don’t have much of an impact on legislators, are effective at providing clues as to who these people are.

Those clues will help you with your hardest challenge–and your biggest campaign investment–developing relationships with these engaged advocates that motivate them to generate personal letters, phone calls and legislator meetings.

Every survey of the most effective legislator communications says that its these personal communications that make the difference. So then the cost to deliver them is the true cost of moving legislator opinions—the true cost of being successful.

The cost per personalized legislator communication is the most important metric of any advocacy campaign.

This cost, compared to an average cost of acquisition, will look high. Generating personalized communications isn’t efficient. You’ve got to factor-in the cost to build advocate relationships and to create and deliver the communications. Some relationships take longer to develop than others. There’s no formula or template to follow.

You wouldn’t expect the cost of your meal to equal the cost of the groceries—the chef adds the value to create a memorable meal. So it is with advocacy. Most of the value is created after you’ve generated engagement. Invest your advocacy budget accordingly.