Election Cycle Series Part 2: Effective Issue Engagement in an Election Year

Election Cycle Series Part 2: Effective Issue Engagement in an Election Year

BY MAGGIE ALLARD, VICE PRESIDENT & ENERGY & SUSTAINABILITY PRACTICE LEAD

Election season is in full swing, with primaries underway and candidates and staffers out on the trail. So, what does this mean for your advocacy campaigns in D.C.? It might be a tough year to get things accomplished, but it’s still an effective time to educate and set up your long term goals for the next administration.

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What type of messaging should you consider in a noisy election year?

If you want to impact the priorities of the first 100 days for the next administration or Congress, you don’t want to wait to introduce your messaging until it’s too late. If you know an issue will be a priority for you in 2025 and beyond, now is the time to lay the groundwork and begin the education process.

Using a steady drumbeat of educational messaging across digital platforms in the year ahead, you can maintain consistent engagement that creates awareness and a better understanding of the key elements to your issue. This is your opportunity to reach not only current staffers and policymakers, but anyone incoming who might be new to the Hill or constituents in key states who you’ll need to call on to be vocal advocates next year.

As you determine what messaging to push forward to best educate these groups, consider focus group testing or polling to help assess what matters most to your key audience. To make the most of your time and budget, conducting research upfront will help ensure you reach your key targets with tailored messages that will make an impression and move the needle. 

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When should you ramp up (or down) engagement?

Beyond an evergreen, always-on approach, there are key moments in an election year that you can utilize to amplify your message and influence the conversation.

Primaries and debates on the state level provide an opportunity for constituents and organizations to make their voices heard as conversations around policy priorities ramp up with voters heading to the ballot box. By beginning education efforts in specific markets in the weeks ahead of a key moment, you have the chance to influence the questions at a debate or conversations at rallies and even media coverage around a primary race.

The other major moments in an election year that can’t be ignored are the Republican Nation Convention and Democratic National Convention. However, it goes without saying that these are crowded spaces, so as you build out your strategy, you have to ask yourself, “Is this message going to break through the noise?” It may not, which doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy cause, but rather that it may be more effective to save your time and money for other key moments that will make a bigger difference in your results.

However, if the host of either convention is a state critical to your industry or where you have an active state association or third-party group, it may be an opportune time to amplify these voices worthy of your consideration.

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Who is influencing your targets and how do you influence them?

While running ongoing targeting efforts towards the constituents, staffers and decision makers critical to your issues, it’s important to consider an additional audience: the media.

Industry and policy journalists are major drivers of the conversation around key issue areas so it’s important to position yourself as a resource. Building these relationships now can help secure coverage of your messages and organization as the conversation builds.

Use your digital campaigns to supplement your media relations efforts and educate and engage with these media members so that your expertise on the issue is recognized and your issues are top of mind for future stories.

The Adfero POV

While it’s tough to get major movement on policy priorities in an election year, it’s never too early to start planning for the next term. Get out and begin building relationships, figure out which messages will make the most impact with your audience and establish consistent messaging now so that you aren’t scrambling when the make-or-break moment arrives.