Sifting Through the Policy Wonk

6 Tips for a Great Online Advocacy Plan

Strategic planning for online tools and tactics often will occur after an overall campaign goal or objective has been set.  It can be challenging to be brought into a planning process late, online organizers are often left having to think on their feet about where digital tools and tactics can fit into an overall campaign.

Below are a core set of criteria we often will use to wade through an overall issue advocacy campaign plan to identify the specific aspects that are most promising to focus on for online organizing.  ISMART is an easy way to remember it the next time you find yourself in an on the fly planning session.

  1. Integrated: look to bust down those silos between online, offline, communications and lobbying/legal tactics. Marrying online activities with the other major initiatives of an overall advocacy campaign is always ideal. Note that doesn’t mean digital should take a back seat or just be in a supporting role.
  2. Specific target/process:  this one is ignored a lot. A generic petition to a government agency to solve a broad issue is not a campaign strategy. It’s not going to build your grassroots power over the long haul and it certainly will have little impact on your policy objective on its own. Activists don’t need to know every single detail of policy process (please!) but they do need to see a clear target and process by which their commitment of time and effort will bring about change.
  3. Measurable: online organizers will get themselves into trouble taking on ‘awareness’ or ‘buzz building’ campaigns without specific goals up front. Drill down on specific volumes and types of actions or activity online that will be needed to achieve your objective.  Even raising the profile of an issue should have some hard and fast metrics.
  4. Achievable goal: activists want to get involved in a campaign that has a clear theory of change and an overall goal that can actually be accomplished. That doesn’t mean it needs to be an easy win or a sure thing, but it does need to be specific. A good way to gut check this is to think of
    the specific moment when the campaign will have won…can you describe what specifically has changed?
  5. Relevant to audience: look for the aspects of a campaign that are easiest to relate to as an activist who will spend at most a few hours or days in aggregate, not months or years, involved in the campaign.  It’s OK if down the road you need them to weigh in on more technical aspects of a campaign, but for planning, focus on your best, most powerful hooks to build your largest pool of engaged activists.
  6. Time bound with degree of urgency: a given at this point (almost over done one could say) but people want to know that their immediate participation is important.