Why Advocacy Professionals Need to Embrace Change

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Defense Secretary James Mattis once wrote in an email, “Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance.” D.C. has been having that kind of a moment since Donald Trump’s election. While some smart government affairs shops are changing with it, many aren’t.

Today’s government relations professionals face enormous new challenges because the true audience for impacting legislation has shifted beyond the Beltway. Companies, trade associations and issue groups will always need access to the Hill and Administration, but in the Trump Era, they also need to demonstrate public support to be successful.

Congress’ political antennae is set to an “extra-sensitive” frequency as they see boycotts, marches, and protests back home. Meanwhile, in D.C., their phone lines and email inboxes are being jammed by citizens demanding support or opposition to the latest proposal from the White House. They need to know their voters’ position on issues before taking a firm stand.

The good news is that there are dozens of comparatively inexpensive strategies for generating broad public support on an issue, even for those that don’t make the front page of the local newspaper. At our firm, we’ve begun applying campaign tactics to public affairs efforts. What does that look like? Here are three relatively inexpensive ways advocacy groups can get more attention on Capitol Hill. 

The great advantage of digital advocacy is its precision. You can engage only the most politically active constituents in a specific district with a messaging campaign to shift sentiment on an issue. Geo-targeting ads around a member’s district and D.C. offices is a time-tested way to convey the impression of a wider-scale campaign. Think of a small object projecting a much larger shadow. This way, even the smallest budgets can have a magnified impact.
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